Effects of training in minimalist shoes on the intrinsic and extrinsic foot muscle volume


      • Shod runners transitioned to minimalists have leg and foot muscle volume increases.
      • Leg muscle growth is associated with the use of minimalist shoes.
      • Leg and foot muscle volume of runners in the control group remains similar.



      Minimalist shoes have gained popularity recently because it is speculated to strengthen the foot muscles and foot arches, which may help to resist injuries. However, previous studies provided limited evidence supporting the link between changes in muscle size and footwear transition. Therefore, this study sought to examine the effects of minimalist shoes on the intrinsic and extrinsic foot muscle volume in habitual shod runners. The relationship between participants' compliance with the minimalist shoes and changes in muscle õvolume was also evaluated.


      Twenty habitual shod runners underwent a 6-month self-monitoring training program designed for minimalist shoe transition. Another 18 characteristics-matched shod runners were also introduced with the same program but they maintained running practice with standard shoes. Runners were monitored using an online surveillance platform during the program. We measured overall intrinsic and extrinsic foot muscle volume before and after the program using MRI scans.


      Runners in the experimental group exhibited significantly larger leg (P = 0.01, Cohen's d = 0.62) and foot (P < 0.01, Cohen's d = 0.54) muscle after transition. Foot muscle growth was mainly contributed by the forefoot (P < 0.01, Cohen's d = 0.64) but not the rearfoot muscle (P = 0.10, Cohen's d = 0.30). Leg and foot muscle volume of runners in the control group remained similar after the program (P = 0.33–0.95). A significant positive correlation was found between participants' compliance with the minimalist shoes and changes in leg muscle volume (r = 0.51; P = 0.02).


      Habitual shod runners who transitioned to minimalist shoes demonstrated significant increase in leg and foot muscle volume. Additionally, the increase in leg muscle volume was significantly correlated associated with the compliance of minimalist shoe use.


