IT’S AN approach that has been controversially linked to injury-prevention and improved technique, but the latest findings suggest barefoot running might even boost your brain power.

Scientists at the University of Florida set out to determine whether there is any connection between shedding your trainers and improved working memory.

For the trial, they assigned 72 volunteers aged 18-44 to run both with and without shoes at a comfortable pace for about 16 minutes. To simulate the outdoor environment, they ran on strategically positioned flat objects.

Data was collected on their heart rate, running speed and also their memory capacity before and after the activity. Results, published in the journal Perceptual and Motor Skills, showed a 16% increase in memory performance after the barefoot run.

However, there was no notable improvement in working memory following the run in trainers. What’s more, the speed and intensity of the running made no difference to their recall ability. Why might this be the case?

The researchers suggest that barefoot movement requires a more intense use of working memory to position steps and to sense touch. Taking off your shoes, even for a short period during a warm down, could pay dividends in terms of mental sharpness.

“If we take off our shoes and run, we can finish smarter than when we started,” says researcher Tracy Alloway.

  • This article was first published in Athletics Weekly. For more of the latest running and athletics news, plus performance features and much more, grab a copy of the magazine or check out