Conceptualizing minimalist footwear: an objective definition

J Sports Sci. 2018 Apr;36(8):949-954. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2017.1346816. Epub 2017 Jul 7.


Running has been plagued with an alarmingly high incidence of injury, which has resulted in the exploration of interventions aimed at reducing the risk of running-related injury. One such intervention is the introduction of footwear that mimics barefoot running. These have been termed minimalist shoes. Minimalist footwear aims to reduce the risk of injury by promoting adaptations in running biomechanics that have been linked to a reduction in both impact and joint forces. However, some studies have found that minimalist footwear may be beneficial to the runner as they promote favourable biomechanical adaptations, whilst other studies have found the opposite to be true. Reasons for these conflicting results could be attributed to the lack of a definition for minimalist footwear. The aim of this review article is to provide a structural definition for minimalist footwear based on studies that have examined the influence of footwear on biomechanical variables during running. Based on current literature, we define minimalist footwear as a shoe with a highly flexible sole and upper that weighs 200g or less, has a heel stack height of 20mm or less and a heel-toe differential of 7mm or less.

Keywords: 3D analysis; Footwear; biomechanics; injury & prevention; running.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Athletic Injuries / prevention & control
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Equipment Design
  • Foot / physiology
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors
  • Running / injuries*
  • Running / physiology*
  • Shoes*