Biomechanics of Foot Strikes & Applications to Running Barefoot or in Minimal Footwear
This website was developed to provide an evidence-based resource for those interested in the biomechanics of different foot strikes in endurance running and the applications to human endurance running prior to the modern running shoe.
Daniel E. Lieberman
Adam I. Daoud
William A. Werbel
In Daniel Lieberman's Skeletal Biology Lab, we have been investigating the biomechanics of endurance running, comparing habitually barefoot runners with runners who normally run in modern running shoes with built-up heels, stiff soles and arch support.
Here is a summary of our findings, which we explain with the aid of videos and images in the following pages:
Our research asked how and why humans can and did run comfortably without modern running shoes. We tested and confirmed what many people knew already: that most experienced, habitually barefoot runners tend to avoid landing on the heel and instead land with a forefoot or midfoot strike. The bulk of our published research explores the collisional mechanics of different kinds of foot strikes. We show that most forefoot and some midfoot strikes (shod or barefoot) do not generate the sudden, large impact transients that occur when you heel strike (shod or barefoot). Consequently, runners who forefoot or midfoot strike do not need shoes with elevated cushioned heels to cope with these sudden, high transient forces that occur when you land on the ground. Therefore, barefoot and minimally shod people can run easily on the hardest surfaces in the world without discomfort from landing. If impact transient forces contribute to some forms of injury, then this style of running (shod or barefoot) might have some benefits, but that hypothesis remains to be tested.
Lieberman DE, Venkadesan M, Werbel WA, Daoud AI, D'Andrea S, Davis IS, Mang'eni RO, Pitsiladis Y. (2010) Foot strike patterns and collision forces in habitually barefoot versus shod runners. Nature 463: 531-5.
Bramble DM and Lieberman, DE (2004) Endurance running and the Evolution of Homo. Nature. 432: 345-352.
Please note that we present no data on how people should run, whether shoes cause some injuries, or whether barefoot running causes other kinds of injuries. We believe there is a strong need for controlled, prospective studies on these issues.
This website provides information on:
Human evolution and endurance running
Foot and lower limb biomechanics when running in shoes
Foot and lower limb biomechanics when running barefoot or in minimal shoes
Biomechanical differences between forefoot striking and heel striking
Tools to help assess potential benefits of learning to forefoot strike
Transitioning safely to forefoot striking barefoot or in minimal footwear