Runners who want to boost their brain function should consider taking their running shoes off, new research suggests.
A study found that after running barefoot, participants saw improvements in working memory, or the ability to recall or process information. Running in shoes, however, did not result in the same advantage.
For the study, the researchers instructed 72 volunteers to run barefoot and with shoes at their own pace for about 16 minutes. The volunteers were between 18 and 44 years old.
In order to simulate running outside, the participants had to step on flat objects with and without shoes.
The researchers noted that while running barefoot, people must pay more attention to their foot placement to avoid stepping on objects that could hurt their feet. Before and after the runs, the researchers tested the participants' working memory.
They found a roughly 16 percent increase in working memory performance following the barefoot runs. The same benefit was not seen after the participants ran in shoes, according to the study, published in the journal Perceptual and Motor Skills.
The study authors suggested running barefoot requires greater mental intensity and use of working memory, which may explain this discrepancy. Runners' speed and heart rate was also measured, but did not have an effect on memory performance.