Primitive running: a survey analysis of runners' interest, participation, and implementation

J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Aug;26(8):2021-6. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31823a3c54.


Running is a sport that has continued to see growth in numbers over the years. Recently, there has been a movement promoting running barefoot and in light, "minimalist" shoes. Advocates of barefoot running believe that a more primitive style of running may result in fewer running-related injuries and even possibly improve performance. To identify the current interest level and participation in barefoot or minimalist shod running, an electronic survey was developed and dispersed to 6,082 runners. The survey instrument examined demographics, motivating factors, used resources, perceived barriers, and expectations in runners who add barefoot or in minimalist shod running to their training. Seven hundred eighty-five (13%) runners completed the survey. Six hundred and thirty (75.7%) indicated they were at least somewhat interested in running barefoot or in minimalist shoes. One hundred seventy-two (21.9%) runners had previously tried barefoot running, whereas 239 (30.4%) had previously tried minimalist shoes. The primary motivating factor for those running barefoot or in minimalist shoes (n = 283) was to prevent future injury (n = 97, 34.3%). Advice from friends (n = 68, 24.5%) or books (n = 68, 24.5%) was the most commonly used resource in transitioning to barefoot or minimalist shod running. Fear of possible injury (n = 424, 54%) was the most prevalent perceived barrier in transitioning to barefoot or minimalist shod running. An overwhelming 671 (85.5%) indicated that they were at least somewhat likely to continue with or to add barefoot or minimalist shod running if provided sufficient instruction. Runners who are men, of younger age, and who consider themselves elite runners are somewhat more likely to be interested in barefoot or minimalist shod running.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology
  • Athletic Performance / statistics & numerical data*
  • Data Collection / methods
  • Data Collection / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Running / injuries
  • Running / statistics & numerical data*
  • Shoes / statistics & numerical data