Minimalist Running Shoes Reduce Lower Leg Injuries

There are basically 2 types of running shoes: cushioned ones and minimalist ones. Minimalist running shoes don’t have a thick cushioned heel like most cushioned running shoes, and they also reduce chronic leg injuries because they allow a runner to land more forefooted, with less instantaneous loading and vertical impact forces.

Minimalist Running Shoes Prevent Lower Leg Injuries

How Minimalist Running Shoes Reduce Lower Leg Injuries

Sinclair et al. (2014) found that runners in heelless shoes had a higher plantarflexion angle at foot strike which led to a reduction in the impact force parameters associated with most chronic injuries.

The researchers also found that minimum shoes greatly reduced the vertical impact peak and the instantaneous loading rate compared to traditional running shoes.

Moreover, no heel running shoes reduced peak ankle dorsiflexion compared to a cushioned heeled running shoe, whereby higher ankle dorsiflexion helps prevent shin splints.

How Forefoot Running Shoes Reduce Injury
Runners who wear cushioned heeled running shoes strike the ground with greater force than runners in forefoot running shoes (heelless).
  • The zero-drop profile of a minimalist running shoe plays a part in reducing shin splints by increasing plantarflexion moments at the ankle upon touchdown.
Plantarflexion vs Dorsiflexon at Touchdown when Running
Left, forefoot running shoes are heelless and allow greater ankle plantarflexion at touchdown thereby encouraging a forefoot strike. Right, a raised heel results in a high ankle dorsiflexion angle which sets the foot up perfectly for heel strike.

Flatter Foot Placement

Minimal shoes were effective in mediating a flatter foot placement compared to a heeled running shoe.

  • A flatter foot placement in forefoot running lowers vertical impact peaks and instantaneous loading.
  • Essentially, the foot is better able to strike the ground on the balls of the foot in forefoot running shoes.

However, high ankle dorsiflexion moments due to a heeled running shoe causes the foot to make direct contact on the heel first and not on the forefoot.

This is why it is critical to wear heelless shoes for forefoot running because they allow for better control over the movement and range of motion of the foot. A heeled running shoe fixes the foot-ankle complex in one position only, and that position facilitates a heel strike landing.

The Take Home Message

The notion that heeled running shoes stop injury has been knocked down around in the literature for the last decade. Yet, recent findings have compelling clinical significance because zero drop minimalist footwear reduce the impact peaks speculated to be the sole perpetrator of most running injuries.

From an evolutionary perspective, humans are fundamentally resistant to running injury if the proper foot strike is adopted. But to do so requires going barefoot or to run in a shoe that mimics the barefoot experience.

Nonetheless, heeled running shoes interfere with our innate ability to interact safely with the ground during running and should be thought of as a liability rather than a training aid.

Want to take your forefoot running mechanics to another level? Train barefoot!Here’s my recommendations on barefoot running tips.

More From Run Forefoot:


Daoud et al. Foot strike and injury rates in endurance runners: A retrospective study. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 2012; 44:1325–1334.

Hartveld, A. Heelless sports shoe with force transmission. UK IP Office, 2007; patent no GB 2 437 698 A.

Sinclair et al. Investigation into the kinetics and kinematics during running in the heelless shoe. Footwear Sci, 2014; 6(3):139-145.

Williams, D.S., McClay, I.S., and Manal, K.T. Lower extremity mechanics in runners with a converted forefoot strike pattern. J Appl Biomech, 2000; 16: 210–218.

Bretta Riches

"I believe the forefoot strike is the engine of endurance running..."

BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.
Bretta Riches

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P.S. Don't forget to check out the Run Forefoot Facebook Page, it's a terrific place to ask questions about forefoot running, barefoot running and injury. I'm always happy to help!

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