Why Wear Minimalist Running Shoes for Treadmill Running

I’m not a treadmill runner, I prefer to run solely outdoors, but that’s just my preference, but there are plenty of runners who love treadmill running and if your heart is really set on treadmill running versus running outdoors, your running shoes, especially depending on the heel height of your running shoes, may interfere with your ability to run safely on a treadmill and may damage your chances of running injury-free and pain-free. The latest research into the pros and cons of running barefoot versus shod running has offered up very insightful information regarding optimal footwear for treadmill running and the end result could be that an injury incurred during treadmill running may reflect the heel height of your running shoes. As you’ve probably noticed most traditional conventional, standard running shoes on the market have various heel heights whereby disruptions in biomechanics that may underlie injuries during treadmill running may stem from running in shoes that have substantial heel elevation as compared to running barefoot on a treadmill or running on a treadmill wearing barefoot inspired running shoes that have a flatter or a significantly lower heel to toe differential. On that note if you are a dedicated treadmill runner but have long struggled with leg pain, leg cramps and injuries, if you are running in cushion heeled running shoes during treadmill running these running shoes may be feeding your shin splints, your runner’s knee, your plantar fasciitis your hamstring injury, whatever your injury or pain problems may be, thickly padded heeled running shoes may be the source of why your painful ailments are lingering. One important assertion that I want to underline is that there may be more upsides to running on a treadmill barefoot or in flat, zero drop minimalist running shoes compared to running on a treadmill wearing the traditional running shoes with a stacked heel. One study detailed in the European Journal of Applied Physiology and I linked the study in the description box down below, the researchers found that runners tended to run better, more safely at the biomechanical level with a greater sense of balance control during treadmill running when barefoot or in zero drop running shoes as compared with running on a treadmill in standard conventional running shoes with a stacked heel. The researchers investigated the effects of different shoe drop levels or different heel to toe differential levels that were of 0-mm which means completely flat and that was compared with a running shoe that had a 4-mm heel to toe differential as well as a running shoe that had an 8mm heel-to-toe differential and the researchers also examined the effects of running barefoot in addition to the running shoe metrics that I just listed in terms of heel-to-toe differential and how these footwear conditions affected lower leg mechanics and kinematics during treadmill running. Overall most notably the researchers found that during treadmill running the runners ran better in terms of mechanics and kinematics or running form when they ran barefoot or in zero-drop running shoes as compared to running on the treadmill running in shoes with a 4-mm and an 8-mm heel to toe differential, suggesting that running in shoes that have an elevated heel may interfere with the body’s natural responses with respects to reflexively landing with less impact and less jolt amounting to possibly careless biomechanics that may have injurious implications. The researchers found that the participants who ran on a treadmill wearing running shoes with a 4-mm or an 8-mm heel-to-toe differential produced a host of changes in biomechanics that produced a significant number of impact force variables not observed in the barefoot runners or the runners who wore zero- drop flat minimalist running shoes during treadmill running. For example the researchers discovered that the runners who ran on the treadmill wearing a running shoe with either a 4-mm or an 8-mm heel-to-toe differential produced loading or pressurized force on the ankles and knees, produced greater ankle dorsiflexion at touchdown which is an action of the foot-ankle complex where the front part of the foot lifts up before the foot strikes the ground this act of forefoot lifting at touchdown during running is strongly linked to increased heel strike potential as well as increased brake duration or a longer deceleration phase and why is this a problem? It’s a problem because a long brake force duration coupled with landing squarely on the heel during running may magnify impact forces on the shin, the knee joint and the hips and may be a precursor to common running-related injuries such as medial tibial stress syndrome aka shin splints as well as runners knee. Typically under these mechanical conditions tends to allocate additional impact forces that flood the tibial shaft in the muscles of the lower leg as well as the knee joint that is why adopting a forefoot strike running style may be a more satisfying substitute to heel strike running because forefoot running, and I provided a link to a video as to what a proper forefoot strike landing pattern looks like in the description box down below, forefoot running essentially adds more mechanical layers of impact protection there’s not nearly as much impact projected on the knee joint when you run with a forefoot strike landing versus if you were to run with a heel strike landing. The biggest takeaway from the study is that the researchers found that runners ran better, more safely on a treadmill when they ran barefoot or in zero drop running shoes without an elevated heel and this finding coincides perfectly with previous investigations that confirmed that running shoes with an elevated heel may cause foot strike pattern modifications such that foot strike pattern tends to be distinctively different when a thick heeled running shoe is worn during running versus running barefoot or in a completely flat barefoot inspired running shoe. The current study’s data revealed that runners who ran barefoot or in flat zero drop running shoes had less loading, less transient peak force. less ankle dorsiflexion as touchdown which means less potential to heel strike and brake longer and the barefoot treadmill runners had greater knee flexion at touchdown which means that the knee was softly bent at touchdown which plays a central role in dramatically reducing impact on the whole body and with knee flexion or running with the knees softly bent at all times especially when the foot strikes the ground helps guide the landing foot to land closer to the center of mass or the body which would help cut down on knee-crushing brake forces. So this piece of evidence really provides a factual basis that you may be more likely to run with greater biomechanical precision when you run barefoot or in zero drop running shoes during treadmill running. Looking at the big picture, the evidence supports that wearing cushion heeled running shoes when running on a treadmill may overthrow good biomechanics and that running barefoot on a treadmill may prompt safer, basic adjustments in biomechanics that have a net positive effect on a number of factors pertaining to better injury prevention efforts. Another key finding of the study was running barefoot on a treadmill was associated with less ground contact time of the feet which resulted in less stance phase duration. Now, when it comes to contact time duration of the foot during running which means the amount of time the foot lingers on the ground there’s a general consensus among experts that reduced ground contact time indicates the foot spends more time in the air and less time on the ground which may also be suggestive of less force production that accumulates over the foot and throughout the lower leg if the feet spend less time on the ground and more time in the air during running which was observed in the barefoot runners during treadmill running. Comparatively, the findings of the study points to that cushioned heeled running shoes may permit longer ground contact time which may stream-line more impact up the foot and the lower leg. Based on the evidence detailed in the study, when it comes to running on a treadmill while wearing running shoes with the giant thick padded heel has generated enough a negative results to raise concern about whether or not these shoes have the capacity to fully provide adequate impact protection, but it turns out you may have a better chance at stopping the inflow of a many impact variables if you run barefoot on a treadmill or if you wore flatter running shoes while running on a treadmill. This particular research certainly puts the traditional running shoe back into the spotlight as potentially being a continuing influence for potential injury. In that regard, if you are a dedicated treadmill runner who wears traditional running shoes but has grappled with ongoing injuries you may want to consider swapping your traditional running shoes for either flatter running shoes or try running barefoot incrementally and see how you fare because your persistent injuries may stem from, not from treadmill running, but from your traditional running shoes they may be interfering with your ability to run safely, effectively and efficiently. If you want to read more about the study that I just discussed I linked it below in the description box. I hope you’ve enjoyed this video and please subscribe to my youtube channel where you will also stay up to date on the latest research regarding running mechanics as well as my reviews and recommendations on barefoot inspired running shoes and I also discuss evidence-based assertions on the performance and health benefits of forefoot running versus the health harming implications of heel strike running. Thank you so much for listening and watching. Have fun out there on the roads or trails, bye for now!


  • love the info

  • Excellent. I run almost exclusively on a treadmill. About half the miles are barefoot. It took a while but now I run up to 10 miles batefoot with no issues. So I dont overdo it I run in Vibrams maybe half the time. No injuries or soreness and the last time I ran outside (Vibrams) it felt great! Eventually I'm going to do all my miles barefoot since that has produced the best results. I have less issues now than when I was half my current edge. Thank you for videos.

  • Amazing,
    I post over on your Facebook about this and then this video appears the next time I'm on YouTube πŸ™‚

    While you quote experts that treadmills are relatively harmless, What are your thoughts?

    I've mostly run barefoot anyway from martial arts and have done a lot of complex moving while barefoot so I think I have well-developed feet/ankles/knee strength and stability. I've also done some road running in Vibrams.

    I have begun running with Vibrams on a treadmill at home for convenience. I've followed your tips on landing with slightly bent knee (that reduced some soreness I was feeling when I started) and am now working on the forward lean and arm swing.

    Am I OK sticking with treadmill or should I do as much outdoor running as possible?

    My pacing is a touch lower than your recommended pace – 12km/h but it feels faster than the pace I do on the road.
    I'm hoping to work that up a bit as I also build distance.

    Still trying to absorb all your notes on feet width, cadence, smoothness, foot lift/not push etc.

    @Marc – don;'t think I can go full barefoot on my treadmill – fan or not πŸ™‚

  • Good information and that's a lots of medal behind!!

  • Barefoot treadmill running is the best. Unfortunately, my gym doesn't allow it. Therefore, I run in a minimalist type shoe such as the Asics Piranha or the NB RC5000.

  • Indeed. We can just say follow the habits of always barefoot, at least not when in battle, of among the wisest of all Westerners : Spartans.

  • so what if youre running on an 8mm heel2toe drop shoe and a forefoot striker?

  • thank you. my 'hood sucks so i have a treadmill. I'm gonna share this video of yours with my fav facebook group, BarefootIsLegal.org … you know, to motivate healthier habits.

  • That's a lot of medals on your wall, well done!

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