Barefoot Running Reduces the Submaximal Oxygen Cost in Female Distance Runners

J Strength Cond Res. 2016 Aug;30(8):2348-53. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001330.


Berrones, AJ, Kurti, SP, Kilsdonk, KM, Cortez, DJ, Melo, FF, and Whitehurst, M. Barefoot running reduces the submaximal oxygen cost in female distance runners. J Strength Cond Res 30(8): 2348-2353, 2016-Being a competitive distance runner is, in part, attributable to a high V[Combining Dot Above]O2max. However, running economy (RE) is a more robust indicator of distance running performance among endurance athletes of similar V[Combining Dot Above]O2max levels. The purpose of this study was to examine the influence of unshod (barefoot) vs. shod (wearing shoes) running on RE (expressed as ml·kg·min) during three 5-minute submaximal running trials representing 65, 75, and 85% of V[Combining Dot Above]O2max. Other physiologic and perceptual variables such as respiratory exchange ratio, lactate, heart rate, and ratings of perceived exertion were also chosen as dependent variables. We measured V[Combining Dot Above]O2max in 14 recreationally active trained distance female runners (age = 27.6 ± 1.6 years; height = 163.3 ± 1.7 cm; weight = 57.8 ± 1.9 kg) who were completely inexperienced with unshod running. After initial testing, each subject was randomized to either unshod or shod for days 2 and 3. We analyzed the data with a 2-way (condition by intensity) repeated-measures analysis of variance. Submaximal oxygen consumption was significantly reduced at 85% of V[Combining Dot Above]O2max (p = 0.018), indicating an improvement in RE, but not during the 65% or 75% trials (p > 0.05, both). No other dependent measure was different between unshod and shod conditions. Our results indicate that the immediate improvement to RE while barefoot occurs at a relatively high fraction of maximal oxygen consumption. For the recreational or competitive distance runner, training or competing while barefoot may be a useful strategy to improve endurance performance.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Athletic Performance / physiology*
  • Exercise Test
  • Female
  • Foot / physiology*
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Lactic Acid / blood
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology*
  • Running / physiology*
  • Shoes


  • Lactic Acid