Human Barefoot Trends: What Can they Tell Us About Horses?

Learn what human barefoot running trends are teaching us about horse podiatry and laminitis management.
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Barefoot running and glove-like minimalist barefoot running shoes have gained popularity with human athletes in recent years. And, much like the shoes versus barefoot controversy in the horse world, the benefits and drawbacks of going shoeless are highly debated in human podiatry, said Nora Grenager, VMD, Dipl. ACVIM, of Grenager Equine Consulting in Middleburg, Va.

Grenager presented trends and topics in laminitis research at the 2012 Conference on the Equine Foot, which took place Nov. 2-3 in Monterey, Calif. That research included the work of Pat Reilly, chief of farrier services at University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center, who authored the paper "The Barefoot Paradox," which was published in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science in October 2011 (Volume 31, Issue 10).

Research has found that human barefoot runners:

  • Use 2% less oxygen than their shod counterparts;
  • Have varied ground impact patterns; and
  • Have lower ground-impact forces.

These finding could suggest an increase in performance longevity for the barefoot human athlete prior to tiring and decreased instances of injury. However, a correlated improvement in performance hasn’t been universally supported by performance records, Grenager noted

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Written by:

Michelle Anderson is the former digital managing editor at The Horse. A lifelong horse owner, Anderson competes in dressage and enjoys trail riding. She’s a Washington State University graduate and holds a bachelor’s degree in communications with a minor in business administration and extensive coursework in animal sciences. She has worked in equine publishing since 1998. She currently lives with her husband on a small horse property in Central Oregon.

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