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Running Barefoot Decreases Knee Joint Stress

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Running is an excellent way to keep in shape, the only real investment required being a pair of good running shoes. But even this may turn out to be unnecessary, in fact ill-advised, in the case of runners experiencing higher knee joint stress. According to the findings of an Australian study, running barefoot can reduce that stress, lowering the risk of developing patellofemoral pain syndrome.

The study was conducted by a team of researchers from Deakin University, the University of Queensland and the Australian Institute of Sport. Their report was published earlier this month in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. The researchers set out to determine whether running barefoot was better for reducing patellofemoral joint stress than shod running. Such stress is believed to facilitate the development of patellofemoral pain syndrome (pain in the front of the knee) and its progression.

The study involved 22 trained runners, whose lower extremity kinematics and ground reaction force were measured while they ran barefoot and while they were wearing neutral running shoes. The researchers used the collected data as input variables into a previously described mathematical model designed to assess patellofemoral joint stress.

The results showed that peak patellofemoral joint stress was reduced by 12% when the subjects ran barefoot. The researchers attributed this decrease to reduced patellofemoral joint reaction forces when running was done without shoes. In the closing part of their report, they wrote that the greater patellofemoral joint stress associated with shod running could be conducive to patellofemoral pain and running barefoot helped reduce that stress.