Science Questions

Is it faster to run barefoot?

Sun, 13th Jul 2008

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Robert Riley asked:

Is it faster to run barefoot? I run in my local sports track a few times a week trying to beat my personal best of 2:40 but to no avail. Last month, on a whim, I decided to run it barefoot. I ran 2:34 which is totally smashing my personal best. Iíve tried it again and since run 2:30s. As an experiment I ran my next few times in trainers and ran those speeds again. Is running barefoot faster for me and if so why?



We put this question to Professor Chris Cooper:

Clearly it is faster for you because youíve just given us the scientific evidence that you feel you do run faster when youíre in bare feet.  I donít think in general running barefoot is faster.  The historical example is Zola Budd who is South African and came to run for England.  She ran as fast to begin with barefoot and she would have been much worse running in shoes because she wasnít used to running in shoes.  I think your kind of event thatís fine if someone doesnít step on you when youíre running.  The sprinting events I think shoes are really important.  I would be really surprised if you had 100m barefoot as fast as you could without.

Chris Smith - As we heard from Meera talking to the Loughborough team showing that you get far more force produced because of the ankle articulation because of the stiff shoe compared with barefoot or even a pair of trainers that are fairly soft.

Dave Ansell -  Maybe he might be wearing very bad shoes which are slowing him down.

Chris Cooper - Yes, thatís another thing. Get another pair of shoes!


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robert riley asked the Naked Scientists: Hi Chris I run on my local sports track a few times a week -- I have been for years trying to beat my personal best of 2.40 but to no avail -- yet last month on a whim I decided to run it barefoot and run 2.34 smashing my pb -- I tried it again a few times and run in low 2.30s again. As an experiment I ran my next few times in trainers again and run low 2.40s as I used too do. My question is, if running barefoot is so much faster for me, why do athletes bother with trainers in the first place? thanks, great show Rob What do you think? robert riley , Thu, 10th Jul 2008

Some tracks are not made of grass - suggest you avoid these. blakestyger, Thu, 10th Jul 2008

Are you talking about your 800 time? I my pr is 2:11 and I was just a freshman :) haha anyways.

I myself, never tired running out of shoes on a track and timed myself. It all does depend on the surface. On our rubber track I could probably run without them, but I don't think it will improve or decrease my pr. Simulated, Thu, 10th Jul 2008

Are you using distance shoes or sprint shoes?  One implication from getting better times barefoot is that you're using distance shoes and might be better off using sprint shoes.
LeeE, Sun, 27th Jul 2008
RD, Sun, 27th Jul 2008

It's bad for the joints, and you can increase your chances of injury. TonyCap, Mon, 28th Jul 2008

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