Is it faster to run barefoot?

13 July 2008

Question

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. I’ve 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?

Answer

We put this question to Professor Chris Cooper:

Clearly it is faster for you because you've just given us the scientific evidence that you feel you do run faster when you're in bare feet. I don't 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 wasn't used to running in shoes. I think your kind of event that's fine if someone doesn't step on you when you're 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, that's another thing. Get another pair of shoes!

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