There's a wave of blogs, articles written on the subject of being barefoot, whether it’s running or walking. Topics vary from how to walk and run barefoot, who should or should not be in them, how to start and so on. Some of you may have already tried barefoot walking or running. For some of us this may bring on a discomfort in our feet, calves and legs and effect our gait and posture. Try being barefoot. Remove your shoe, sock and stand on the floor or outside on the grass. How does it feel? Does it hurt? Do you feel the various textures underneath your feet? Spread your toes. Shift your weight back and forth, side-to-side and think of the surface beneath your feet. The nerve endings are “waking up” and start sending signals to your brain.
Now try walking. As the heel strikes does the forefoot flop down to meet the ground? How does that change your posture? By adjusting your initial strike from the heel to the mid or forefoot will decrease the impact on the heel and it will engage the muscles differently in your feet, calves and leg. The length of your stride will probably shorten and you will probably strike the ground underneath your hip. Now try a short little jog or run, you'll find that similar to walking the first contact on the ground will be on the mid or forefoot otherwise the impact on the heel will hurt. The body’s biomechanics changes. When you're barefoot your feet need to do the "work", as well as your legs and hips.
These are my thoughts on being Barefoot whether you are using minimalist or barefoot shoes... It may take months or years for your foot to adapt. By adapting I mean, your body (lower limb and foot particularly) will need to develop body awareness, myofascial and tendonous strength and endurance. I also think if you are a heel striker when running your gate will need to change because heel striking will hurt... and habits are difficult to break therefore my philosophy would be take it slow.
Rules of the game: Get fit.
- Prepare your feet. Get them mobile; strengthen the muscles, tendons, and fascia. Your feet have been in inflexible shoes for years you'll need to do some work for your foot to become mobile and strong.
- Strengthen atrophied musculature.
- Start slowly. I'm not sure that the 10% rule applies here.... Less is better.
- You may start with a minimalist shoe and transition to a barefoot shoe.
Here are a few ways a Registered Massage Therapist can help the transition, and perhaps prevent injuries: