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What are minimalist shoes

At Rose Physical Therapy, we generally advocate for minimalist shoes for our clients. There are many benefits to minimalist shoes, and they are a great tool to help maintain foot and ankle strength as well as ensure future foot and even total body health.

This is a physical therapy introduction to what minimalist shoes are, what benefits they give, what to look for when considering a purchase, and when it is best to wear minimalist shoes.

  1. What are minimalist shoes?  Mimialist shoes have one or a combination of five characteristics:
    • low stack height (little material between foot and the ground)
    • zero drop (zero difference in height between heel and ball of foot)
    • a wide toe box,
    • light weight, and
    • flexibility.

 All these factors impact the way your foot and ankle move with everyday activity.

  1. The benefits of minimalist shoes are:
    1. They encourage natural toe and foot movement throughout the gait cycle. This strengthens the ankle, knee, hip and back.
    2. A wide toe box allows toes the room to spread naturally potentially preventing or alleviating foot pain. Because the source of pain can be different than where we feel pain a wide toe box could alleviate pain in other parts of the leg and body.
    3. Minimalist shoes put the foot and ankle in a more natural position at rest compared to more traditional walking or running shoes, supporting toe, foot and ankle mobility. Traditional shoes with extra heel and toe cushioning are more ridged. That reduces the amount of work our feet and toes perform throughout walking. They also maintain our foot in a slightly pointed position keeping the musculature at the back of our ankles in a somewhat shortened position.
  1. What to check when trying on minimalist shoes:
    1. Twist the shoe lengthwise, squeeze the heel cup and bend the shoe to touch the heel to the toes. This demonstrates the amount of flexibility in the sole and body of the shoe. A more flexible shoe is important because it allows your foot to feel the terrain you are walking on and move naturally to accommodate, thus building strength in your whole leg.
    2. Of course, try on the shoe to ensure it is wide enough for your toes to spread.


  1. When can I wear minimalist shoes?

Minimalist shoes are good everyday shoes! They are great for walking, wearing at work, lifting, working out and even running.

If you are having foot, ankle, or shin pain and/or would like to discuss the transition to minimalist shoes give us a call to setup an appointment, or schedule through our website. Either our office in downtown Washington, DC between Dupont Circle and Farragut Square, or our office in Navy Yard and Capitol Riverfront, just a few blocks from Capitol Hill DC has the best area physical therapists who are capable of getting you on the track to recovery.

Rose provides one-on-one appointments that are about one-hour with a physical therapist, never a technician. And at Rose Physical Therapy we accept most private health insurance so that the best physical therapy is also affordable for you based on your insurance plan.