      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to Clinical Biomechanics
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Azevedo L.B.
        • Lambert M.I.
        • Vaughan C.L.
        • O'Connor C.M.
        • Schwellnus M.P.
        Biomechanical variables associated with Achilles tendinopathy in runners.
        Br. J. Sports Med. 2009; 43: 288-292
        • Bamman M.M.
        • Newcomer B.R.
        • Larson-Meyer D.E.
        • Weinsier R.L.
        • Hunter G.R.
        Evaluation of the strength-size relationship in vivo using various muscle size indices.
        Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 2000; 32: 1307-1313
        • Barnouin Y.
        • Butler-Browne G.
        • Voit T.
        • Reversat D.
        • Azzabou N.
        • Leroux G.
        • Behin A.
        • McPhee J.S.
        • Carlier P.G.
        • Hogrel J.-Y.
        Manual segmentation of individual muscles of the quadriceps femoris using MRI: a reappraisal.
        J. Magn. Reson. Imaging. 2014; 40: 239-247
        • Biewener A.A.
        • Daley M.A.
        Unsteady locomotion: integrating muscle function with whole body dynamics and neuromuscular control.
        J. Exp. Biol. 2007; 210: 2949-2960
        • Bruggemann G.P.
        • Potthast W.
        • Braunstein B.
        • Niehoff A.
        Effect of increased mechanical stimuli on foot muscles functional capacity.
        in: Proceedings of the ISB XXth Congress-ASB 29th Annual Meeting: 31 July-5 August 2005; Cleveland. 2005
        • Bus S.A.
        • Maas M.
        • Michels R.P.J.
        • Levi M.
        Role of intrinsic muscle atrophy in the etiology of claw toe deformity in diabetic neuropathy may not be as straightforward as widely believed.
        Diabetes Care. 2009; 32: 1063-1067
        • Cannon J.
        • Kay D.
        • Tarpenning K.M.
        • Marino F.E.
        Comparative effects of resistance training on peak isometric torque, muscle hypertrophy, voluntary activation and surface EMG between young and elderly women.
        Clin. Physiol. Funct. Imaging. 2007; 27: 91-100
        • Chang R.
        • Kent-Braun J.A.
        • Hamill J.
        Use of MRI for volume estimation of tibialis posterior and plantar intrinsic foot muscles in healthy and chronic plantar fasciitis limbs.
        Clin. Biomech. 2012; 27: 500-505
        • Cheung R.T.H.
        • Rainbow M.J.
        Landing pattern and vertical loading rates during first attempt of barefoot running in habitual shod runners.
        Hum. Mov. Sci. 2014; 34: 120-127
        • Cheung R.T.H.
        • Sze L.K.Y.
        • Mok N.W.
        • Ng G.Y.F.
        Intrinsic foot muscle volume in experienced runners with and without chronic plantar fasciitis.
        J. Sci. Med. Sport Sports Med. Aust. 2015;
        • Commean P.K.
        • Tuttle L.J.
        • Hastings M.K.
        • Strube M.J.
        • Mueller M.J.
        Magnetic resonance imaging measurement reproducibility for calf muscle and adipose tissue volume.
        J. Magn. Reson. Imaging. 2011; 34: 1285-1294
        • Davis I.S.
        The re-emergence of the minimal running shoe.
        J. Orthop. Sports Phys. Ther. 2014; 44: 775-784
        • De Wit B.
        • De Clercq D.
        • Aerts P.
        Biomechanical analysis of the stance phase during barefoot and shod running.
        J. Biomech. 2000; 33: 269-278
        • Esculier J.-F.
        • Dubois B.
        • Dionne C.E.
        • Leblond J.
        • Roy J.-S.
        A consensus definition and rating scale for minimalist shoes.
        J. Foot Ankle Res. 2015; 8
        • Fong D.T.
        • Chan Y.-Y.
        • Mok K.-M.
        • Yung P.S.
        • Chan K.-M.
        Understanding acute ankle ligamentous sprain injury in sports.
        Sports Med. Arthrosc. Rehabil. Ther. Technol. 2009; 1: 14
        • Fukunaga T.
        • Miyatani M.
        • Tachi M.
        • Kouzaki M.
        • Kawakami Y.
        • Kanehisa H.
        Muscle volume is a major determinant of joint torque in humans.
        Acta Physiol. Scand. 2001; 172: 249-255
        • Goss D.L.
        • Gross M.T.
        Relationships among self-reported shoe type, footstrike pattern, and injury incidence.
        US Army Med. Dep. J. 2012; : 25-30
        • Guten G.N.
        Running Injuries.
        W.B. Saunders, 1997
