According to Dr Irene Davis of Harvard Medical School running barefoot can be more beneficial than running in heavily cushioned running shoes. At the 2011, Australasian Podiatry Conference in Melbourne she reported her latest research findings and according to the expert avoiding heel contact during running helps reduce shock injuries. Davis has been studying both barefoot running and minimal footwear running, which uses a type of running shoe almost like a glove for the foot, but with a thin layer of rubber on the bottom. These shoes give the foot its full range of natural movement, but protect the sole from stones or extreme surface temperatures. In the first study of its kind, published in Nature.com in 2010, Davis and co-authors tested their theories people who had never worn running shoes before. When they the runners in Kenya, they found unshod runners landed on the ball of their feet (not the heel). Davis believes heel strike running in shoes is detrimental because of the high impact stresses during heel strike; running on the ball of the foot helps reduce impact stresses. Unfortunately these studies are as yet incomplete and the jury remains out with strong counter claims from research sponsored by the sport shoe industry.
(sic According to Human Walking by Inman, Ralston and Todd – normal gait would start with heel strike but that pattern changes with middle distance running when heel strike is obviated.) Davis and co., may be comparing middle distance runners with joggers in which case that would be two completely different models. Joggers and particularly slow joggers may need the protection cushioned shoes provide, whereas those running closer to middle distance speeds might benefit from heel less sports shoes. More research is required.