Loading would have lower LRs under these

            Loading
rates (LRs) are typically found to be different between barefoot and shod
runners. The LR is the rate in which the load is transferred to the soft
tissues (10). This is a common aspect of an
individual’s run to look at when determining causes of injuries; higher LRs ultimately
lead to a higher risk of injury in athletes. Although many studies have been
done on LRs, there are still conflicting results determining whether barefoot
running reduces LRs, increases LRs, or whether they have an effect on LRs at
all (15). A study was done by Tam et al. to determine whether barefoot running
would increase the risk of initial LRs under minimalist and traditionally shod
runners. The hypothesis was that individuals with minimalist and traditional
shoes would have lower LRs under these conditions than when running barefoot (13).
Similarly, a study was done by Cheung and Rainbow was done to determine what
effects barefoot running had on LRs. Their hypothesis; however, was that
barefoot running would reduce LRs in runners (2). Tam et al. gathered a group
of thirty-four participants (eighteen minimalist runners and sixteen
traditionally shod runners) completed the study on a 40-meter indoor track. Participants
completed five trials under barefoot and shod conditions. The trials consisted
of an individual running at a given speed along the track and the individual
hitting the force plate at the correct foot contact (13). This gave researchers
enough data to look at to compare between the two conditions. There were plenty
of participants and trials in the given study to collect data and make
comparisons between minimalist runners and traditionally shod runners running
in barefoot conditions. This study was also done on a track in the laboratory,
and this is better than treadmill running because it allows the runner to run
without altering their normal form. Cheung and Rainbow had thirty runners run
at a given speed on a treadmill under barefoot and shod conditions (2). Since only
two trials were done during the study, this does not give researchers very much
room for error. The large number of participants benefits the reliability of
the study, but the small number of trials makes the study less reliable. The
study was done on a treadmill; therefore, it might not be quite as accurate due
to the fact that treadmills might influence the foot striking pattern which
influences loading rates. The studies were similar in a way that they each used
a pressure plate and 3D cameras to collect data during the study. These methods
are used throughout many studies similar to the two. The equipment and
procedure done is an accurate way of measuring the LR of an individual during a
run. The results of Tam et al.’s study showed that minimalist runners and
traditionally shod runners had similar LRs, but the LRs were lower under shod
conditions compared to the barefoot conditions (13). Lower loading rates shows
that barefoot running gives an individual a higher rate in which forces are
being applied to the body, and this something that causes individuals to become
injured more easily. This agreed with the researchers given hypothesis; other
studies have similar results as mentioned in the article. The results of the
study done by Cheung and Rainbow showed that LRs were significantly reduced
during barefoot conditions; however, this was likely due to the runners
avoiding a heel strike running pattern during their run (2). This study
suggests that barefoot running does not necessarily influence LRs; however,
barefoot running does influence a forefoot striking pattern which causes a
lower LR. This result differs from Tam et al.’s result by saying that barefoot
running influences a runner to adopt a running form that, in turn, influences
lower loading rates. However, this does not show that barefoot running is more
favorable, this shows that a forefoot striking pattern is the favorable
condition. The studies had differing results; however, Cheung and Rainbows’s
study showed that LRs are likely influenced by foot striking pattern. This
aspect of the run should also be addressed.

 