        • Häkkinen K.
        • Kraemer W.J.
        • Newton R.U.
        • Alen M.
        Changes in electromyographic activity, muscle fibre and force production characteristics during heavy resistance/power strength training in middle-aged and older men and women.
        Acta Physiol. Scand. 2001; 171: 51-62
        • Hamill J.
        • Gruber A.H.
        • Derrick T.R.
        Lower extremity joint stiffness characteristics during running with different footfall patterns.
        Eur. J. Sport Sci. 2014; 14: 130-136
        • Headlee D.L.
        • Leonard J.L.
        • Hart J.M.
        • Ingersoll C.D.
        • Hertel J.
        Fatigue of the plantar intrinsic foot muscles increases navicular drop.
        J. Electromyogr. Kinesiol. Off. J. Int. Soc. Electrophysiol. Kinesiol. 2008; 18: 420-425
        • Im H.S.
        • Alter K.E.
        • Brochard S.
        • Pons C.
        • Sheehan F.T.
        In vivo pediatric shoulder muscle volumes and their relationship to 3D strength.
        J. Biomech. 2014; 47: 2730-2737
        • Jam B.
        Evaluation and Retraining of the Intrinsic Foot Muscles for Pain Syndromes Related to Abnormal Control of Pronation.
        Advanced Physical Therapy Education Institute, 2006
        • Johnson A.
        • Myrer J.
        • Mitchell U.
        • Hunter I.
        • Ridge S.
        The effects of a transition to minimalist shoe running on intrinsic foot muscle size.
        Int. J. Sports Med. 2015; 37: 154-158
        • Kernozek T.
        • Meardon S.
        • Vannatta C.
        In-shoe loading in rearfoot and non-rearfoot strikers during running using minimalist footwear.
        Int. J. Sports Med. 2014; 35: 1112-1117
        • Knapik J.J.
        • Trone D.W.
        • Tchandja J.
        • Jones B.H.
        Injury-reduction effectiveness of prescribing running shoes on the basis of foot arch height: summary of military investigations.
        J. Orthop. Sports Phys. Ther. 2014; 44: 805-812
        • Kuo G.P.
        • Carrino J.A.
        Skeletal muscle imaging and inflammatory myopathies.
        Curr. Opin. Rheumatol. 2007; 19: 530-535
        • Lieberman D.E.
        • Venkadesan M.
        • Werbel W.A.
        • Daoud A.I.
        • D'Andrea S.
        • Davis I.S.
        • Mang'eni R.O.
        • Pitsiladis Y.
        Foot strike patterns and collision forces in habitually barefoot versus shod runners.
        Nature. 2010; 463: 531-535
        • Liebl D.
        • Willwacher S.
        • Hamill J.
        • Brüggemann G.-P.
        Ankle plantarflexion strength in rearfoot and forefoot runners: a novel clusteranalytic approach.
        Hum. Mov. Sci. 2014; 35: 104-120
        • McCarthy C.
        • Fleming N.
        • Donne B.
        • Blanksby B.
        12 weeks of simulated barefoot running changes foot-strike patterns in female runners.
        Int. J. Sports Med. 2013; 35: 443-450
        • McDougall C.
        Born to Run: The Hidden Tribe, the Ultra-Runners, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen.
        Profile Books, 2010
        • McKeon P.O.
        • Hertel J.
        • Bramble D.
        • Davis I.
        The foot core system: a new paradigm for understanding intrinsic foot muscle function.
        Br. J. Sports Med. 2015; 49: 290
        • Miller E.E.
        • Whitcome K.K.
        • Lieberman D.E.
        • Norton H.L.
        • Dyer R.E.
        The effect of minimal shoes on arch structure and intrinsic foot muscle strength.
        J. Sport Health Sci. 2014; 3: 74-85
        • Nuzzo R.
        Scientific method: statistical errors.
        Nature. 2014; 506: 150-152
        • O'Connor K.M.
        • Hamill J.
        The role of selected extrinsic foot muscles during running.
        Clin. Biomech. Bristol Avon. 2004; 19: 71-77
        • Perl D.P.
        • Daoud A.I.
        • Lieberman D.E.
        Effects of footwear and strike type on running economy.
        Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 2012; 44: 1335-1343
        • Popadic Gacesa J.Z.
        • Kozic D.B.
        • Dragnic N.R.
        • Jakovljevic D.G.
        • Brodie D.A.
        • Grujic N.G.
        Changes of functional status and volume of triceps brachii measured by magnetic resonance imaging after maximal resistance training.
        J. Magn. Reson. Imaging. 2009; 29: 671-676
