Background: It has been proposed that running barefoot can lead to improved strength and proprioception. However, the duration that a runner must train barefoot to observe these changes is unknown.
Hypothesis: Runners participating in a barefoot running program will have improved proprioception, increased lower extremity strength, and an increase in the volume or size of the intrinsic musculature of the feet.
Study Design: Randomized controlled trial; Level of evidence, 2.
Methods: In this 8-week study, 29 runners with a mean age of 36.34 years were randomized into either a control group (n = 10) who completed training in their regular running shoes or to an experimental barefoot group (n = 14). Pretraining tests consisted of a volumetric measurement of the foot followed by a strength and dynamic balance assessment. Five subjects completed the pretests but did not complete the study for reasons not related to study outcomes. Participants then completed 8 weeks of training runs. They repeated the strength and dynamic balance assessment after 8 weeks.
Results: Significant changes from baseline to 8 weeks were observed within the barefoot group for single-leg hop (right, P = .0121; left, P = .0430) and reach and balance (right, P = .0029) and within the control group for single–left leg hop (P = .0286) and reach and balance (right, P = .0096; left, P = .0014). However, when comparing the differences in changes from baseline to 8 weeks between the barefoot and control groups, the improvements were not significant at the .05 level for all measures.
Conclusion: Although statistically significant changes were not observed between the pre- and posttest evaluations in strength and proprioception with the 8-week low-intensity barefoot running regimen, this does not necessarily mean that these changes do not occur. It is possible that it may take months or years to observe these changes, and a short course such as this trial is insufficient.
A grant from the One-University Open Access Fund at the University of Kansas was used to defray the author’s publication fees in this Open Access journal. The Open Access Fund, administered by librarians from the KU, KU Law, and KUMC libraries, is made possible by contributions from the offices of KU Provost, KU Vice Chancellor for Research & Graduate Studies, and KUMC Vice Chancellor for Research. For more information about the Open Access Fund, please see http://library.kumc.edu/authors-fund.xml.
Mullen et al. "Barefoot Running: The Effects of an 8-Week Barefoot Training Program." Sage Publications, March 2014.