Barefoot shoes increase the risk of running-related injuries in heavier runners

It has become increasingly popular to train with minimalist/barefoot shoes. Using barefoot shoes has been suggested as a means for preventing injuries because of the changes to running biomechanics. “Minimalist” running is marked by a soft forefoot strike and shorter, quicker strides. While there are many studies examining the mechanical load on the limbs in barefoot shoes, there have been few studies comparing running-related pain and injury risk between barefoot and conventional shoes.

A recent study (1) examined the risk of injury when wearing conventional shoes compared to wearing barefoot shoes. Experience runners were randomized into two groups. One group was allocated to barefoot shoes, and the other group was allocated to conventional shoes. Every week the runners completed assessments of running-related pain they experienced in the lower back and lower extremity.

After 26 weeks the results were in. The runners in the barefoot-group reported significantly higher rate of injury in ankle, shin, calf and knee. 52% of the runners in that same group sustained a running-related injury compared to the 37% of the runners in the group using conventional shoes. Barefoot shoes increased the risk of running-related injury in runners weighing more than 71.4 kg. Heavy runners (>85,7 kg) were approximately 3 times more likely to sustain an injury when using barefoot shoes.

Another study, with similar design and result, concluded that runners should limit weekly training distance in barefoot shoes to avoid running-related pain (2). Heavier runners are at greater risk of injury when running in barefoot shoes and should consider avoiding running in those shoes altogether..
Post provided by @maria_ekblom, a member of #teamEBT. Licensed physiotherapist and personal trainer.

1. Fuller J, Thewlis D, Buckley J, Brown N, Hamill J, Tsiros M. Body Mass and Weekly Training Distance Influence the Pain and Injuries Experienced by Runners Using Minimalist Shoes: A Randomized Controlled Trial. The American Journal of Sports Medicine. 2017;45(5):1162-1170. 
2. Ryan M, Elashi M, Newsham-West R, Taunton J. Examining injury risk and pain perception in runners using minimalist.

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