A new study that measured and compared stresses on the joints of the leg (knees, hips, and ankles) for runners in shod and barefoot running indicates that “running shoes exerted more stress on these joints compared to running barefoot or walking in high-heeled shoes.”

The study involved 68 healthy adult runners, slightly more than half women, who ran at least 15 miles per week and observed “joint torques” at the hip, knee, and ankle while individuals ran on treadmills.

You might guess what they found:

The researchers observed increased joint torques at the hip, knee and ankle with running shoes compared with running barefoot. Disproportionately large increases were observed in the hip internal rotation torque and in the knee flexion and knee varus torques. An average 54% increase in the hip internal rotation torque, a 36% increase in knee flexion torque, and a 38% increase in knee varus torque were measured when running in running shoes compared with barefoot.

These findings confirm that while the typical construction of modern-day running shoes provides good support and protection of the foot itself, one negative effect is the increased stress on each of the 3 lower extremity joints. These increases are likely caused in large part by an elevated heel and increased material under the medial arch, both characteristic of today’s running shoes.

It’s great to see studies like this emerge. No doubt we all have reached a similar conclusion that, rather than first requiring proof barefoot running is safe, the burden of proof that running shoes do us any good lays squarely on the shoulders of the running shoe manufacturers.

It is fascinating that walking in high-heels is less stressful on your joints than running in running shoes though I also imagine it’d be a disaster to run in high-heels — not to mention that high-heels necessarily cram your toes into a narrow space.

Anyone else looking forward to seeing the release of the Lieberman study?

(H/T Chris!)