Minimalist Footwear Slows Progression of Osteoarthritis in Women

The pain associated with osteoarthritis can have a negative impact on daily physical activity. However, the progression of the severity of osteoarthritis can be reduced by wearing minimalist footwear instead of excessively cushioned footwear with a raised heel and stability elements.

  • minimalist footwear boosts longevity of bone health and improves musculoskeletal function in osteoarthritis sufferers

What are minimalist footwear? Minimalist footwear are shoes that have no elevated heel, minimal cushioning and are very light and flexible. They are to make you feel as if you are barefoot.

minimalist footwear running shoes walking shoes slow osteoarthritis in women

Minimalist footwear are popular in the running community because of their health benefits such as reducing intramuscular leg pressure, tibia strain, plantar pressure and knee adduction moments.

Knee Abduction Moments Linked to Osteoarthritis Severity

Knee abduction moment is a measure of loading on the knee during walking and running where high knee adduction moments is strongly linked to osteoarthritis severity.

Past research shows that stiff running shoes and walking shoes with a raised heel and stability elements increase knee adduction moments:

  • stiff footwear inhibits foot movement, reduces  foot strength thereby promoting tissue deterioration
  • raised heeled, heavily cushioned running and walking shoes cause gait instability by providing little flexibility and restricting the degree of freedom of the foot

Minimalist Foot Wear Reduces Knee Abduction Movements and Pain

Researchers discovered that wearing minimalist footwear while walking and running  preserves bone strength and joint health of the lower leg in osteoarthritis suffers by reducing loading on the knee:

  • minimalist footwear reduced knee adduction moments by improving walking and running biomechanics
  • foot flexibility when barefoot dramatically lowered knee adduction moment and torque in subjects with osteoarthritis
  • walking barefoot or in minimalist footwear stimulates bone strength allowing for a more conditioned foot

Minimalist footwear that closely simulates walking and running barefoot is an effective intervention method for relieving foot pain, knee pain as well as improving musculoskeletal function in osteoarthritis sufferers.

More From Run Forefoot


Bergmann et al. (1995). Influence of shoes and heel strike on the loading of the hip joint. J Biomech 7, 817-27.

Fang et al. (2006). Effects of footwear on medial compartment knee osteoarthritis.

Shakoor, N and Block, JA. (2006).  Walking barefoot decreases loading on the lower extremity joints in knee osteoarthritis. Arthritis Rheum 9, 2923-7.

Trombini-Souza et al. (2012). Effectiveness of a long-term use of a minimalist footwear versus habitual shoe on pain, function and mechanical loads in knee osteoarthritis: a randomized controlled trial. BMC 13,121.

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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