Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Science of Running

There is a growing amount of research on barefoot running.  Daniel Lieberman and his crew at Harvard have been doing a lot of work comparing barefoot running to shod running and really trying to define the mechanics of barefoot running.  Their work shows vastly decreased impact when running barefoot and using a forefoot strike over a heel strike.  They are careful to explain that their research does not specifically indicate less injury potential in barefoot running, but it stands to reason that with less impact there would likely be less injury potential.

Click the link to head to their site.  There are videos and training tips as well as a great discussion on the bio-mechanics of running if you want to nerd out.

From Lieberman's Website:

Our research asked how and why humans can and did run comfortably without modern running shoes. We tested and confirmed what many people knew already: that most experienced, habitually barefoot runners tend to avoid landing on the heel and instead land with a forefoot or midfoot strike. The bulk of our published research explores the collisional mechanics of different kinds of foot strikes. We show that most forefoot and some midfoot strikes (shod or barefoot) do not generate the sudden, large impact transients that occur when you heel strike (shod or barefoot). Consequently, runners who forefoot or midfoot strike do not need shoes with elevated cushioned heels to cope with these sudden, high transient forces that occur when you land on the ground. Therefore, barefoot and minimally shod people can run easily on the hardest surfaces in the world without discomfort from landing. If impact transient forces contribute to some forms of injury, then this style of running (shod or barefoot) might have some benefits, but that hypothesis remains to be tested.