Why do my legs always feel so much better when I run barefoot?

My friend Larry is the first person who mentioned it to me. “My legs never have that heavy feeling anymore,” he said. The simple explanation, of course, is that Larry’s not lifting a pound of shoe with each foot lift. But when I pulled out my old physics book and calculated the work required to lift a one lb shoe a few inches, even 120 times a minute, it just didn’t add up to much, so there’s more to the story.

Scientists have concluded that barefoot running is about 4% more efficient than shod running. This article explains that the extra work comes of accelerating and decelerating that extra mass, all the more work because the extra mass is located far end of the lever arm (in this case a leg). Imagine how much harder it would be to swing you leg with a 5 lb weight on your ankle versus strapped to your thigh.

This felt like the right track with that research, but then realized that when I run barefoot, my legs don’t feel 1% or 5% better, they feel approximately 100% better.  So, what is it then, psychological? Probably the answer has to do with the low impact nature of barefoot running. I won’t try to delve into the physics, but can certainly imagine that the bang bang bang of heel striking causing muscle fatigue.

Whatever it is, I feel like going for a run now, and I have no interest in putting on shoes.

Explore posts in the same categories: Barefoot Running, Experience, Other Runners, Research

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