"Working memory is increasingly recognised as a crucial cognitive skill, and these findings are great news for people looking for a fun way to boost their working memory," said one of the researchers, Tracy Alloway.
The researchers enlisted 72 participants between the ages of 18 and 44, who ran both barefoot and with shoes on at a comfortable, self-selected pace for approximately 16 minutes. Working memory was measured before and after running. The results of this research, published in the journal Perceptual and Motor Skills, found a significant increase - approximately 16 percent - in working memory performance in the barefoot-running condition. There was no significant increase in working memory when running with shoes.
"If we take off our shoes and go for a run, we can finish smarter than when we started," said Ross Alloway, who is also from University of North Florida.
When running barefoot, one often has to avoid stepping on potentially hurtful objects by using precise foot placement. It is possible that the barefoot condition required a more intensive use of working memory because of the extra tactile and proprioceptive demands associated with barefoot running, which may account for the working memory gains, explained Ross Alloway.