In context of running, one of the most discussed subjects over the last many years probably have been whether "Natural Running" will prevent injuries or actually be the source of injuries.

I have looked at the many, many references you can find on the web if you search for "natural running injuries" and to me it looks like you can easily confirm any initial views or assumptions no matter what you think of the subject.

With other words, it is extremely difficult to find objective investigation - let alone research - into this subject.

From discussions on my local running team, the general agreement seem to be that natural running is good for your legs in general - especially your shins, knees and hips - but it is bad when it comes to plantar fasciitis. Which kind of make sense to me, as your steps are shorter, but the archs under the feet must handle more pressure.

[As I have almost continuous problems with shin sprints, I wonder if I should try to switch. But I have also had some rather serious problems with PF in the past, which I really, really don't want to repeat..]

Thus the question: Are there any (conclusive) research in this field? Has anybody figured out if natural running is good, bad or just same-same?

  • You must have looked everywhere but here: fitness.stackexchange.com/questions/293/…
    – anaheim
    Jun 13, 2013 at 11:44
  • I did look at this question, but I'm not asking about general experience in barefoot/natural running - I want to know about natural running vs injuries which is not covered in that question. Jun 13, 2013 at 12:35
  • I had a minor problem with PF from barefoot running. Totally general fitness advice - if you have a history of serious problems with PF too, I'd say that nothing good is likely to come of taking up barefoot running. PF is nasty - you need your feet for almost any activity you're likely to do. I have a friend who used to run ultra-marathons, developed PF, and is now permanently barred from all lower body sports (about the only thing he can do is kayaking). My $0.02.
    – DavidR
    Jun 13, 2013 at 17:02
  • I think what I meant to say is that a study may tell you something about the average runner, but that isn't a substitute for understanding your personal history with injuries. If you've had PF before, it's pretty smart to avoid variations of running that have a high risk factor for PF, regardless of how an "average" runner may respond to it.
    – DavidR
    Jun 13, 2013 at 19:05
  • 1
    I started experimenting with barefoot/VFF because of PF. Having done 20 marathons and ultras, I had to slow down for a while. 18 months later, I haven't felt any PF-caused pain for a long time. The price: my speed declined more 1 minute per mile. My shin muscles grew so much that now they are bigger than my biceps. Also I had to strengthen my core, especially the obliques. I have completed a marathon recently, going for an ultra later this year.
    – A-K
    Jul 5, 2013 at 14:33

1 Answer 1


There really is no "conclusive" proof at the current time, and not likely to be any in the near future. Part of the problem is that Chi/Pose and the natural styles of running also have a very lucrative market for shoe companies. Pretty much every shoe company now makes minimalist type shoes, and there are entire companies (Newton) that make only fore/mid foot strike shoes, and a lot of the studies have been funded by the company selling the shoes.

A lot of the studies are observational, i.e., they just watch runners and classify them and then review the injuries that they suffer in a year. Part of the problem with some of the studies is that they look at elite runners, and then everyone wants to apply that to the general masses. You can see this with the recommendation for 180 foot strikes a minute being "ideal". This was taken off of a small sampling of elite runners during a high profile marathon. Suddenly your 11 minute a mile weekend warrior is being told he needs to get to 180 foot strikes a minute because Bekele runs that way.

My personal opinion is that people generally self select the strike pattern and gait that naturally suits them at the speed they are currently running. As you get towards the faster end of the field, the more you need to start moving from a rear foot strike to mid/fore foot.

I did find this study to be very interesting, as it definitively shows over the period of a year that rear foot strikers tend to suffer injuries at twice the rate of fore foot strikers. It also points out that the faster the runner, the more likely they are to fore foot strike. This was done on a group of elite college level cross country runners, and was published this year.

It also dismisses the "heel never touching the ground" strike pattern as it's extremely rare among elite runners.

The other thing that hasn't really been studied is if a mid foot striker wears rear foot strike shoes and that contribution to the injury rate. There are just way too many variables that are unknown in most studies to really nail it down yet, and the shoe companies have no vested interest in doing those kinds of studies.

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    I found this article of NY Times that seems to indicate that elite runners (he the Olympic 10k field) comes in all sort of strike flavours - well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/15/… - but is does not talk about injuries... Aug 16, 2013 at 8:16
  • @TonnyMadsen - I had seen some of that, but not that writeup, thank you. It reinforces my belief that people generally select the strike pattern that best suits them naturally. There are some excellent study links in that article as well.
    – JohnP
    Aug 16, 2013 at 14:54

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