It takes time to transition to minimalist running shoes. After years of running in toe-binding PECH (Pronation control Elevated Cushioned Heel) shoes, your feet muscles are probably very weak. It's time to change that!
Before you jump right into minimalist or barefoot shoes I want you to work on the following 5 goals step by step so that you can gradually transition to minimalist running shoes.
Follow these steps in order to ensure that your feet adapt properly to running in a pair of minimalist shoes. Jumping straight into minimalist running could have severe impact on your feet, leg muscles and running especially if you are used to running in a very cushioned shoe!
Here are your goals to work towards as you begin this transition to minimalist shoes. We will discuss each one in depth on this page:
And last but not least...
5. Buy the right shoes!
Let's now look at each one of these in a little more depth and talk about how to go about reaching each specific goal.
Following this will be a transition program to guide you.
You need to start working on these goals though before you start actually transitioning.
Start today! Then start looking for your minimalist running shoes so that you are prepared to start running minimally when they arrive!
1. Strengthen your feet muscles.
Running in minimalist shoes or bare feet will naturally strengthen your foot muscles.
However before you jump right into the transition to minimalist running shoes, you will want to help your feet adapt smoothly by doing some strengthening exercises.
Here are a few I suggest that will start the toughening up process:
2. Gain balance (AND) 3. increase proprioception.
Strengthen the balancing capacity of your toes but especially your big toe (the abductor hallucis muscle) is extremely important in running minimally.
The toes will be doing the job of giving support, balance and help in dispersing impact forces so we want these little piggys to be strong!
Balancing exercises will also help to stabilize your joints and increase your natural running gait.
Here are some suggestions to reach this goal:
4. Practice your running form.
The biggest battle by far in changing to a minimalist running style is switching your footstrike. It will take some practice and you will feel soreness but you will get there if you keep at it.
Here's what your minimal running form should look like as you transition to minimalist running shoes:
5. Buy the right shoes.
First note: You do not need to cut back your current mileage. This will help you to seamlessly transition your shoes into your running lifestyle and race schedule. There is no need to wait!
Go somewhere that has a flat smooth surface - a track, clean sidewalk, etc.
Take your shoes off and run around for about 3 to5 minutes in bare feet. Yes, take your shoes off even if you are planning on running with minimalist shoes. The idea is to allow proprioception to occur naturally.
Watch how your foot lands, feel how it moves under you, practice striking with your forefoot. You will notice how your foot automatically adjusts to a certain landing through proprioception and can sense whether you are landing too hard or too soft.
Step 2: Transition into your 5mm drop shoes.
Run a 1/4 mile in the shoes. Take them off and continue your run in your accustomed running shoes.
Increase to a 1/2 a mile the next run, then to 3/4 of a mile, then to a full mile.
Continue alternating back and forth for longer and longer distances until you do not feel any discomfort or soreness in your legs and feet during or after a run.
When you are running in your usual running shoes, supplement your regular foot strike with a forefoot or midfoot strike.
Remember this takes practice so practice as much as you can! This step will take about 1 month.
Step 3: Transition into your zero-drop shoes.
Follow the same course of action as with 5mm shoes.
Start with a 1/4 mile and continue to increase during your runs until your feet have fully adjusted to running without an elevated heel, arch support, and motion control technology.
Continue practicing your forefoot striking.
How long should the total transition to minimalist running shoes take? As with everything, every runner is different. A lot of natural-loving podiatrists claim that it will take up to 12 months. Yes, that's a chunk of time. But remember the payoffs!
1. You will develop soreness and some discomfort mostly on the upper part of your feet and Achilles tendon as you transition to minimalist running shoes.
However, this is a good thing!
Think about it. You are building up the muscles in your foot that have grown weak from too much cushioning, motion control, stabilization, etc. What happens when you work out new muscles? They feel sore afterwards.
Expect to have some soreness until your are fully transitioned.
2. Stretch your Achilles Tendon and your Calf muscles after EVERY run!
When you are forefoot striking, you are pointing your toes more than normal. This causes the Achilles tendon and calf muscles to contract more than they do when you heel strike which can make them sore and cramp.
Point your toes right now down towards the ground and feel the back of your legs tighten. Yep, that's where you want to stretch!
Get a tennis ball or a foam roller if you have one and just move it around in the sore areas to help break up scar tissue and promote recovery. This will also feel good under your arches.
3. If you feel any sharp, chronic pains as you transition to minimalist running shoes then hold off.
Your joints and muscles may just need a break from transitioning for awhile. After a time, try to ease back into it.
4. Talk to your doctor and let him know you are super epic and breaking into the minimalist running sphere and are on the golden "transition to minimalist running shoes" road. He will help to guide you with the knowledge of all your past history.