Friday, July 22, 2016

Barefoot Running and Working Memory

"The aim of the present study was to compare the potential cognitive benefits of running barefoot compared to shod. Young adults (N = 72, M age = 24.4 years, SD = 5.5) ran both barefoot and shod on a running track while stepping on targets (poker chips) and when not stepping on targets. The main finding was that participants performed better on a working memory test when running barefoot compared to shod, but only when they had to step on targets. These results supported the idea that additional attention is needed when running barefoot to avoid stepping on objects that could potentially injure the foot. Significant increases in participant's heart rate were also found in the barefoot condition. No significant differences were found in participants' speed across conditions. These findings suggested that working memory may be enhanced after at least 16 minutes of barefoot running if the individual has to focus attention on the ground."
Emphasis mine.

The certainly falls under the "No Duh" category of scientific studies!  Anyone who's ever run barefoot can attest to the fact that you pay much closer attention.  The idea that it may have some larger benefit is neat, of course.

And the higher heart rate is likely just a factor of novice barefoot runners.  I've consistently noticed over the years that my HR drops a few beats per minute when I take off the shoes during a run, even if they're minimalist shoes.


1 comment:

  1. I am a habitually barefoot runner, and I consistently see that my heart rate increases when the surface is more difficult. If I maintain my speed as the surface changes from eg. asphalt to gravel, my heart rate will go up dramatically. I think this dynamic needs more research, as it suggests that running patterns change depending on the roughness of the surface which makes comparisons conducted on a treadmill less reliable.