Barefoot Running. We’ve all heard about it, and it has somewhat saturated running blogs and print media for some time now.

We often get asked about running shoes, and the addition of minimalist shoes to the market seems to have result in some serious confusion as to what shoe is best.

What is a minimalist shoe? It is a shoe that minimizes the interface between the foot and the ground, with the aim to best mimic a barefoot situation and improve our neurophysiological response whilst running.

Why the fascination? There are many barefoot running advocates out there, and many skeptics as well. Nike kicked off the minimalist shoes movement with the ‘Nike Free’ and the shoe market has been flooded since. This has made people consider more greatly their shoe choice and if they’re doing the right thing.

If you’ve read “Born to Run” By Chris McDougall you may have been inspired to get in touch with your roots as a long-ago hunter gatherer and ditch the shoes to trust your feet. The consideration one must make is that most humans have now relied on shoes for a long time, and they have therefore adapted accordingly. So in order to change to bare feet, new skill acquisition is required and adaptations needed. This takes time and a whole lot of patience.

Should you be wearing a minimalist shoe? I do, and I love them. I also spent a year running in bare feet before I made the change (I was backpacking…the only shoes I owned were thongs). It is not an easy change, the body needs time to adapt. You will get sore and there is every chance you will sustain an injury in the process. Not only will you change the way your foot interacts with the ground and the way in which your neuromuscular system works, you will change the way you run.

I have found the most noticeable differences when wearing a minimalist shoe is the absence of cushioning and a zero heel drop.

Most standard running shoes have a heel drop of 8-12mm, although many have now changed to be somewhere in the 4-10mm range. Minimalist shoes have basically none. This means your feet, ankles and lower leg muscles will work harder and in a way they’re not accustomed to. On the flip side, they have to work as they were designed to.

You are forced to land more lightly, there is no cushioning. It is likely that you will land though your forefoot, not your heel; You may shorten your stride length as a result. You will move and work in a way you are not familiar with.

If you’ve been injured, in particular if you have experienced a chronic or recurrent injury it may be worth a try. But, we are all individuals and there is no one answer for everyone.

My thoughts on minimalist shoes is that they are not for everyone, they are hard work and not everyone is able to manage the adaptations required. If you’re running well in the shoes you have, consider first if it’s worth the effort and the risk.

The Injury Clinic Physiotherapy.

For any questions regarding running injuries or footwear choice, please don’t hesitate to contact the clinic on (03) 5229 3911 or via email

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