An Exploratory Study Investigating the Effects of Barefoot Running on Working Memory

Percept Mot Skills. 2016 Apr;122(2):432-43. doi: 10.1177/0031512516640391.

Abstract

The aim of the present study was to compare the potential cognitive benefits of running barefoot compared to shod. Young adults (N = 72, M age = 24.4 years, SD = 5.5) ran both barefoot and shod on a running track while stepping on targets (poker chips) and when not stepping on targets. The main finding was that participants performed better on a working memory test when running barefoot compared to shod, but only when they had to step on targets. These results supported the idea that additional attention is needed when running barefoot to avoid stepping on objects that could potentially injure the foot. Significant increases in participant's heart rate were also found in the barefoot condition. No significant differences were found in participants' speed across conditions. These findings suggested that working memory may be enhanced after at least 16 minutes of barefoot running if the individual has to focus attention on the ground.

Keywords: barefoot running; heart rate; running; self-selected pace; working memory.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Female
  • Foot / physiology*
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Running / physiology*
  • Shoes
  • Young Adult