No More Lower Back and Leg Pain with Minimalist Running Shoes

Ever since the emergence of the barefoot/minimalist running boom, it is becoming increasingly exposed that lower back and leg pain are caused by cushioned running shoes and that barefoot or minimalist running counters these ailments.

No More Lower Back and Leg Pain With Minimalist Running
Although many studies are quick to point out specific injuries related to transitioning, these injuries are far less severe and are a function adaptation compared with the injuries related to the standard running shoe.

No More Lower Back and Leg Pain with Minimalist Running Shoes

For the past decade, researchers have investigated injuries associated with transitioning from the standard running shoe to minimalist running shoes. The ONLY ‘major’ injury related to transitioning to minimalism is a metatarsal stress fracture of the 3rd metatarsal head, which is a small-bone injury. However, this injury is often due to doing too much, too soon because the feet need time to strengthen after being dormant in the standard running shoe.

Another injury related to minimalist running shoes is plantar fasciitis, which is a minor injury, and again, adaptation attributes to this injury.

An interesting point to mention is that the injuries related to minimalism occur early during transitioning. After a transitioned runner has adjusted to the proper forefoot running technique and the legs/feet have conditioned, injuries become a thing of the past.

The standard running shoe however, is associated with not just more small-bone injuries, but large-bone injuries such as tibial and femoral stress fractures. These injuries are very major, and in many cases requires surgery to install pins and plates to repair the bone. This also invites arthritis later on in life.

There is an agreement about why the standard running shoe causes such severe injuries and that is a heel strike landing. Despite under-heel cushioning, the standard running shoe still allows impact forces to be higher!

A forefoot strike landing on the other hand, encouraged by minimalist running shoes, has the net effect of decreasing overall impact forces on the leg. This is how persistent injuries become derailed.

The Take Home Message

The most common comment I receive from joggers is “don’t those shoes hurt your feet?” They are referring to my Vibram Five Fingers. My reply: “those shoes hurt my feet” as I point to their cushioned, clunky shoes.

The truth is unfortunately, many joggers have strong feelings, molded by the footwear industry, about their footwear: the more protection, the better. Yet, manufacturers of the standard running shoe along with the joggers who wear such shoes have no objective, rational method, no step-by-step procedure to determine how to run safely with a heel strike in these shoes.

Comparatively, a coherent framework for transitioning safely to minimalism has been firmly established, which includes listening to your body and knowing when to rest until you adapt.

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P.S Don’t forget to check out the Run Forefoot Facebook Page, it’s a great place to ask questions about forefoot running, minimalist running and barefoot running. I’m always happy to answer them!


Salzler et al. Injuries observed in minimalist runners. Foot & Ankle Inter, 2012;33(4):262-266.

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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