June 2017

Plantar sensation fails to explain shift in foot strike during barefoot running

In the moment: Sports medicine

By Jordana Bieze Foster

Sensory feedback research from Colorado appears to challenge the popular belief that barefoot runners tend to adopt a forefoot-strike pattern to avoid the discomfort of landing on an unprotected heel.

Investigators from Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO, and Denver Health Medical Center analyzed the gait of 10 healthy active young adults as they ran overground on a 20-m runway.

Trials were performed bare­foot and shod and under normal sensory conditions and with the plantar surface of the foot anesthetized using lidocaine injected under the metatarsals, lateral column, and heel.

Without anesthetic, barefoot running was associated with a shorter stride length, a nonrearfoot-strike pattern, and reduced loading compared with shod running. However, those differences persisted even after the lidocaine was applied. The findings, presented in late May as a poster at the American College of Sports Medicine annual meeting in Denver, suggest that superficial cutaneous sensory receptors do not play a significant role in the gait changes associated with barefoot running.


Thompson MA, Hoffman KM. Superficial sensory feedback is not responsible for gait alterations associated with barefoot running. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2017;49(5 Suppl 1):S100.

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