So, how are we supposed to do this minimalist/barefoot thing?
The truth is, there isn’t a single correct approach – it’s probably more complicated than that. But there are steps we can take to make us happier, healthier and feel more connected to our bodies.
Wearing a shoe like Vibram FiveFingers or New Balance Minimus for running, fitness training, water sports or just for fun will make your feet stronger and healthier—naturally. And while we do love all these shoes, we don’t believe it is the only footwear you will ever need. There are many times when you need the protection and security of a shoe or boot. Like all things in life, there is a balance, and these shoes provides a healthy alternative to traditional footwear. Following the tips below will allow you to make the switch to these types of shoes more comfortably, safely and effectively.
Step 1: Understand Your Feet
Minimalist shoes assist the natural form and function of your foot. Before you make the transition to wearing minimalism, it is important to familiarize yourself with your bare feet through a series of sensory exercises.
Your feet contain 52 bones, 66 joints, 40 muscles, and hundreds of sensory receptors, tendons, and ligaments—collectively forming two of the body’s most beautifully efficient mechanisms. Yet most people assume that there is something inherently “wrong” with their feet: too wide, too narrow, arches too high or flat, etc. Traditional shoes have become a way of “fixing” these assumed abnormalities. And, as a result, the powerful architecture of our feet has become hidden, disliked, and incredibly sensitive – even weakened. Feet have taken the brunt of a cultural notion that your foot is “wrong;” that corrective shoes will make it “right.”
By practicing our recommended sensory exercises, you’ll rediscover the vast potential of your feet and come to a better understanding of how they look, feel, and perform – before and after making the switch to minimalism.
Step 2: Try Different Surfaces
Walk, feel, explore. Your feet will determine the pace of your progress.
The thin, flexible, and deconstructed sole of your minimalist shoes allow the foot to curl and flex. The five toes in the Vibrams are separate—just like your feet! Because of these features, every step taken in these shoes is a lesson in texture, temperature, and biomechanics.
Your feet are excellent at collecting information. Thousands of neurological receptors send valuable information to the brain to tell your body where it is in space and what the terrain is like. Actively stimulating these receptors improves balance, increases circulation, and enhances overall foot health.
• First, start by practicing our recommended sensory exercises and notice how your entire foot feels.
• Next, walk on different surfaces. This is one of the most obvious and easiest ways to stimulate and exercise the foot. With bare feet or in your barefoot shoes, explore your home and its surroundings. Notice how your feet feel on smooth vs. rough surfaces and try to sense/recognize the signals that your feet send to your brain.
You’ll probably notice that your foot strike and stride instinctively adjust to different surfaces. Experiment in a safe, controlled way on grass, carpeting, pavement, dirt, pebbles, and smooth rock—keeping your eyes open for potential hazards or unfriendly objects.
Step 3: Foot Fitness Program
Now that you have begun to familiarize yourself with your feet, you’ve probably noticed that they are pretty weak. Maybe it’s hard to spread or control your toes? Perhaps being barefoot for an extended amount of time leaves your feet sore or tired? To safely begin the transition to wearing minimalist shoes for running and fitness, we highly recommend the following foot strengthening exercises.
Practice the exercises below in 3 sets of 20 reps, 3-5X/week for 2 weeks. Your feet may feel tired afterwards, but you should not be in pain. Ultimately, this series of exercises will be part of your warm-up routine.
1. Heel raise
2. Toe grip
3. Dorsi/plantar flexion
4. Toe spread/tap
5. Exaggerated eversion/inversion
6. Grabbing a towel on the floor with toes and pass to other foot
7. Walking in your shoes: never underestimate the power of just being barefoot or in minimalist. One- to two-hour intervals of general day-to-day activity in your shoes is an excellent way to slowly build Grabbing a towel on the floor with toes and pass to other foot the small muscles in the feet and ankles.
How long will it take to transition to Minimalism?
For some it’s a matter of weeks, for others months, and for a few it could be a year or more. Much is dependent on your foot type, the activities you’re using these shoes for, and the amount of pronation you experience. The progression will ultimately be worth the wait, and your foot and body will be stronger and better off for it. The answer lies in your inherent foot and body biomechcanics and the condition of your muscles. Just remember, improving the skill of those muscles then practicing and using those muscles in your minimalist shoes will increase both endurance and strength. This will have profound beneficial effects on your body and wellbeing. Listen to your body.