The popularity of running barefoot or in minimalist shoes has notably increased in the last decade due to claims of injury prevention, enhanced running efficiency, and improved performance when compared to running in shoes (shod). A systematic review of the literature was performed using the Downs and Black checklist to assess the methodological quality of studies proposing risks or benefits between running barefoot, shod, or in minimalist shoes. The databases Ovid MEDLINE, SPORTDiscus, and CINAHL were searched using keywords or "Booleans" including: "Barefoot", "Running" and "Minimalist," exclusively. All included articles were obtained from peer reviewed journals in the English language with a link to full text and no limit for year of publication. The final selection was made based on inclusion of at least one of the following outcome variables: pain, injury rate, running economy, joint forces, running velocity, electromyography, muscle performance, or edema. Significant results were gathered from identified articles and compared using "Levels of Evidence" by Furlan et al. Twenty-three publications were identified and rated for quality assessment in September 2013. Out of 27 possible points on the Downs and Black checklist, all articles scored between 13 and 19 points with a mean of 17.4. Evidence from the articles ranged from very limited to moderate. Moderate evidence suggested overall less maximum vertical ground reaction forces, less extension moment and power absorption at the knee, less foot and ankle dorsiflexion at ground contact, less ground contact time, shorter stride length, increased stride frequency (cadence), as well as increased knee flexion at ground contact in barefoot running compared to shod. The low scores from the quality assessment using the Downs and Black checklist indicates that improved methodological quality is necessary to provide strong evidence comparing the risks and benefits of running barefoot, shod, and in minimalist shoes. The literature between shod, minimalist, and barefoot running is inconclusive. There is limited evidence showing differences in kinematics, kinetics, electromyography, and economy results in minimalist shoes. Thus, an alternative and suitable method to effectively replicate barefoot running has not yet been determined.


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Thesis Completion





Rothschild, Carey


Bachelor of Science (B.S.)


College of Health and Public Affairs


Health Professions

Degree Program

Health Professions


Dissertations, Academic -- Health and Public Affairs; Health and Public Affairs -- Dissertations, Academic







Access Status

Open Access

Length of Campus-only Access


Document Type

Honors in the Major Thesis