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J Strength Cond Res. 2016 Aug;30(8):2348-53. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001330.

Barefoot Running Reduces the Submaximal Oxygen Cost in Female Distance Runners.

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1Department of Kinesiology and Health Promotion, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky; 2Department of Kinesiology, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas; and 3Department of Exercise Science and Health Promotion, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida.


Berrones, AJ, Kurti, SP, Kilsdonk, KM, Cortez, DJ, Melo, FF, and Whitehurst, M. Barefoot running reduces the submaximal oxygen cost in female distance runners. J Strength Cond Res 30(8): 2348-2353, 2016-Being a competitive distance runner is, in part, attributable to a high V[Combining Dot Above]O2max. However, running economy (RE) is a more robust indicator of distance running performance among endurance athletes of similar V[Combining Dot Above]O2max levels. The purpose of this study was to examine the influence of unshod (barefoot) vs. shod (wearing shoes) running on RE (expressed as ml·kg·min) during three 5-minute submaximal running trials representing 65, 75, and 85% of V[Combining Dot Above]O2max. Other physiologic and perceptual variables such as respiratory exchange ratio, lactate, heart rate, and ratings of perceived exertion were also chosen as dependent variables. We measured V[Combining Dot Above]O2max in 14 recreationally active trained distance female runners (age = 27.6 ± 1.6 years; height = 163.3 ± 1.7 cm; weight = 57.8 ± 1.9 kg) who were completely inexperienced with unshod running. After initial testing, each subject was randomized to either unshod or shod for days 2 and 3. We analyzed the data with a 2-way (condition by intensity) repeated-measures analysis of variance. Submaximal oxygen consumption was significantly reduced at 85% of V[Combining Dot Above]O2max (p = 0.018), indicating an improvement in RE, but not during the 65% or 75% trials (p > 0.05, both). No other dependent measure was different between unshod and shod conditions. Our results indicate that the immediate improvement to RE while barefoot occurs at a relatively high fraction of maximal oxygen consumption. For the recreational or competitive distance runner, training or competing while barefoot may be a useful strategy to improve endurance performance.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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