I have been meaning for a while to write an article on all the differing results on the studies that have looked at running economy in traditional running shoes vs barefoot or minimalism. I wanted to create a table of all the studies to look at the results. I still will do that, but we have just had a flurry of new studies on this topic in the abstract book for the American College of Sports Medicine meeting to be held in Indianapolis 28 May-1 June. Without getting into the details, here are the conclusions of them:
From Sougiannis et al:
There are no significant changes in running economy with first time use of minimalist shoes. Kinematics data can be used to infer that novices to MS running can transition gait patterns during long duration runs, but these changes are highly variable and indicate a prolonged learning period.
From Cusack et al:
Adaptation to minimal footwear does not affect metabolic efficiency. The use of minimal footwear did not provide an advantage over standard running shoes despite a reduction in shoe mass (μ 217g). Chronic use of minimal footwear may provide alternative biomechanical stress of the lower extremity; however, the consequences are unknown.
From Braun et al:
While performing sub-maximal, fixed-velocity running under differing shod conditions, RE and related CR measures were not found to be significantly altered in a sample of well-trained, female distance runners. However, the higher oxygen uptake trend in RS was associated with a ~5.8% greater oxygen uptake compared to BF. Such a difference could confer considerable energy conservation over a long distance run in a BF runner. Whether this would translate into performance enhancement should be investigated.
From Van Wagenen et al:
Overall, RE improved for both training groups, however there was no significant difference in the improvement of RE between groups in either shoe condition. Improvements in RE may have been caused by more consistent training as a result of participation in this study. In addition, the sub-maximal test may have allowed for more variability in individual intensities, and therefore, may not be as sensitive as VO2max testing in assessing changes in RE specific to shoe type
From Vincent et al:
In trained mid-forefoot runners experienced with barefoot running, there are not significant metabolic differences and fuel use patterns between shod and barefoot running conditions longer than a few minutes in duration. It is likely that experienced participants were able to titrate kinematics and muscle activation to standardize energy output and fuel use for a given running distance and speed irrespective of shoe wear
NONE of them found any advantage to running economy using minimalist footwear! Even I was surprised at that. I will get to the article on running economy soon, but I now have 5 more studies to include in it! The abstracts have been posted in this thread as well as being available in the meeting abstract book.
As always, I go where the evidence takes me.