A residual type error estimator for nonlinear finite element analysis is introduced. This error estimator solves local problems avoiding both the computation of the flux jumps and the associated flux splitting procedure. Pollution errors are taken into account by a feedback strategy, that is, an error estimate based on local computations is used as the input of the pollution analysis. This estimator is used in the frame of an adaptive procedure. Numerical examples show that the estimator is able to drive adaptive procedures leading to likely good solutions. Moreover, one of the examples demonstrates that adaptive procedures are essential for complex highly nonlinear mechanical problems because they may discover secondary collapse mechanisms.