Foot Strike Pattern

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            The foot
striking pattern is one of the most important aspects of somebody’s gait
pattern. The foot striking pattern is the angle at which an individual’s foot
strikes, and this can have a different effect on loading rates, muscle
stiffness, muscle activity, etc. Countless studies have been done on barefoot
running, and many show a common variable; barefoot running induces a FFS
pattern. Although many researchers have come to the conclusion that barefoot
running is better for an individual, others wonder if the foot strike pattern
in more important than the conditions a foot is exposed to during a run. Shih, Lin, and Shiang and Hashish et al. questioned
this in their studies. In the study done by Shih, Lin, and Shiang, twelve men
with a RFS pattern ran four different trials on a treadmill. These trials
included barefoot running with a RFS pattern, barefoot running with a FFS
pattern, shod running with a RFS, and shod running with a FFS pattern (11).
The study was designed to have several trials organized to be used for easy
comparison; however, these trials were done on a treadmill which is less
favorable than a track. Hashish
et al. utilized twenty-one participants who presented a FFS pattern. These
individuals ran at a comfortable speed on a 30-foot track. Each of the
participants completed six successful barefoot trials; during these trials, the
participant ran at 5% of the self-selected speed and hit the force plate at entirely
with the dominant limb (5).  After
running on the laboratory track, participants ran on an outdoor concrete
surface for 20% of their daily running distance. Participants then completed
another six trials under the same conditions on the indoor track (5). Like in
Hashish et al.’s study, this study was done mainly on a treadmill with many
trials for comparison. Hashish et al. had more participants than Shih, Lin, and
Shiang; however, both of the studies had enough participants for comparison
with the way their study was set up. Shih, Lin,
and Shiang measured several aspects to figure out if the foot strike pattern
is, in fact more important than barefoot running. The measured aspects of the
run included hip angle, knee angle, ankle dorsiflexion/plantarflexion angle,
GRF, and range of motion. (11). The most important measurement to look at was
the ankle dorsiflexion and plantarflexion angle of an individual during each
trial. This is what determines whether an individual presents a FFS, MFS, or
FFS running pattern; therefore, this measurement assured that participant was
presenting the correct foot striking pattern during the particular trial. Researchers
used 3D cameras to capture a majority of these measurements along with load
cells and an EMG. Hashish et al. collected data with a 3D camera, force platform, EMG, and
dynamometer to collect data during the study (5). The participants’ results
were only taken under barefoot conditions. Researchers could have done a trial
where the participant was wearing shoes so that a comparison could have been
done between the two conditions. Similar information was gathered in similar
ways in the two studies. Each of the studies utilized the 3D camera, force
platforms, and EMG’s to collect the data in their studies; this is a common way
of taking these types of measurements. Shih, Lin,
and Shiang determined that FFS patterns tend to reduce the LRs of a running;
however, there was no difference between barefoot and shod individuals (11). This
suggests that FFS patterns cause a reduction in injury. Hashish et al. found that out of the twenty-one
participants, only six continued a RFS pattern, 10 began to present a MFS
pattern, and five adopted a FFS pattern during the first bout of barefoot
running on the track. During the second bout of barefoot running, these numbers
changed. Five FFS runners switched their strike pattern to a MFS pattern. Eight
of the ten runners who developed a MFS pattern maintained this pattern while
one began to FFS and the other one went back to a RFS pattern. Out of the six
runners who continued their RFS pattern during the first barefoot trail, five
of these runners still continued to RFS and one began to present a FFS pattern
(5). The striking patterns were all over the place and rarely consistent. This
is not good for preventing injury because this could lead to a fatigue response
in the lower extremities and eventually some lower extremity complications. Shih, Lin, and Shiang pointed out something that other
articles did not look much into; the FFS pattern is likely what is causing the
injury reduction. Other researchers looked strictly at results between the
different foot strike angles to determine that forefoot strike angles tend to
be favorable. One problem with this is that some individuals do not adopt a FFS
pattern when transitioning to barefoot running; these individuals would have a
higher likelihood of becoming injured. Hashish et al. suggested that those that run with a
RFS pattern while running barefoot tend to adopt a softer pattern to compensate
and cause lower LRs; however, researchers still suggest those running barefoot
should focus on running with a FFS pattern to prevent injury (5). This study
brought up that not all individuals adopt a FFS pattern while transitioning to
barefoot running. This causes a much higher risk of developing an injury during
a run. Shih, Lin, and Shiang’s study showed that a FFS pattern is
likely the factor reducing the risk for injury. This being said, if an
individual does not adopt the FFS pattern and decides to give barefoot running
a try to reduce their risk of developing an injury, they are likely to cause
themselves to get an injury. This could lead researchers into thinking a transitional
stage is needed to help individuals run correctly while running barefoot to
prevent this from happening.

 

