So, you have pondered the great health benefits that barefoot running has to offer and is considering to make a transition. You are now contemplating to buy or have already bought a new pair of minimalist shoes. You start imagining yourself running almost barefooted through trails, dirt roads and even grassy slopes which had been your favorite running trail before. However, have you stopped to consider for a moment the impact of your decision? Are you really prepared and ready to take on the challenge of shifting from years of using traditional shoes to minimalist shoes? In reality, do you even know how to make the transition to minimalist shoes?
Years of using conventional shoes had us getting used to well-padded feet gear when walking or running. Breaking into the novelty of barefoot running is no easy task at all. It takes effort, time and pure endurance of the mind and body to hurdle whatever obstacles that may come your way. The most important thing to remember however is, you cannot make the switch in the blink of an eye. It will take time for you to get accustomed to this new way of minimalist running and some pain for sure. To help you shift with some ease, here are some tips to remember.
1. Adapt to it gradually
These new minimalist shoes would have you running as if almost barefooted. If you are used to running wearing the well-padded conventional shoes, you should maneuver yourself into the system gradually. Adapt the new running form by initially walking barefoot over all different grounds to accustom your feet to the various sensations. Once you have acclimatized yourself to barefoot walking, you can start running barefoot. However, do not go beyond 1.5 kilometers for your first week.
Your main goal at this point is to have a smooth transition to minimalist shoes, not joining a marathon. Furthermore, it would be for your best interest if you incorporate a warm-up barefoot walking for the next two to three weeks, before running in your new minimalist shoes.
Thus, gradual easing into various minimalist shoes would also be advisable. This would also mean that you should not jump directly into wearing Vibram’s Five Fingers right away if you are just starting. You should initially wear the minimalist shoes which have a little more padding in them like the New Balance transition shoes and eases into one with an even lesser padding until you can bear to walk with barely-there shoes. This is highly recommended when your feet cannot stand the downright walking barefoot.
2. The mid-foot and the foot under body step
Well-padded traditional running shoes made us run with the heel striking the ground foremost with every step. Over the years, this has given us the gait which is unlike that of someone who is used to running barefoot. Furthermore, with the heel-first strike, we are placing ourselves to injury if adopted when running barefoot. Due to many years of using well-padded conventional shoes, our feet have become weak. Thus, inappropriate running form would expose us to injury since minimalist shoes does not provide the necessary padding which would otherwise protect the inexperienced feet.
3. Constant appropriate exercise
Constant wearing of the conventional running shoes had weakened our Achilles, toes and tendons. Enclosed in the safety of the well-padded shoes, they have no reason to exert effort and thus deteriorated in strength and length. Transition to minimalist shoes therefore without any pre-running warm-up exercises and any other necessary preparation would shock your system if not injure your feet undoubtedly.
Traditional running shoes may have protected your feet from injury because of their innovative designs. However, they have also taken away the natural capacity of your feet to form the necessary protection which had otherwise protected our ancestors before who have walked and run this Earth in their thin sandals and naked feet. Engaging in exercises that will enable your tendons, muscles and even bones to regain the strength and brawn they have lost over time will help you make a smoother transition to this new running form and into your new minimalist shoes.
Featured photo by “darkmatter” at Flickr