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Newtons third law states that with every action there is an equal and opposite action.

When a
body is in contact with the ground, whether standing still, walking or running, this opposite
force is called ground reaction force. In order to measure ground reaction force a force plate
or force platform is needed. With this it is possible to measure forces in the anterior-posterior
and medio-lateral plane, as well as vertical force and ground contact time. Analysis of these
variables can lead to improvements in running technique, shoe design and injury prevention
strategies. By measuring the ground reaction force when running it is possible to analyse a
persons running pattern, including the different levels of force they produce each stage of
their gait. It stands to reason that without the cushioning provided by modern running shoes
that there will be a difference in ground reaction forces when running barefoot versus shod
running. With a recent increase in barefoot running and a trend towards trying to replicate
barefoot movement (Nigg, 2009), the ground reaction forces of barefoot versus shod running
need to be considered for areas such as injury and rate of force development.
One of the main differences in barefoot versus shod running is that the force of the passive or
impact peak is much lower in barefoot running (Divert, Mornieux, Baur, Mayer & Belli,
2005, Lieberman et al., 2010). A central reason for the lower impact peak in barefoot running
is that there is a significantly higher pre-activation and stiffening of the plantar flexors before
impact (Divert et al., 2005; Divert, 2008; Nigg, 2009), allowing for better absorption and
return of impact forces. The added elevation provided by shod running coupled with a
comparative lack of stiffness leads to higher impact peak in shod running (Divert, 2008;
Lieberman et al., 2010), as well as an increase in heel striking (Lieberman et al., 2010),
compared to a more mid or forefoot gait in barefoot running (Liberman et al., 2010; Nigg,
2009). However, in other research (De Wit, De Clercq & Aerts, 2000) no significant
difference was observed between barefoot and shod, both in impact and active peak. This
study did find a significantly higher loading rate in barefoot, proposing that the stiffening of

the plantar flexors acts to reduce impact, something which is not as big a factor in shod
running due to the cushioning of the shoe (Divert, 2008). Depending on the distance and
intensity of running performed, the cushioning provided in shod running can help to lessen
the stress on joints by dissipating the ground reaction forces (Shorten & Mientjes, 2008).
In shorter distance events such as sprinting where rate of force development is critical, the
dissipation of force could have quite a large impact on performance. Optimal sprint technique
involves driving off the balls of the feet for maximum acceleration and at maximum velocity
landing on the balls of the feet to minimise any braking force (Baechle & Earle, 2008; Mero
& Komi, 1986), and it is for this reason that good sprinters have no heel strike. It has been
proposed the lower net efficiency reported in shod running can be attributed to the cushioning
in modern sports shoes (Divert, 2008), however other studies report the opposite, that shod
running provides an improved advantage in force production at the ankle in toe off
(Braunstein, Arampatzis, Eysel & Bruggemann, 2010). This study did not mention if it
involved sprinters or distance runners though, so its applicability to sprinting may be limited.
It has been shown that faster runners apply more force to the ground in less time (Weyand,
Sternlight, Bellizzi & Wright, 2000) and that high acceleration is caused by high propulsion
(Hunter, Marshall & McNair, 2005). Ground reaction forces of up to 4.3 times bodyweight
have been found at maximum sprint speeds (Valamatos, Valamatos, Mil-Homens & Veloso,
2005), much higher than in distance running. These forces are able to be produced due to
landing with the forefoot, much like in barefoot running, and the increase in pre-tension and
stiffness that comes with it. One study looked at the effects of shoe bending stiffness in
sprinting (Stefanyshyn & Fusco, 2004) and found that increasing the bending stiffness
increased performance, again supporting that increasing overall lower limb stiffness allows
for better force production.

In an analysis of ground force reactions in distance running, Cavanagh & Lafortune (1980)
found that vertical forces can reach up to three times bodyweight. Other studies (Divert et al.,
2005; Keller et al., 1996) have found similar numbers of around two and a half times
bodyweight. During distance running the number of times these forces are experienced by the
joints and the cumulative effect of the many miles done in training can lead to overuse
injuries (Orava, Puranen & Ala-Ketola, 1978). One study (Nagel, Fernholz, Kibele &
Rosenbaum, 2008) found that the fatigue in a marathon leads to a slight change in technique
and a shift in peak pressure experienced at the metatarsals, compared to a higher peak
pressure at the toes in a non-fatigued state. This highlights the benefit of the aforementioned
cushioning provided by shod running to help dissipate the some of the impact and active
forces (Fukano, Nagano, Ida & Fukubayashi, 2009; Ogon 2001). However, it could also be
argued that the lack of stiffness in the plantar flexors that occurs in shod running, as
mentioned earlier, could leave the body less able to handle the impact upon landing, thus
increasing the risk of injury.
From this it can be seen that there is a large difference not just in ground reaction forces but
also running styles when comparing barefoot and shod running. It would seem that barefoot
running lends itself to better force production, and the forefoot gait that is commonly used
creates less breaking force, compared to shod running where a heel strike gait is more
common. From a performance perspective it would be ideal to keep breaking force to a
minimum in order to keep running economy as high as possible. For this reason a barefoot, or
at least a shoe that can effectively replicate a barefoot style, would seem to be best for
producing minimal breaking force. Divert et al. (2005) found no significant difference in
braking peak between barefoot and shod, but did find a significant difference in breaking
impulse with more force produced by barefoot. However, there is no mention of the gait used
by the participants. Based on this, the study will look at the effects of shod running versus

barefoot running in the production of anterior-posterior forces for runners using a mid to
forefoot gait.

Methodology
Participants
The study will involve 30 adult male club level distance runners, running a minimum
distance 40km per week using a mid to forefoot gait. Participants will need to be free of
running related injuries for the previous 6 months. Consent forms detailing the procedure of
the study will be given to the participants and signed to give informed consent. Participants
will have the right to opt out of the study at any stage for any reason.
Procedures
The study is designed to look at the anterior-posterior forces in both barefoot and shod
running in distance runners who run specifically with a mid to forefoot gait. By analysing
these forces the breaking and pushing peaks and impulses can be determined, and from this
which is better for running economy. The participants will randomly be split into two groups
of 15. One group will perform barefoot and the other will run with shoes (Asics Gel Cumulus
12 running shoes). All participants will follow the same warm up, based upon the RAMP
method (Jeffreys, 2007), and have rest periods of 3 minutes to ensure full recovery. The
participants will run 10 trials of 60m with a Kistler 9268A Portable Plate positioned at the
40m mark; this will allow the participants enough distance to reach their running speed. The
data will be recorded using the Bioware software program, and will be calibrated beforehand
using a 20kg Ivanko weight disc. Time gates will be placed at the 30m, 40m and 50m marks
to ensure a consistent running speed throughout each trial. The force plate will have a
sampling frequency of 200Hz, the same as De Wit et al. (2000). The force plate will be
anchored to the ground to prevent any unwanted movement which could skew the results.
Previous research by Divert et al. (2005) has shown no difference between barefoot and shod
breaking peaks; however the participants gait was not mentioned. It is hypothesized that

barefoot running will produce lower braking peaks compared to shod running. This is due to
a better ability to absorb and return force due to the increased tension in the plantar flexors
while in a barefoot state, as mentioned earlier.
Data Analysis
The dependant values to be analysed will be the anterior-posterior forces produced upon
impact, specifically the peaks and impulses that occur in breaking and pushing. The data will
be analysed with a two sample independent t-test, with a significance value of p<0.05. One
standard deviation will also be included in the results, and they will also be normalized to
account for bodyweight.

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