Differences in Exercise Economy between Minimalistic and Conventional Footwear

Renner, Tyler
Werhonig, Gary
Background: Barefoot running has been thought to be more metabolically economical than conventional, shod running. However, some studies have suggested that only experienced barefoot runners may benefit due to biomechanical changes the body must first adopt. As an experienced barefoot runner, I tested the theory on myself to determine metabolic economy in barefoot and shod running. Methods: After establishing VO2max, treadmill tests were conducted on three separate days on a single subject trained in the barefoot running style. On each test day, two 15-minute running sessions were conducted, spaced by a rest period of at least 15 minutes. Sessions were identical at 7.0 mph and 0% grade. Subject was always shod in the first session and "barefoot" (wearing very minimalistic Vibram FiveFingers) in the second session. Heart rate and rate of perceived exertion were recorded, as well as oxygen uptake measured by a metabolic cart, each minute to determine average oxygen consumption relative to VO2max. Results: Running the "barefoot" style was found to elicit an average oxygen consumption savings of 3.41% compared to running shod. Conclusion: Running "barefoot" (including very minimalistic footwear) offers a metabolic advantage over running shoes in a runner who is accustomed to the biomechanical variance of barefoot running.
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