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  • Writer's pictureLuke Nelson

Shod or barefoot for plyometrics?

Shod vs. barefoot plyometrics? 🏃‍♂️

Plyometric exercises can have a significant improvement in a runner's performance. Yet an ongoing debate persists whether performing plyometric exercises with shoes (shod) or barefoot yields superior outcomes. So let's dive into the evidence on this topic.🕵️‍♂️

Is there a clear winner? 🏆

Surprisingly, this remains an underexplored area, but the few studies to date reveal:

🔎LaPorta showed a significant improvement in vertical jump height in minimalist shoes & barefoot compared to when the subjects wore tennis shoes, but only in the male subjects tested. (Laporta 2013)

🔎Harry et al. (2015) failed to ascertain a significant impact of footwear type (conventional vs. minimal vs. barefoot) on average single-leg jump distance and countermovement height in their study.

🔎However, their subsequent 2020 study highlighted substantial individual variability between shod & barefoot conditions. (Harry 2020) 📊

🔎In a recent investigation by Herbert-Losier et al., individuals performing barefoot exhibited superior performance on a jump landing task (LESS), with significantly higher jump heights. However, the disparities observed were deemed trivial and lacked clinical significance. 📈

A change in strategy 🔄

Biomechanics studies have shown when performing a drop jump barefoot, subjects display a more plantarflexed ankle, greater foot-ground angle, & smaller knee range of motion compared to when performing with shoes. (Koyama 2018) 🦶

Potentially, when performing plyometrics barefoot, there is an increased demand on the muscles of the foot but a lesser load on the knee.🦵

Implementation strategies 🛠️

For individuals unaccustomed to barefoot activity or those with weaker intrinsic foot muscles who wish to improve their foot strength, commencing barefoot with lower-intensity plyometrics such as Pogo variations, low box jumps, or hopping may be prudent before advancing to higher-intensity exercises like bounding & depth jumps.🏋️‍♂️

Conversely, individuals with robust foot strength OR wanting to offload the knee may opt to perform all plyometric exercises barefoot.👣

Considering the potential differential muscle demands, adopting a hybrid approach incorporating BOTH shod & barefoot plyometrics might be advisable.🤔

👋Runners & health professionals save & share this if you found it useful

🤓Health professionals, if you want to learn more about treating runners, check our upcoming Online & Face to Face “MAT Assessing the Runner” courses.


  • Harry, J., et al. (2020). "Single-Subject Analyses Reveal Altered Performance and Muscle Activation during Vertical Jumping." 1: 15-21.

  • Harry JR, Paquette MR, Caia J, Townsend RJ, Weiss LW, Schilling BK. Effects of footwear condition on maximal jumping performance. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 2015;29(6):1657-65.

  • Hébert-Losier, K., et al. (2023). "Effect of Footwear Versus Barefoot on Double-Leg Jump-Landing and Jump Height Measures: A Randomized Cross-Over Study." Int J Sports Phys Ther 18(4): 845-855.

  • Koyama, K. and J. Yamauchi (2018). "Comparison of lower limb kinetics, kinematics and muscle activation during drop jumping under shod and barefoot conditions." Journal of biomechanics 69: 47-53.

  • Laporta, J., et al. (2013). "Effects of Different Footwear on Vertical Jump and Landing Parameters." Journal of strength and conditioning research / National Strength & Conditioning Association 27: 733-737.

  • Malisoux, L., et al. (2017). "Influence of sports flooring and shoes on impact forces and performance during jump tasks." PLoS One 12(10): e0186297.

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