June 2016

Runners’ baseline may determine effect of barefoot switch on loading symmetry

In the moment: Rehabilitation

By Jordana Bieze Foster

Among habitually shod runners with a recent history of injury, those with the greatest magnitudes of loading asymmetry are those who are most likely to become more symmetrical after switching to barefoot running, according to research presented in early June at the ACSM annual meeting in Boston.

Investigators from Spaulding National Running Center in Boston analyzed 67 habitually shod runners as they ran on an instrumented treadmill, first while shod, then barefoot with instructions and visual cues to use a forefoot strike pattern.

For the group overall, switching to barefoot running was not associated with greater symmetry for vertical average loading rate (VALR), vertical 
instantaneous loading rate (VILR), vertical force peak, or stance time. In fact, VALR and VILR were more asymmetrical during the barefoot condition than the shod condition.

However, the runners in the most asymmetric quintile for each of the loading variables did become more symmetrical when running barefoot than when shod, according to Adam Tenforde, MD, an attending physician at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, who presented the findings.

Tenforde AS, Ruder MC, Davis IS. Influence of shod and barefoot running conditions on gait symmetry for injured runners. Presented at the 2016 annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine, Boston, June 2016.

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