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Br J Health Psychol. 2016 May;21(2):451-68. doi: 10.1111/bjhp.12180. Epub 2016 Jan 12.

What do people think about running barefoot/with minimalist footwear? A thematic analysis.

Author information

1
School of Psychological sciences, The University of Manchester, UK.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

Barefoot running describes when individuals run without footwear. Minimalist running utilizes shoes aimed to mimic being barefoot. Although these forms of running have become increasingly popular, we still know little about how recreational runners perceive them.

DESIGN:

In-depth interviews with eight recreational runners were used to gather information about their running experiences with a focus on barefoot and minimalist running.

METHODS:

Interviews were analysed using a latent level thematic analysis to identify and interpret themes within the data.

RESULTS:

Although participants considered barefoot running to be 'natural', they also considered it to be extreme. Minimalist running did not produce such aversive reactions. 'Support' reassured against concerns and was seen as central in protecting vulnerable body parts and reducing impact forces, but lacked a common or clear definition. A preference for practical over academic knowledge was found. Anecdotal information was generally trusted, as were running stores with gait assessment, but not health professionals.

CONCLUSION:

People often have inconsistent ideas about barefoot and minimalist running, which are often formed by potentially biased sources, which may lead people to make poor decisions about barefoot and minimalist running. It is important to provide high-quality information to enable better decisions to be made about barefoot and minimalist running.

STATEMENT OF CONTRIBUTION:

What is already known on this subject? There is no known work on the psychology behind barefoot and minimalist running. We believe our study is the first qualitative study to have investigated views of this increasingly popular form of running. What does this study add? The results suggest that although barefoot running is considered 'natural', it is also considered 'extreme'. Minimalist running, however, did not receive such aversive reactions. 'Support' was a common concern among runners. Although 'support' reassured against concerns and was seen as central in protecting vulnerable body parts and reducing impact forces, it lacked a common or clear definition. A preference for practical over academic knowledge was found. Anecdotal information was generally trusted, as were running stores with gait assessment, but not health professionals.

KEYWORDS:

barefoot; minimalist; psychology; qualitative; running; thematic analysis

PMID:
26754354
DOI:
10.1111/bjhp.12180
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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