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New Study Finds Running Barefoot is More Efficient that Running with Shoes

Running barefoot obviously changes gait patterns. Specifically, when running with shoes, we are more likely to land on our heels, and we use longer strides.

When running barefoot, we tend to land on the mid or forefoot while using shorter strides. One might assume that shoes protect the feet, letting us pound harder and run more efficiently, but the data tells a different story.

In June, the peer-reviewed journal Sensors published a first-of-its-kind study comparing running efficiency with shoes versus barefoot.[1] Researchers equipped 41 distance runners with wearable sensors to measure energy output while running at a comfortable pace. For each runner, they compared running in shoes to barefoot.

It turns out, that when running barefoot, the foot’s core muscle system and long arch can add recoil energy during the stance phase of gait. This natural recoil is reduced when wearing shoes. Additionally, when running with shoes, runners demonstrated greater vertical movement that did not add to distance but that did decrease the efficiency of energy to distance. Overall, the data in this study shows barefoot distance running to be more efficient than running in shoes!  

However, this isn’t to say that distance runners should toss those $200 shoes in the garbage just yet. It’s noteworthy that this study was not designed to measure speed differences, injury rates, or other important factors that may be related to shoes. However, if you are interested in experimenting with barefoot running, some authors propose a gradual transition over 10 weeks from cushioned shoes, to less cushioned shoes, to minimalist or barefoot running.[2]


  1. Jaén-Carrillo D, Roche-Seruendo LE, Molina-Molina A, Cardiel-Sánchez S, Cartón-Llorente A, García-Pinillos F. Influence of the Shod Condition on Running Power Output: An Analysis in Recreationally Active Endurance Runners. Sensors. 2022 Jun 26;22(13):4828.
  2. Molina-Molina, A.; Latorre-Román, P. Mercado-Palomino, E.; Delgado-García, G.; Richards, J.; Soto-Hermoso, V.M. The effect of two retraining programs, barefoot running vs increasing cadence, on kinematic parameters: A randomized controlled trial. Scand. J. Med. Sci. Sports 2022, 32, 533–542.

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