Transition to Barefoot the Sensible Way
“Walking barefoot as much as possible will allow your feet to reawaken.”
The running shoe market is bursting with a huge range of “transitional” shoes at the moment. More and more companies are offering ranges of shoes that claim to help you ease in to the ultimate goal of barefoot/zero-drop running. So why doesn’t it work?
The marketing is brilliant, the idea is sensible and it’s winning more and more people over. The Nike Free comes with four different levels of cushioning. By taking your time with each level your body is supposed to adapt to the decreasing level of cushioning to safeguard you against injury. You’re happy because you’re not injured and the company is happy because you’ve bought four pairs of shoes from them.
So why do people still get injured when they move from a Nike Free 3.0 to a Vibram FiveFinger or a Vivobarefoot shoe? Metatarsal fractures, plantar fasciitis and achilles tendentious are all associated with using barefoot shoes.
The transitioning shoes are basically safety nets. They keep your foot protected whilst you discover what it feels like to run with less and less cushioning. The shoes never expose your foot’s intricate structure of muscles and tendons to the forces that it will encounter in a proper barefoot shoe. The soft EVA foam and arch support means the foot stays as rigid as it would do in the most stable of running shoes.
If you are planning on running in a pure barefoot shoe then the best way to learn is to start from the ground up. The biggest obstacle for people wanting to run without support or cushioning is the fact that western humans have incredibly weak feet when compared to their aboriginal cousins.
The arch of a western man has been supported for most of it’s life so it would have gathered little or no strength, the toes would have been bent in to the triangular shape of shoes and the achilles tendon would have fused shut. The only way to get these things in proper working order is by starting use the foot naturally. Running barefoot is far too stressful for a foot newly exposed to nature but walking barefoot is something we can all do.
“Running barefoot is far too stressful for a foot newly exposed to nature but walking barefoot is something we can all do.”
You need to learn how to walk barefoot before you can think about running barefoot. Walking barefoot as much as possible will allow your foot to reawaken. The plantar fascia will loosen making the arch more dynamic; you will start stretching your achilles tendon slowly – loosening it but not aggravating it; and you can start to learn how to use your toes the right way.
Because running puts three times your body weight through your legs, you can injure yourself very quickly if you don’t have strength in the right places. A minimal cushioned shoe may give you confidence to run in barefoot shoes but your feet will certainly get a shock when you do.
Another reason why transitioning to barefoot by just walking is better is because everyone can walk for longer than they can run. It’s all about hours of exposure. If you run for two hours a week but spend 40 hours a week in your high-heeled narrow office shoes then your two hours of hard work will be undone.
If you want to run barefoot then you have to be barefoot for as long as possible before going out on a jog. Reawaken your senses and get used to the feel. Learn to love the little stones that you tread on and learn how to walk properly. Then when it comes to running it will feel natural – the way it was supposed to.
“Casual barefoot shoes are very hard to come by. The only company that is committed to offering them is Vivobarefoot.”
They offer a range of casual trainers and leather shoes that can be worn in the office and around town. They may feel a little strange at first, but they will be the comfiest shoes you’re ever likely to wear!
Come say hi on Twitter: @nat_run
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