Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

The Olympics and bare feet: What have we learned?

Date:
July 27, 2012
Source:
University of Central Florida
Summary:
A researcher finds that after Ethiopian Olympic runner Abebe Bikila introduced barefoot running to American in 1960, researchers still don't know if it promotes or prevents injuries. She presents a technique to help people ease into it.

Barefoot. Ethiopian runner Abebe Bikila made history when he earned a gold medal at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. His speed and agility won him the gold, but it was barefoot running that made him a legend.
Credit: aroberlin / Fotolia

Ethiopian runner Abebe Bikila made history when he earned a gold medal at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. His speed and agility won him the gold, but it was barefoot running that made him a legend.

When the shoes Bikila was given for the race didn't fit comfortably, he ditched them for his bare feet. After all, that's the way he had trained for the Olympics in his homeland.

Racing shoeless led to success for Bikila, and now, more than 50 years later, runners are continuing to take barefoot strides. Several Olympic runners have followed Bikila and nationally the trend has exploded over the past decade. There's even a national association dedicated to barefoot running. However, scientists are stuck on whether it either prevents or increases injuries.

"Bikila may have been on to something," said Carey Rothschild, an instructor of physical therapy at the University of Central Florida in Orlando who specializes in orthopedic sports injuries. "The research is really not conclusive on whether one approach is better than the other. But what is clear is that it's really a matter of developing a good running form and sticking to it, not suddenly changing it."

Rothschild, a 12-year runner who has completed the Boston Marathon three times, reviewed research and found injuries happened with or without shoes. So she conducted a survey with the help of the Track Shack in Orlando to get to the bottom of the controversy.

What she found was striking.

Most people said they turned to barefoot running in the hopes of improving performance and reducing injuries. Ironically, those who said they never tried it avoided it for fear it would cause injuries and slow their times.

However, research shows that there are risks to running no matter what someone puts on his or her feet.

Barefoot runners tend to land on their mid or forefoot as opposed to the heel, which good athletic shoes try to cushion.

Some studies suggest that barefoot running causes a higher level of stress fractures on the front part of the foot and increased soreness in the calves. But runners who wear athletic shoes can also suffer everything from knee injuries to hip problems, related to repeated stress from impact forces at the heel.

"There is no perfect recipe," said Rothschild, a resident of Winter Park.

In a paper publishing next month in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, Rothschild reviews the research and provides a guide for those who want to explore barefoot running as a way to train for marathons. It's a 10-12 week program that slowly eases people who run in shoes onto their bare feet.

She suggests getting a thorough physical examination and biomechanical assessment from a physical therapist or other trained professional so that strength and flexibility deficits can be identified and addressed first. That should be done before gradually transitioning to bare feet.

"The bottom line is that when a runner goes from shoes to no shoes, their body may not automatically change its gait," Rothschild said. "But there are ways to help make that transition smoother and lower the risk of injuries."

The researcher concludes that barefoot running in and of itself is neither good nor bad. As with running in shoes, proper training and conditioning are essential.

However, Rothschild does offer a warning.

Anyone with lower extremity or deformity or with a disease that creates a lack of sensation on the feet should probably avoid barefoot running because they can't necessarily feel injuries resulting from running on hard surfaces.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Central Florida. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Carey E. Rothschild. Primitive Running. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2012; 26 (8): 2021 DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31823a3c54

Cite This Page:

University of Central Florida. "The Olympics and bare feet: What have we learned?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 July 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120727102436.htm>.
University of Central Florida. (2012, July 27). The Olympics and bare feet: What have we learned?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120727102436.htm
University of Central Florida. "The Olympics and bare feet: What have we learned?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120727102436.htm (accessed September 23, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ebola Costs Keep Mounting

Ebola Costs Keep Mounting

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 23, 2014) The WHO has warned up to 20,000 people could be infected with Ebola over the next few weeks. As Sonia Legg reports, the implications for the West African countries suffering from the disease are huge. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Cases Could Reach 1.4 Million Within 4 Months

Ebola Cases Could Reach 1.4 Million Within 4 Months

Newsy (Sep. 23, 2014) Health officials warn that without further intervention, the number of Ebola cases in Liberia and Sierra Leone could reach 1.4 million by January. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
WHO: Ebola Cases to Triple in Weeks Without Drastic Action

WHO: Ebola Cases to Triple in Weeks Without Drastic Action

AFP (Sep. 23, 2014) The number of Ebola infections will triple to 20,000 by November, soaring by thousands every week if efforts to stop the outbreak are not stepped up radically, the WHO warned in a study on Tuesday. Duration: 01:01 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
5 Ways Men Can Prevent Most Heart Attacks

5 Ways Men Can Prevent Most Heart Attacks

Newsy (Sep. 23, 2014) No surprise here: A recent study says men can reduce their risk of heart attack by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, which includes daily exercise. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins