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Ask the Expert: Minimalist Running Shoes - Yea or Nay?

Minimalist running shoes have been getting a bad rap recently, but there are pros and cons for this type of footwear. These shoes can be an appropriate option for certain types of runners, but the runner’s foot type and running style should be evaluated first. If the runner is a forefoot striker (lands on the balls of their feet), minimalist shoes can work for them.

If a runner tends to be a heelstriker (lands on their heel when they run) they should probably avoid minimalist shoes. Oftentimes someone who lands on their heel during running will be putting all of the added weight through the heel pad and bone, and they don’t transition in to the minimalist shoes correctly from regular running shoes. Since there is no added cushion in the heel, over time they may feel discomfort and even experience further orthopedic problems. The minimalist shoe also does not allow for correction of issues such as “flat feet” or “overpronation”. Overall, minimalist shoes are really only appropriate for a select group of runners with a specific running pattern.

With all of the new “smart” shoes being released, I would recommend a more conventional shoe first and if it fits, then slowly transition into a minimalist shoe.

Andrew Habash, NSCA-CPT, PT, DPT, CSCS, is a Senior Physical Therapist, with OrthoCarolina’s Huntersville office ( and is also the Head Physical Therapist for Stewart Haas Racing .