Transitional Stage

            A
transitional stage is when an individual slowly eases themselves into something
that they are not used to. When moving to a completely different method of
working out, a transitional stage might be the best means of doing so without
causing injury. Many studies done on barefoot running overlooked the fact that
an unfamiliar running style is being implemented into a shod runner’s workout
method, and this could cause many disturbances in the running mechanics (3).
Many of the studies done on barefoot running take habitually shod runners and
have them run under different conditions for comparison; however, habitually
barefoot runners are never utilized in the study to make comparisons between
the two types of runners. Although many researchers do not think about this
when throwing shod runners into a barefoot study, there are a few researchers
that have taken this into account. Ekizos, Santuz, and Arampatzis are just a
few of the researchers that realized what type of an effect this would have on
a study. In their study, the researchers found that when a transitional stage
was not utilized to go from barefoot to shod running, runners tended to present
less dynamic stability which can cause a runner to have more errors in control
while running (3). This decreased stability and increased errors in control can
cause a higher risk of developing an injury. Another group of researchers
decided that a transitional period was also necessary for the runner to make
adaptions in their body mechanics. Joseph, Histen, and Arnsten implemented this
into their study so that these effects could be discussed. The outcome of this
study found that over a six-month transitional period, men presented a
noticeable difference in their running dynamics. The plantarflexion, AT, CSA,
and muscle stiffness of men increased over the duration of the study; however,
these numbers in women to stay the same (6). This shows that men react
favorably to a six-month transitional period and women may need a longer period
of transition to begin to show similar results. Women have a blunted response
to training, and this seems to be the case due to the fact that the study was
only done for six months, and the women did not respond like the men did (6).
This would have to be further analyzed to prove the results; however, this is
likely to be the case based on research done on women involved in different
sports. Given the results of the two studies, a transitional period would be
ideal when adopting a new running style such as barefoot running. This would
help runners reduce the risk of becoming injured due to excess muscle fatigue,
incorrect gait, increased LR, etc.

 

CONCLUSION

            With
differing research results on aspects of a runner while barefoot running, it is
not yet conclusive whether barefoot running is actually beneficial or if the
typical barefoot running form adaptions are the actual benefit for reducing
injury. The given results research has shown on stride length, LR, and
footstrike pattern show that the benefit from barefoot running is likely due to
the common adaptions the body makes to compensate for the new running style
rather than an individual running barefoot. Thompson
et al. and Francis et al. determined that barefoot running does not necessarily cause a lower risk
of injury. Thompson et al. discovered that when participants run at the same
velocity and pace under barefoot and shod conditions, there is no difference in
the stride length or rate of injury (15). Francis et al. proved in his study
that at lower intensities, the stride length is shorter, and shod and barefoot
runners did not show a difference in their stride (4). Although stride length
influences injury, barefoot and shod running does not influence stride length. Shih, Lin, and Shiang and Hashish et al. both
determined that the FFS pattern is actually the major influence of preventing
injury instead of barefoot and shod running (5,11). Cheung and Rainbow found that LRs were significantly reduced by the heelstrike pattern associated with
barefoot running (2). Tam et al. found that the LRs are higher in barefoot
running causing less injury; however, this was associated with the heelstrike
pattern (13). Given these studies are accurate, individuals could still reduce
their risk of injury by making these same adaptions while continuing their shod
running habits. However, if an individual does decide to give barefoot running
a try, it is likely that they will not present the same running mechanic
adaptions as others. All runners have a different way of running, and this is
important to look at when determining the root of a running related injury. Barefoot
running with particular forms and gait patterns could cause a runner to develop
unwanted running related injuries. Researchers allude to runners working on
their running mechanics and gait patterns to have the greatest effect on
preventing running related injuries over changing from shod to barefoot running
for injury prevention. Regardless of which route a runner decides to take,
runners should always make sure they are doing so with proper mechanics and
listening to their body.

 

FUTURE RESEARCH

            There
are several issues in research done on barefoot running relative to injury
prevention. One of the issues with the current research is that all of the
research takes individuals who are habitually shod and have them participate in
barefoot running to look at the effects. Studies need to be done to determine
how high of a risk habitually barefoot runners have compared to habitually shod
runners. This would show if barefoot running is really better than shod
running. Researchers could take some of these same studies that they are doing
and do them on habitually barefoot runners. This would give an accurate
analysis on the mechanics of these runners while giving an accurate
representation of the differences between barefoot and shod runners. Getting
enough habitually barefoot runners is more difficult for researchers to do
because there are many more shod runners than there are barefoot runners;
however, incorporating this into the research would answer so many of the
unanswered questions and make the research so much more accurate than it is currently.

            A study
could be done with 24 runners (12 who are habitually barefoot and 12 who are
habitually shod). Each participant would do a warm up and cool down outside,
four barefoot trials, and four shod trials on a 40-meter track with appropriate
rest. Researchers would gather data through an EMG, 3D camera, and force plate
to measure the stride length, loading rate, and foot strike pattern through
each of the trials. This data could be used to compare how running mechanics
differ between habitually barefoot and shod runners under each of the given
conditions. It could also be used to compare stride length, loading rate, and
foot strike pattern between barefoot and shod running.