Six-week transition to minimalist shoes improves running economy and time-trial performance

J Sci Med Sport. 2017 Dec;20(12):1117-1122. doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2017.04.013. Epub 2017 Apr 21.


Objectives: This study investigated if gradually introducing runners to minimalist shoes during training improved running economy and time-trial performance compared to training in conventional shoes. Changes in stride rate, stride length, footfall pattern and ankle plantar-flexor strength were also investigated.

Design: Randomised parallel intervention trial.

Methods: 61 trained runners gradually increased the amount of running performed in either minimalist (n=31) or conventional (n=30) shoes during a six-week standardised training program. 5-km time-trial performance, running economy, ankle plantar-flexor strength, footfall pattern, stride rate and length were assessed in the allocated shoes at baseline and after training. Footfall pattern was determined from the time differential between rearfoot and forefoot (TDR-F) pressure sensors.

Results: The minimalist shoe group improved time-trial performance (effect size (ES): 0.24; 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.01, 0.48; p=0.046) and running economy (ES 0.48; 95%CI: 0.22, 0.74; p<0.001) more than the conventional shoe group. There were no minimalist shoe training effects on ankle plantar-flexor concentric (ES: 0.11; 95%CI: -0.18, 0.41; p=0.45), isometric (ES: 0.23; 95%CI: -0.17, 0.64; p=0.25), or eccentric strength (ES: 0.24; 95%CI: -0.17, 0.65; p=0.24). Minimalist shoes caused large reductions in TDR-F (ES: 1.03; 95%CI: 0.65, 1.40; p<0.001) but only two runners changed to a forefoot footfall. Minimalist shoes had no effect on stride rate (ES: 0.04; 95%CI: -0.08, 0.16; p=0.53) or length (ES: 0.06; 95%CI: -0.06, 0.18; p=0.35).

Conclusions: Gradually introducing minimalist shoes over a six-week training block is an effective method for improving running economy and performance in trained runners.

Keywords: Athletes; Footfall pattern; Footwear; Gait; Indirect calorimetry; Muscle strength.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ankle
  • Athletes
  • Athletic Performance*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Foot
  • Gait
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Running / physiology*
  • Shoes*
  • Young Adult