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Going Minimal – Low Profile Running Shoes

June 24, 2014

Going Minimal – Low Profile Running Shoes

going_minimal.094652It’s hard to open a running magazine these days without being inundated with advertisements for minimalist running shoes as well as barefoot running. The look of the running shoe seems to have changed drastically in the recent years. Running shoes were first invented in the 1890s and have transformed from a lightweight, flexible, flat shoe years ago, to a heavier shoe with a built-up heel, and tons of cushioning that we are all likely accustomed to now. We have probably all been to a shoe store to buy a new pair of running shoes, and were fit for the shoe depending on which of these three categories our “foot print” falls under: if we had a “high arch” we would be given a shoe with cushioning; if we had a “neutral arch” we would be given a stability shoe; and if we had a “low arch” we would be given a motion control shoe. This thought process seems to be a thing of the past, with runners transitioning into a very different type of shoe regardless of their “foot print”: a minimal shoe.

Minimal shoes have acquired this name because of their “heel-to-toe” drop. That is, the difference between the heel height and the forefoot height (at the toes). The average heel-to-toe drop in a standard running shoe is approximately 11-15mm, while a minimalist shoe is approximately 4-10mm, and a “zero-drop” shoe is approximately 0-4mm.

You’re probably wondering why people are transitioning back into shoes that were worn decades ago. It seems that runners weren’t getting injured as much as they are today, and researches started examining footwear and the impact of traditional running shoes vs. minimal shoes and barefoot running. When running in a traditional shoe, you tend to strike the ground more with your heel, creating a rapid rise in the force of impact. When you run in a minimal shoe, you tend to strike the ground with your forefoot (ball of your foot), which does not create a rapid rise in the force of impact. It is important to note that while there is less impact force with a minimal shoe, there is no research yet to prove that minimal shoes or barefoot running decrease injuries. This needs to be further studied. What we do know, is that the impact is less.

Minimal Running Shoes:

  • What to look for:
    • Minimal heel-to-toe drop
    • Flexible shoe
    • Wide toe box
    • Not too soft & not too thick of a sole
  • Transition slowly! You want to gradually work your way into a minimal shoe. Don’t jump right into a zero-drop shoe or begin barefoot running. Start to progress slowly with decreasing the heel-to-toe drop; otherwise, you are increasing your risk for injury.
  • Wearing minimal shoes changes how your foot strikes the ground, so it is important to progress slowly with your mileage in your new shoes. You want to be cognizant of your body’s reaction to this new type of shoe and new style of running.
  • If you are wondering if your body is ready to go minimal, check out this youtube video that features four assessments and ways to prepare yourself for this transition.

This information was all featured in the April issue of Running Times magazine:

Video: Are You Ready To Go Minimal?


Cucuzzella, M & Discharry, J. (2012, April) “Are You Ready To Go Minimal?” Running Times, 395, 43-48.

Davis, I. “Shifting Paradigms, Footstrikes, Footwear, Treatment of the Foot.” University of Virginia, Running Medicine 2012. 23 Mar. 2012.

Dicharry, J. “Running Shoe Update, What Should We Be Thinking?” University of Virginia, Running Medicine 2012. 23 Mar. 2012.

Dicharry, J & Cucuzzella, M. (2012, Mar). Going Minimal. Retrieved from watch?v=YtICeFOKjIs

Ivanic, C. (2012, April) “Traditional Shoes vs. Minimalist Shoes.” Retrieved from http://

Lieberman, D, et al. (2010) “Foot Strike Patterns and Collision Forces in Habitually Barefoot vs. Shod Runners.” Nature , 463, 531-535.

Robinson, R. (2011, April) “A Brief History of Barefoot Running.” In Running Times. Retrieved from