The running shoe has gone through significant changes since its inception. The purpose of this paper is to review these changes, the majority of which have occurred over the past 50 years. Running footwear began as very minimal, then evolved to become highly cushioned and supportive. However, over the past 5 years, there has been a reversal of this trend, with runners seeking more minimal shoes that allow their feet more natural motion. This abrupt shift toward footwear without cushioning and support has led to reports of injuries associated with minimal footwear. In response to this, the running footwear industry shifted again toward the development of lightweight, partial minimal shoes that offer some support and cushioning. In this paper, studies comparing the mechanics between running in minimal, partial minimal, and traditional shoes are reviewed. The implications for injuries in all 3 conditions are examined. The use of minimal footwear in other populations besides runners is discussed. Finally, areas for future research into minimal footwear are suggested.
Keywords: biomechanics; footwear; running injuries; transitioning.