Date of Award


Document Type

Scholarly Project

Degree Name

Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)


Physical Therapy

First Advisor

Gary Schindler


Biomechanical Phenomena; Running -- physiology


Purpose/Hypothesis: Running has been a common practice in humans since the species’ dawn. Due to its relative ease and low cost, running continues to be one of the most popular forms of exercise today. Although running provides many benefits such as disease prevention, injury prevalence in running is high. The trend of minimalist shoes and barefoot training has gained popularity over the decade as a return to a more natural form of running. Some researcher hypothesize that barefoot running can reduce injury rate by changing the biomechanics of the runner. In this study we propose a different hypothesis: barefoot running changes activity of musculature of the hip, increasing activation in muscles that are commonly weak in injured runners. Research investigating the hip muscle activity and movement with barefoot running is lacking in literature; thus, giving rise to the purpose of this study. This multifactorial study was performed to explore the effect of barefoot training on the muscular activity of the gluteus medius (GM) and tensor fascia latae (TFL). The hypothesis being tested was that barefoot training period would increase the muscle activity of GM and decrease the muscle activity of TFL.

Materials/Methods: Twenty-two subjects, 14 females and 8 males, with a mean age of 22.8 completed the pre-testing electromyography (EMG) analyses. EMG muscle activity of TFL and GM was recorded during a maximal isometric contraction, a barefoot running and walking trial and a shod running and walking trial. Subjects were randomly assigned to a barefoot running group (N=13) and shod running group (N=9). Participants completed a 6-week training program consisting of running twice a week. The first week of training consisted of 10 minutes of running (either barefoot or shod) with a 2- minute increase each week, reaching a maximum running period of 20 minutes during the final week. Following the training program, post-test EMG was performed and analyzed.

Results: No significant differences in change of EMG activity of the GM and TFL was found between the barefoot and shod training groups from pre-testing to post-testing data collection.

Conclusions: Due to no statistically significant differences in change of EMG activity of the GM and TFL between the training groups from pre- to post-test trials, further research is recommended to explore the impact of a barefoot training protocol on GM and TFL muscle activity.

Clinical Relevance: This study provides insight to the muscle activity occurring at the hip when foot attire is altered during training. No statistically significant change was found between barefoot or shod training groups in regard to change in muscle activity from pre-test to post-test. This lack of statistical significance may have been due to lack of statistical power, as the number of subjects was low. The training period also may have not provided enough volume to create a stimulus to significantly change muscle activity. While there were no statistically significant findings, trends in the data pointed towards a greater change in GM activity for the barefoot group from pre-test to post-test. Replicating the study with a higher number of subjects or a larger training volume may yield significant results in future research. In addition, collecting other data such as V02 max, running economy or foot strike pattern also may reveal other physiological changes that can occur with barefoot training.