Following the tips below will allow you to make the switch to your barefoot shoes more comfortably, safe and effective.
- Listen to your feet! Switching to barefoot footwear from traditional shoes is a transition that may take time. For some, it is a matter of weeks, for others months, and for a few it could be a year or more. Much is dependent on your foot type, the activities you’re using them for, and the amount of pronation you experience. The progression will ultimately be worth the wait, and your foot and body will be stronger and better off for it. The answer lies in your inherent foot and body biomechanics and the condition of your muscles. Just remember, improving the skill of those muscles then practicing and using those muscles in your barefoot shoes will increase both endurance and strength. This will have profound beneficial effects on your body and wellbeing. Listen to your body.
- Stop if your arches or the top of your foot is hurting, or if anything else hurts! Remember to transition slowly in order to build strength in your lower legs and feet and to minimize discomfort. An adjustment period is normal, and any discomfort should decrease after a week or two of use. When running in FiveFingers or Merrell Barefoot, sometimes arch and foot pain occurs from landing with your feet too far forward relative to your hips and having to point your toes too much. It can also occur from landing with too rigid a foot and not letting your heel drop gently.
-Stop and let your body heal if you experience pain. Sore, tired muscles are normal; bone, joint, or soft-tissue pain is a signal of injury.
-In the beginning, remember to carry your traditional footwear as a backup. If you need to stop in the middle of a workout, you can put on your cushioned running shoes and continue with your activity.
Step 1: Understand Your Feet
Barefoot shoes assists the natural form and function of your foot. Before you make the transition it is important
to familiarize yourself with your bare foot through our series of sensory exercises. Your feet contain 52 bones, 66 joints, 40 muscles, and hundreds of sensory receptors, tendons, and ligaments—collectively forming two of the body’s most beautifully efficient mechanisms.Yet most people assume that there is something inherently “wrong” with their feet: too wide, too narrow, arches too high or flat, etc. Traditional shoes have become a way of “fixing” these assumed abnormalities. And, as a result, the powerful architecture of our feet has become hidden, disliked, and incredibly sensitive – even weakened. Feet have taken the brunt of a cultural notion that your foot is “wrong;” that corrective shoes will make it “right.” By practicing our recommended sensory exercises, you’ll rediscover the vast potential of your feet and come to a better understanding of how they look, feel, and perform – before and after making the switch to Vibram FiveFingers® or Merrell Barefoot shoes.
Step 2: Try Different Surfaces
Walk, feel, explore. Your feet will determine the pace of your progress. The thin, flexible, and deconstructed sole of your barefoot shoes allows the foot to curl and flex. The five toes are separate in Vibram FiveFingers - just like your
feet! Because of these features,every step taken is a lesson in texture, temperature, and biomechanics. Your feet are excellent at collecting information. Thousands of neurological receptors send valuable information to the brain to tell your body where it is in space and what the terrain is like. Actively stimulating these receptors improves balance, increases circulation, and enhances overall foot health.
• First, start by practicing our recommended sensory exercises and notice how your entire foot feels.
• Next, walk on different surfaces. This is one of the most obvious and easiest ways to stimulate and exercise the foot. With bare feet or in barefoot shoes, explore your home and its surroundings. Notice how your feet feel on smooth vs. rough surfaces and try to sense/recognize the signals that your feet send to your brain.
You’ll probably notice that your foot strike and stride instinctively adjust to different surfaces. Experiment in a safe, controlled way on grass, carpeting, pavement, dirt, pebbles, and smooth rock—keeping your eyes open for potential hazards or unfriendly objects.
Step 3: Foot Fitness Program
2-week strength training program. Now that you have begun to familiarize yourself with your feet, you’ve probably noticed that they are pretty weak. Maybe it’s hard to spread or control your toes? Perhaps being barefoot for an extended amount of time leaves your feet sore or tired? To safely begin the transition to barefoot running and fitness, we highly recommend the following foot strengthening exercises. Practice the exercises below in 3 sets of 20 reps, 3-5X/week for 2 weeks. Your feet may feel tired afterwards, but you should not be in pain. Ultimately, this series of exercises will be part of your warm-up routine.
1. Heel raise
2. Toe grip
3. Dorsi/plantar flexion
4. Toe spread/tap
5. Exaggerated eversion/inversion
6. Grabbing a towel on the floor with toes and pass to other foot
7. Walking in FiveFingers: never underestimate the power of just being barefoot or in FiveFingers. One- to two-hour intervals of general day-to-day activity in your FiveFingers is an excellent way to slowly build the small muscles in the feet and ankles.
Making The Switch To Vibram FiveFingers® or Merrell Barefoot (the following is based on Vibram Five Fingers but applies to any barefoot footwear).
Rule #1: Always listen to your body.
Everybody’s feet are different, so it’s important to listen to yours. Here are some frequently asked questions about running and exercising in Vibram FiveFingers® with answers supplied by the Vibram Medical Advisory Board.
How long will it take to transition to Vibram FiveFingers®?
For some, it is a matter of weeks, for others months, and for a few it could be a year or more. Much is dependent on your foot type, the activities you're using Vibram FiveFingers for, and the amount of pronation you experience. The progression will ultimately be worth the wait, and your foot and body will be stronger and better off for it. The answer lies in your inherent foot and body biomechanics and the condition of your muscles. Just remember, improving the skill of those muscles then practicing and using those muscles in Vibram FiveFingers will increase both endurance and strength. This will have profound beneficial effects on your body and wellbeing. Listen to your body.
My feet hurt after wearing Vibram FiveFingers®. Is this normal?
An adjustment period is normal at first as your feet and lower legs increase strength and mobility. This should decrease after a week or two of use. Remember to transition slowly to build the strength in your lower legs and feet and to minimize discomfort.
I wear orthotics. Can I still wear Vibram FiveFingers®?
Vibram FiveFingers are designed to promote better foot mechanics— naturally. As such, they’re meant to be worn directly against the sole of your foot, allowing your foot to move as if barefoot. An orthotic is an assistive device to support your foot's function and help you compensate for any biological aberrations. Attempting to utilize an orthotic with Vibram FiveFingers would defeat their purpose. If you have an extremely flat foot, you will need to work into wearing your Vibram FiveFingers gradually, as your muscles will need time to adapt and strengthen.