Is Barefoot Running Really The Best? New Study Suggests Otherwise

Barefoot running may not be all it’s been cracked up to be. A new study says the recent move by some runners to ditch their shoes might not be as beneficial as some claims have suggested.

Researchers at the University of Colorado have revealed that results from a recent study conducted in the university’s Locomotion Lab find individuals run more efficiently with shoes rather than without.

The study was conducted by observing runners’ oxygen consumption and exhales of carbon dioxide. These measures were compared for participants, running with and without shoes.

What the researchers at CU found was that shoe-wearing runners used between three and four percent more energy while running barefoot than with light-weight shoes.

CU researchers say they were inspired to begin the study after hearing unverified claims about barefoot running.

Says Jason Franz, University of Colorado doctoral student heading the study: “We started to see these claims that barefoot running, because you remove the weight of the shoe, is more efficient.”

The study was conducted with the assistance of volunteers, all of whom run without shoes on a regular basis and shared a similar tendency to strike the floor with the middle of the sole of their foot.


Participants ran on a treadmill in a laboratory, beginning with running barefoot (wearing lightweight yoga socks). Researchers, having devised a method of adding weight incrementally to subjects’ feet, measured how this affected runners, doing so with both barefoot and shoe running.

Subjects were also asked to run with a lightweight 150 gram running shoe with light cushioning but no arch support. Compared to running without the shoes, though with equivalent weight added, it was found that three to four percent more energy was exerted running barefoot.

Franz speculates that this is because, with barefoot running, the body must adjust to cushion impacts, which may itself require additional metabolic energy.

[Image via ShutterStock]