Studies about barefoot shoes and barefoot walking
Science confirms common sense
Study 1: As far back as 1995, biomechanics expert Christoph Reinschmidt of the University of Calgary (Canada) already warned, that if the heel is raised over the forefoot (called “drop” by specialists), foot pronation is increased in the supporting phase of the walking movement. Foot pronation is a natural inward movement for shock absorption. The force pressing the foot into pronation is decisive. The heel can multiply the impact, depending on its design (Grau, 2003). Conventional shoe manufacturers therefore “invented” so-called pronation supports (harder materials on the inside of the midsole) to absorb the increased shocks. As usual when we discard common sense, we get the opposite of the intended effect: American biomechanics expert Dr. D. Casey Kerrigan and her colleagues just found out last year that especially cushioned shoes with a high drop (heels) and pronation supports put more stress on our hip and knee joints than walking barefoot. The researchers measured 37% higher internal torques in the knee and even 54% higher torques in the hip joints in people running with shoes on.
Study 2: We refer to a study made by an American research team headed by Geoffrey Keenan. The experts of the University of Virginia sent 68 healthy athletes to the treadmill, some with shoes, some barefoot. The athletes wore reflectors and were filmed using a very good high-speed camera to later measure the pressure on their joints. The result: Hip, knee and foot joints were under higher pressure, when runners wore shoes. According to the study, wearing shoes puts 54% more pressure on our hips on average than running barefoot. The stress levels in the knees were increased by 36-38%. According to the researchers, the negative effects on the joints were probably caused largely by the high heel and the supporting material under the arches of the feet. “The study confirms that increased stress on the three lower joints is caused by the typical construction of modern shoes,” they write, referring to earlier studies.
Study 3: The research team of evolutionary biologist Prof. Daniel Lieberman of Harvard University (Nature, Vol. 463, p. 531, 2010) arrived at the same conclusion: Running barefoot is better for your joints. The authors rightly assert that most runners wearing shoes strike the ground heel first. They write that stress on the knees and other joints reaches up to three times our bodyweight. Barefoot runners tend to strike the ground with their forefoot or midfoot first. This already absorbs a lot of the impact, before the heel touches down and passes it on. For their study, the research team compared runners from the USA and from Kenya’s Rift Valley. They ran either with shoes, always barefoot, or had just started running without shoes recently. Prof. Lieberman says: “Most people today believe running barefoot is dangerous and painful.” But he says the opposite is the case. Even on hard surfaces, running without shoes is more comfortable. According to the authors, it can reduce the risk of injury.
Wear flexible barefoot shoes and avoid shoes with heels; also shoes that look flat but still have a drop. You can test this very easily: Squeeze the forefoot and heel sections with two fingers to estimate the total thickness of the sole at each point. You will notice that most shoes have a built-in heel. Even shoes advertised as “barefoot shoes” or “zero-drop shoes” are not the same thickness at the heel and forefoot. Walk barefoot a lot, or wear shoes that come close to walking barefoot – like our Senmotic barefoot shoes. Such simple methods can do a lot for your body in the long run. The stress on your joints decreases and a natural gait improves your performance. Our shoes let you stand with perfect balance again, so your posture also improves.