Context: Barefoot running is a trend among running enthusiasts that is the subject of much controversy. At this time, benefits appear to be more speculative and anecdotal than evidence based. Additionally, the risk of injuries is not well established.
Evidence acquisition: A PubMed search was undertaken for articles published in English from 1980 to 2011. Additional references were accrued from reference lists of research articles.
Results: While minimal data exist that definitively support barefoot running, there are data lending support to the argument that runners should use a forefoot strike pattern in lieu of a heel strike pattern to reduce ground reaction forces, ground contact time, and step length.
Conclusions: Whether there is a positive or negative effect on injury has yet to be determined. Unquestionably, more research is needed before definitive conclusions can be drawn.
Keywords: barefoot running; forefoot strike; minimalist shoes; shod running.