An empirical study identifying the benefits to barefoot running and the influence that foot placement has upon the effect of lower limb injury in distance runners.
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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Background: Injury among distance runners is very common, with many athletes and coaches alike trying various methods to combat the causes and minimise the damage of an injury once it has occurred. Methods often range from changing a training regime to the surface run on, but recently the introduction of barefoot running has proven to be an increasing choice by many. What must be considered is whether it is better, both from an injury and a performance perspective to wear shoes when running or can barefoot running aid the runner. This study aimed to gather evidence from trained shod athletes on whether the vertical ground reaction forces experienced upon impact were decreased when barefoot running, and whether the athletes showed similar characteristics to previous literature in to the area. Method: Nine injury free, elite, male and female athletes, who studied sports degrees at Cardiff Metropolitan University with mean ± standard deviation age, height, mass, average mileage per week and timescale since last injury values of 21.33 ± 5.17 years, 169.66 ± 11.59 cm, 63 ± 8.02 kg, 46.11 ± 10.83 miles, 8.66 ± 9.53 months respectively took part in the study. All athletes wore their own motion control running shoes for the shod trials. Sagittal plane kinematics was measured using CODA analysis software operating at 200 Hz along with two Kistler force plates positioned beneath the synthetic running track surface operating at 1000 Hz, used to measure kinetic variables. Ethical approval as well as informed consent was gained before the study was allowed to commence. Ground reaction forces as well as joint angle profiles were calculated from the above equipment, whilst a video camera was used as secondary evidence to assess foot placement during both barefoot and shod conditions. Results: The only significant difference found was that on average during the shod condition, ground reaction force at the active peak was 500 N less than during the barefoot condition, which was dissimilar to most previous literature. Further to this more range of motion was experienced during the shod condition, with a stiffer leg adopted by participants when barefoot. Conclusions: From the research and in line with previous literature it was suggested that adopting a 'stiffer' leg due to barefoot interaction can increase strength and attempt minimise the impact forces experienced when colliding with the surface. To provide more reliable results, a longitudinal study which identified the changes experienced over some time by participants may have been more effective. The study provided initial results, but a greater assessment over more months could provide potentially more data with regards to injury. There was more range of movement in the hip and knee joints when in the shod condition which is typically associated with an increased risk of injury. A barefoot training programme may have beneficial implications for an established athlete, but care must be taken when implementing it for the first time.
DEGREE OF BACHELOR OF SCIENCE (HONOURS) SPORT AND EXERCISE SCIENCE
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