        • Rao G.
        • Chambon N.
        • Guéguen N.
        • Berton E.
        • Delattre N.
        Does wearing shoes affect your biomechanical efficiency?.
        J. Biomech. 2015; 48: 413-417
        • Ridge S.T.
        • Johnson A.W.
        • Mitchell U.H.
        • Hunter I.
        • Robinson E.
        • Rich B.S.E.
        • Brown S.D.
        Foot bone marrow edema after a 10-wk transition to minimalist running shoes.
        Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 2013; 45: 1363-1368
        • Rixe J.A.
        • Gallo R.A.
        • Silvis M.L.
        The barefoot debate: can minimalist shoes reduce running-related injuries?.
        Curr. Sports Med. Rep. 2012; 11: 160-165
        • Ryan M.
        • Fraser S.
        • McDonald K.
        • Taunton J.
        Examining the degree of pain reduction using a multielement exercise model with a conventional training shoe versus an ultraflexible training shoe for treating plantar fasciitis.
        Phys. Sportsmed. 2009; 37: 68-74
        • Salzler M.J.
        • Bluman E.M.
        • Noonan S.
        • Chiodo C.P.
        • de Asla R.J.
        Injuries observed in minimalist runners.
        Foot Ankle Int. 2012; 33: 262-266
        • Sherman K.P.
        The foot in sport.
        Br. J. Sports Med. 1999; 33: 6-13
        • Smeulders M.J.C.
        • van den Berg S.
        • Oudeman J.
        • Nederveen A.J.
        • Kreulen M.
        • Maas M.
        Reliability of in vivo determination of forearm muscle volume using 3.0 T magnetic resonance imaging.
        J. Magn. Reson. Imaging. 2010; 31: 1252-1255
        • Soysa A.
        • Hiller C.
        • Refshauge K.
        • Burns J.
        Importance and challenges of measuring intrinsic foot muscle strength.
        J. Foot Ankle Res. 2012; 5: 29
        • Squadrone R.
        • Gallozzi C.
        Biomechanical and physiological comparison of barefoot and two shod conditions in experienced barefoot runners.
        J. Sports Med. Phys. Fitness. 2009; 49: 6-13
        • Squadrone R.
        • Rodano R.
        • Hamill J.
        • Preatoni E.
        Acute effect of different minimalist shoes on foot strike pattern and kinematics in rearfoot strikers during running.
        J. Sports Sci. 2014; : 1-9
        • Tam N.
        • Astephen Wilson J.L.
        • Noakes T.D.
        • Tucker R.
        Barefoot running: an evaluation of current hypothesis, future research and clinical applications.
        Br. J. Sports Med. 2014; 48: 349-355
        • Trombini-Souza F.
        • Fuller R.
        • Matias A.
        • Yokota M.
        • Butugan M.
        • Goldenstein-Schainberg C.
        • Sacco I.C.
        Effectiveness of a long-term use of a minimalist footwear versus habitual shoe on pain, function and mechanical loads in knee osteoarthritis: a randomized controlled trial.
        BMC Musculoskelet. Disord. 2012; 13: 121
        • Valenzuela K.A.
        • Lynn S.K.
        • Mikelson L.R.
        • Noffal G.J.
        • Judelson D.A.
        Effect of acute alterations in foot strike patterns during running on sagittal plane lower limb kinematics and kinetics.
        J. Sports Sci. Med. 2015; 14: 225-232
        • van Gent R.N.
        • Siem D.
        • van Middelkoop M.
        • van Os A.G.
        • Bierma-Zeinstra S.M.A.
        • Koes B.W.
        Incidence and determinants of lower extremity running injuries in long distance runners: a systematic review.
        Br. J. Sports Med. 2007; 41 (discussion 480): 469-480
        • Warne J.P.
        • Kilduff S.M.
        • Gregan B.C.
        • Nevill A.M.
        • Moran K.A.
        • Warrington G.D.
        A 4-week instructed minimalist running transition and gait-retraining changes plantar pressure and force: four-week minimalist running transition.
        Scand. J. Med. Sci. Sports. 2014; 24: 964-973
        • Willy R.W.
        • Davis I.S.
        Kinematic and kinetic comparison of running in standard and minimalist shoes.
        Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 2014; 46: 318-323

      Web references

        • Spaulding National Running Center
        Date: 2016
        (Available:) (Last accessed 5 April 2016)
        • Vibram FiveFingers
        Date: 2016
        (Available:) (Last accessed 5 April 2016)