Running barefoot is the best! But not when you have to worry about the icky things on the ground! This is where barefoot running shoes come in. However, these shoes don’t provide the same sensory greatness as running barefoot. The next best alternative however, is to run in socks. In fact, running in socks improves biomechanics as compared with running in shoes.
Running in Socks
A study Gillinov et al. found that runners were not only more likely to heel strike in the standard running shoe, but showed biomechanical outcomes associated with reduced efficiency, such as low cadence, smaller knee angle at touchdown and longer ground contact time compared to runners who ran in socks or in minimalist running shoes.
- The researchers also noted that minimalist running shoes approximated sock running in all measures of biomechanics: foot strike, ground contact time and knee angle at touchdown.
The most notable trend was that runners were less likely to heel strike in the absence of shoe cushioning. By comparison, runners who ran in socks or in minimalist shoes were more likely to land with a forefoot strike or a midfoot strike.
The sum of this research is a rough mechanism by which the standard running shoe can seed heel strike and injury.
Standard Running Shoe, an External Danger
Until the advent of the standard running shoe, most runners wore minimalist footwear, however accounts of running-related injuries during this time-frame is not well documented probably because the real advantage to minimalist footwear is reduced loading on the hip and knee joints. According to Heiderscheit et al. increased cadence, which is facilitated by minimalist footwear, substantially reduced loading on the hips and knees.
Experts speculate that today, because of the standard running shoe, runners adopt hazardous biomechanical traits that generate harmful stimuli, leading to persistent increase in knee and hip injury. This may account for an increased prevalence of lower extremity injuries after the invention of under-heel cushioning.
More From Run Forefoot:
Gillinov et al. Effect of minimalist footwear on running efficiency: a randomized crossover trial. Sports Health, 2015;7(3):256-260.
Heiderscheit BC, Chumanov ES, Michalski MP, Wille CM, Ryan MB. Effects of step rate manipulation on joint mechanics during running. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011;43:296-302.
BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.