The aim of this study was to examine the effects of a 6-week training program of simulated barefoot running (SBR) on running kinetics in habitually shod (wearing shoes) female recreational runners. Twelve female runners age 25.7 ± 3.4 years gradually increased running distance in Vibram FiveFingers minimal shoes over a 6-week period. The kinetic analysis of treadmill running at 10 Km/h was performed pre- and post-intervention in shod running, non-habituated SBR, and habituated SBR conditions. Spatiotemporal parameters, ground reaction force components, and electromyography (EMG) were measured in all conditions. Post-intervention data indicated a significant decrease across time in the habituation SBR for EMG activity of the tibialis anterior (TA) in the pre-activation and absorptive phase of running (P<0.001). A significant increase was denoted in the pre-activation amplitude of the gastrocnemius (GAS) between the shod running, unhabituated SBR, and habituated SBR. Six weeks of SBR was associated with a significant decrease in the loading rates and impact forces. Additionally, SBR significantly decrease the stride length, step duration, and flight time, and stride frequency was significantly higher compared to shod running.
The findings of this study indicate that changes in motor patterns in previously habitually shod runners are possible and can be accomplished within 6 weeks. Non-habituation SBR did not show a significant neuromuscular adaptation in the EMG activity of TA and GAS as manifested after 6 weeks of habituated SBR.