Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Is Barefoot-Style Running Best? New Studies Cast Doubt

Barefoot-running enthusiasts long have believed that running without shoes or in minimalist footwear makes running easier, speedier and less injurious. But a surprisingly large number of new studies examining just how the body actually responds when we run in our birthday shoes or skimpy footwear suggest that for many people, those expectations are not being met.
In the end, this data showed that heel-striking was the more physiologically economical running form, by a considerable margin. Heel strikers used less oxygen to run at the same pace as forefoot strikers, and many of the forefoot strikers used less oxygen — meaning they were more economical — when they switched form to land first with their heels.
Most of the runners also burned fewer carbohydrates as a percentage of their energy expenditure when they struck first with their heels. Their bodies turned to fats and other fuel sources, “sparing” the more limited stores of carbohydrates, says Allison Gruber, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, who led the study. Because depleting carbohydrates results in “hitting the wall,” or abruptly sagging with fatigue, “these results tell us that people will hit the wall faster if they are running with a forefoot pattern versus a rear-foot pattern,” Dr. Gruber says.

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