Background. Anecdotally, a wide variety of benefits of barefoot running have been advocated by numerous individuals. The influence of the alterations in the properties of the shoe on the running movement has been demonstrated in adults at submaximal jogging speeds. However, the biomechanical differences between shod and barefoot running in children at sprinting speeds and the potential developmental implications of these differences are still less examined. The purpose was to determine the potential differences in habitually shod children's sprint kinematics between shod and barefoot conditions.
Methods. Ninety-four children (51 boys and 43 girls; 6-12 years-old; height, 135.0 ± 0.12 m; body mass, 29.0 ± 6.9 kg) performed 30 m maximal sprints from standing position for each of two conditions (shod and barefoot). To analyze sprint kinematics within sagittal plane sprint kinematics, a high-speed camera (300 fps) was set perpendicular to the runway. In addition, sagittal foot landing and take-offimages were recorded for multiple angles by using five high-speed cameras (300 fps). Spatiotemporal variables, the kinematics of the right leg (support leg) and the left leg (recovery leg), and foot strike patterns: rear-foot strike (RFS), mid-foot strike (MFS), and forefoot strike (FFS) were investigated. The paired t -test was used to test difference between shod and barefoot condition.
Results. Barefoot sprinting in habitually shod children was mainly characterized by significantly lower sprint speed, higher step frequency, shorter step length and stance time. In shod running, 82% of children showed RFS, whereas it decreased to 29% in barefoot condition. The touch down state and the subsequent joint movements of both support and recovery legs during stance phase were significantly altered when running in condition with barefoot.
Discussion. The acute effects of barefoot sprinting was demonstrated by significantly slower sprinting speeds that appear to reflect changes in a variety of spatiotemporal parameters as well as lower limb kinematics. It is currently unknown whether such differences would be observed in children who typically run in bare feet and what developmental benefits and risks may emerge from increasing the proportion of barefoot running and sprinting in children. Future research should therefore investigate potential benefits that barefoot sprinting may have on the development of key physical fitness such as nerve conduction velocity, muscular speed, power, and sprinting technique and on ways to minimize the risk of any acute or chronic injuries associated with this activity.