Transitioning to Barefoot Shoes 5 Steps and Best Exercises for Happy Feet

transitioning to barefoot shoesSo you’re convinced that going barefoot and transitioning to barefoot shoes is what you need to do for the health of your feet. But if you’ve been wearing heels, or even really cushy athletic shoes, you may find that immediately ditching your shoes, and going barefoot everywhere makes your feet sore and achy.

Go here to see what to look for when buying barefoot shoes.

So here are some simple steps to gradually ease your transition into barefoot shoes and walking completely barefoot.

1) Lower the heel. If you are wearing high heels, start wearing shoes with a lower heel. And if you love, love, love sexy high heels like I do, then see why high heels are bad for you, and why I wear them anyway.

2) Go no heel or zero drop. If you are already wearing what you think are “flats” (athletic shoes, flip-flops,  or low heels), transition to a true zero drop shoe. Zero drop means the back of the shoe is no higher (not even a little bit) than the front. See this video for an example.

3) Make sure you’re wearing the right size and width.  Are your shoes too small or too narrow? Don’t be vain–you likely need to get a bigger or wider size. Your toes should have room to wiggle and spread out. They shouldn’t be smashing up against the front of your shoe.

4) Get a super flex-y thin sole. If you’ve got the first 3 points down, the next step is to go to a super thin flex-y sole. You should be able to feel the ground under your feet and feel when you are stepping on a pebble or other debris. This may seem uncomfortable at first, but it will improve the connection between your brain and your feet.

You will begin getting the message that : “This surface is unstable”, or “This surface is rocky”.  Your body will be able to react in accordance with the terrain around you. This will translate into less accidents such as twisted ankles, and falls. Your reaction time will become faster.

I have almost smooshed worms with my barefeet, and avoided it because I was able to feel it under my feet before putting my full weight down (because you really wanted to know).

This is also how you avoid coming down hard on sharp objects. I have only gotten one cut, and a couple stubbed toes in my 4 years of barefooting.

I DID step in dog poop a few weeks ago–somehow wasn’t able to avoid THAT one!

5) Go barefoot. Going barefoot may be even better than wearing a minimal shoe. Stop wearing shoes in your house. Then, stop wearing them on the grass in your yard. Try a short walk around the block, then a longer walk. When you’re ready for more advanced barefooting, try purposely walking over rough and uneven surfaces–pebbles, rocks, wood chips.

Work slowly into this! If you’ve (like most of us) been wearing heeled, rigid, and too small shoes for most of your life, please take it slowly. Go step by step. And for Goddess sake, please don’t go out right away and run a mile barefoot! You will be in pain!

Find barefoot friendly places in your community. Pretty much anywhere outside–local parks and outdoor farmer’s markets will work. Yes, you may get a few nasty looks–it’s okay it builds character! It is not illegal to go barefoot in public places. Of course if you are in a private establishment, they can tell you to wear shoes–which is a good reason to take your minimal barefoot shoes with you ready to slip on.

Exercises to prepare your feet and body for going barefoot

For more exercises to prepare your feet for going barefoot (and for damage control after wearing heels) go here. 

(Also getting your ass out of your chair will help too!)

Happy Barefooting!


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