The Emperor's New (Running) Shoes

Dec 12 / Build Muscle

Barefoot running advocates argue that, in addition to preventing injuries, ditching shoes makes you more efficient—meaning you can go faster expending the same amount of effort. After all, the typical trainer adds 10 to 11 ounces of weight to your feet, which surely must drag you down, right?

Not so fast (or slow), a new study finds. Researchers at the University of Colorado recruited runners who regularly ran without shoes. The scientists calculated how much energy the runners expended as they ran barefoot and while wearing lightweight shoes (Nike Mayflys, which clock in at about 5 ounces, about half the average shoe weight).

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The findings: Runners used about the same amount of energy wearing shoes as running barefoot. And when the researchers started adding small lead weights to runners’ feet to mimic the weight of heavier shoes, the results got even more interesting. When carrying an additional 10.5 ounces, runners actually consumed about 3 to 4 percent more energy barefoot than in the lightweight trainers.

“We think that the most likely explanation is cushioning,” says senior author and physiologist Rodger Kram, Ph.D. Shoes save you energy by absorbing the impact of hitting the ground, which makes up for their extra mass.

The bottom line? If you’re going to choose barefoot running, don’t do it because it makes you more efficient. (musclemorphosis.com.)

Instead, make the best use of your energy by focusing on your stride rate. On your next easy run, count your footsteps for 30 seconds, and double that number to get your stride rate. If it’s less than 180 (the rate of super-efficient endurance elites), focus on moving your feet more quickly without running faster.

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