I’m going to write a short series of posts on my experience and research into minimalist and “barefoot” styles. Today I’ll talk a bit about the transition to minimalist footwear.

The first minimalist shoes I tried were a pair of martial art shoes I already had. They fit the definition for “minimalist” since the sole was very flexible and only a 4 mm “rise” from toe to heel. They worked fine to begin with. Of course I’m on my feet for several hours a day. After 2 hours no problem. After 4 hours my feet were getting a little sore. After about 6 yours my feet were on *fire*. Fortunately, I had brought my regular shoes and changed into them, much to the relief of my poor feet.

I realized that my foot plantar muscles were probably very atrophied (wimpy) from all that great support my feet were getting from “good” shoes and orthodics. My foot muscles had very little to do and got real lazy. Over the next few days I switched back and forth between my martial art shoes (Tiger claws, available for $25-50) and my dress shoes. I have been able to wear the minimalist shoes for longer and longer periods as my muscles developed. Now I can wear them all day long.

The lesson here is to ease into this kind of change, especially if you’re putting extra stress on your feet by being in them all day or running.

The other interesting thing is that I probably have been weakening my feet by giving them too much support. I’m still deciding whether minimalist or barefoot footwear will be the best approach for most people but I’m becoming convinced that we all should spend some time every day walking barefoot or with minimal shoe support. This will allow our foot and other muscles to get some exercise as well as more proprioceptive stimulation to our foot receptors.