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This article is part of the supplement: 3rd Congress of the International Foot and Ankle Biomechanics (i-FAB) Community

Open Access Open Badges Oral presentation

Shock attenuation in shoes compared to barefoot: a systematic review

Alycia Fong Yan1*, Claire Hiller2, Peter Sinclair1 and Richard Smith1

Author Affiliations

1 Faculty of Health Science, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, 2041, Australia

2 Discipline of Physiotherapy, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, 2041, Australia

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Journal of Foot and Ankle Research 2012, 5(Suppl 1):O1  doi:10.1186/1757-1146-5-S1-O1

The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at:

Published:10 April 2012

© 2012 Fong Yan et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The debate over the advantages and disadvantages of barefoot versus shod running has gained momentum recently [1,2] with the retail market aiming to mimic the motion of the foot during barefoot gait[3]. The aim of this study was to conduct a systematic review of articles that compared shock attenuation in the shod condition to barefoot during weight bearing activity in healthy individuals.

Materials and methods

The major databases were searched for the following keywords: barefoot, foot, feet, boot*, shoe*, impact, shock, pressure, force, viscoelastic, and insert. Articles were screened with inclusion and exclusion criteria set a priori. Articles were grouped according to shoe type and where possible, a meta-analysis was used.


Thirty-eight articles were found with 27 articles examining athletic shoes compared to barefoot. For running, footwear attenuated loading rate and tibial acceleration (Table 1). In contrast, the use of shoes increased vertical ground reaction forces (vGRF) during running (Table 1) and walking when measured at the impact transient. Results varied significantly in favour of the shod or barefoot condition depending on whether data was collected at the impact transient or the peak. Thirteen articles did not report the footfall technique, while two studies reported variable technique.

Table 1. Pooled effect of bare feet vs. athletic footwear during running (+’ve: attenuated in BF, –‘ve: attenuated in shod)


Evidence suggests the shock absorbing properties of athletic footwear are effective during jump landings. Results varied significantly in favour of the shod or barefoot condition depending on whether data was collected at the impact transient or the peak. Footfall technique appears to have a significant effect on vertical ground reaction force. Activity-specific designs for footwear should take into account the region of the shoe which absorbs the initial impact. Attention should be given to develop consistent protocols for examining shock attenuation in footwear research.


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