After the rise and (almost) downfall of the minimalist and barefoot running movement, a 2016 study published in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise Journal reveals that running with less cushioning may reduce the risk of injury.
Researchers from the University of Exeter studied a group of 29 runners and found significantly lower loading rates for those who wore minimal running shoes and landed on the ball of their foot. According to Dr Hannah Rice:
This research shows that running in minimal shoes and landing on the balls of your feet reduces loading rates and may therefore reduce the risk of injury.
Interestingly, the study found that there was no difference in loading rates for runners wearing cushioning trainers, regardless of their foot strike pattern. This suggests that for runners in cushioned running shoes foot strike pattern does not matter for injury risk.
However, this study is a warning for runners who would like to switch to minimal running without correctly adapting their running form. Indeed, the researchers highlight that without cushioning, the loading rates may be greatly higher for runners with a forefoot strike.
In other words, if running with minimalist shoes with a forefoot strike is the best configuration, running without cushioning and a rearfoot strike is likely to lead to a higher risk of injury.
Therefore, this shows how important it is to take it slow when transitioning to minimalist or barefoot running, especially for those of us with a rearfoot strike.
Photo credit: Ryan Smith (Flickr)