If you are looking to transition into barefoot shoes it helps to know what to expect. It can take some adjusting and time to get used to wearing barefoot shoes.
Barefoot shoes have thinner soles and less cushioning.
How long does it take to get used to barefoot shoes?
It depends on what you have done in the past and the shape of your feet, and whether it’s runners or sandals you’re opting for. (If you have concerns with your feet, check with your physiotherapist or health advisor first to aid your confidence.)
Don’t expect to buy a pair of barefoot runners and go straight into using them. Switching to minimalist running shoes requires conditioning of your feet and your leg muscles and for some, this could take a day or two, but for others, it can take weeks of adaptation.
Here’s what to know…
By being gentle with yourself and allowing time for your body to adapt, you’ll get there. But at the same time, persevere and persist.
barefoot shoes explained
What’s so different about barefoot shoes? Barefoot shoes are shoes that are meant to let you feel the ground beneath your feet and encourage a more natural running style.
They are designed to mimic the feeling of going barefoot while providing some protection for your feet. They have thinner soles and less cushioning than the normal ones to allow for more natural movement and better connection to the ground.
This has benefits which I explain in my article on walking barefoot.
Compare this to traditional sneakers or runners, which tend to have thicker soles and cushioning that can restrict the natural movement of your feet.
How To Transition From A Regular Sneaker To barefoot Shoes
If you are not used to going barefoot, start at point 1 – prep by going barefoot – otherwise, begin at point 3.
start going barefoot
How to start going barefoot: Spend at least 30 minutes a day walking barefoot on the beach, on grassy areas, on gravel paths, while tree hugging in the forest, or where ever you have the opportunity, to get your feet conditioned. Make this a part of incorporating nature into your daily routine.
Then increase the duration…
Harden your soles
Gradually increase the duration of going without shoes until the soles thicken and your muscles and ligaments adapt (no strain felt).
Begin to use barefoot shoes
Once you’ve reached this point, progress to jogging for 15-30 minutes in barefoot runners a day. If your shoes are for working out at the gym or walking, do the same duration of activity while wearing them.
Increase intensity and duration
Bit by bit increase the intensity and duration of daily jogging in barefoot runners (or other activity) until you feel at home with using your barefoot shoes.
Michael Warburton explains :
Thirty minutes of daily barefoot locomotion is a recommended starting point to allow thickening of the sole of the foot and adaptation of muscles and ligaments (Robbins et al., 1993). Begin by walking barefoot at every reasonable opportunity then progress to jogging, gradually increasing the intensity and duration (Yessis 2000, p.124).Sportscience 5(3)
Tips on switching to barefoot shoes
Start Slowly: Don’t expect to be able to wear barefoot shoes for hours on end right away. Start by wearing them for short periods of time and gradually increase the amount of time you wear them each day. This will allow your feet and body to adjust to the new style of footwear.
Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to any discomfort or pain you may experience during the transition period. Your feet, ankles, and legs may feel sore or tired as they adapt to the new shoes. If you feel any pain, take a break and rest your feet.
Build Up Your Foot Strength: Traditional shoes often provide support and cushioning that barefoot shoes do not. To help your feet adjust, try exercises that strengthen your feet and toes, such as toe curls and walking on your toes.
Choose the Right Pair: Not all barefoot shoes are created equal. Look for shoes that fit your feet well. Especially if you are like me with wide feet, you’ll want a brand that caters for this with a wide-toe box…here’s one…
Pick your terrains: Avoid spiky rocky country and wet and slippery areas when transitioning to barefoot running. (Such terrain is probably best transited with proper footwear or hiking boots anyway.)
Allow your brain time to adjust to them; it will think that it’s still wearing regular sneakers. But stick with it. It will happen.
When you first start wearing minimalist shoes, it can take up to several weeks before your body gets used to them.
The trick is to be patient, persist, and persevere—the three Ps.