We have long forgotten what it is like to live barefoot.
With the inventions of modern footwear our feet have truly fallen asleep.
It's not your fault.
We have been programmed since birth to have shoes on our feet. If you read my last blog post about the 10 Reasons for Going Barefoot then you will know why I advocate for the naked foot.
But...don't jump too fast into undressing the foot until you have done some preliminary work. With years of your feet being in traditional coffins you will hurt them if you go straight to walking barefoot or go into a minimalist shoe.
One way to determine if you have grown dependent on your footwear is to see what it feels like to go barefoot on various surfaces. If you feel off balance, have pain or notice a general uneasiness you can be assured that your feet have become dependent on shoes.
Transitioning is key. You wouldn't attempt a hanging pull up at the gym for the first time if you have never simply hung from a bar or worked on shoulder openers. It's the same with your feet. Have you ever noticed that if you go to the mall or the beach and walk for hours in flip flops your feet begin to ache by the end of the day? That's because you are using muscles and ligaments that are usually lulled asleep from your traditional shoes. In the same way you wouldn't want to rush right out and buy minimalist shoes and begin wearing them all day.
"Barefoot practice is just like other areas of physical practice: It must be progressive to preserve your tissues and allow them time to recover, get stronger, and become healthier Too much stress in a short time can generate discomfort, pain and even injury and can hinder the very adaptations you are looking for." The Practice of Natural Movement
There is no way to know how long it will take for your feet to adapt to being barefoot. The longer you've been in shoes the longer it could take. Pay attention to your feet. They may feel sore...kind of like when you use a muscle and you feel sore the next day. But, you don't want to feel pain. If you are feeling pain then you've gone too long barefoot.
Here are some things to consider:
1) Try 3 different grades of footwear: start out with a zero drop ( this means that the drop from the heel to the toe is the same) but with a bit more cushion, something like the Altra, once that becomes comfortable move to a thinner, more flexible shoe, like the VivoCourt, then you can move to the very minimalistic shoe by Vivobarefoot or even Wildings.
2) Go barefoot for a few min each day getting the soles of your feet used to outside stimulus.
Try in the house first, then go out to the grass...be careful to pay attention to where you are stepping. Allow the feet to breathe the space you are in. Remember, there are 200,000 nerve endings in the feet and they need a minute to recognize their "ground" and send that message to the brain.
3) After you are getting comfortable going barefoot in "safe" places...begin to venture outside to the sidewalk, the curbs, the soil. Put on one of the minimalist shoes for this if you need a bit more reassurance in your stepping.
4) Go for longer walks with a "barefoot" ish shoe for longer periods of time. Remembering to wear the ones that will give you the most cushion (but zero drop) for the stage you are in.
5) Have patience. Don't push it. Just getting your feet out of shoes while at home and resting is a step in the right direction for healthier feet.
All in all your feet, ankles, knees, hips and lower back will be so much happier!
Now go take those shoes off!
Get STRONG - Stay WILD,