Researchers measured knee movement and ground reaction forces in 22 experienced runners when they ran wearing minimalist running shoes common among “barefoot” runners and in neutral running shoes (the control). When analyzing the results, they found that barefoot running caused 12% less strain on the knee.
While it can help improve running form, barefoot running is no panacea. Another study published this year suggests that switching to barefoot running alone simply shifts which body parts are more likely to become injured from the knees to the toes. But mixing the two styles—and strengthening the associated muscles while giving certain joints a break—may help prevent injuries caused by both styles of running.
This study, while promising, is ultimately inconclusive since it's based on only 22 “experienced runners." If you're new to running, you're proba bly better off trying neutral running shoes first.