We all know that getting closer to natural is bringing about huge benefits when it comes to footwear (if you haven’t already done so, see our ‘BAREFOOT BENEFITS’ blog), but like most aspects of foot health and health in general, it is always wise to engage in a mindful and cautious transition to a new and more natural approach.
Contrary to what modern physicians will have you believe, our feet are wonderful, adaptable and more than capable of performing their intended function without any interference (such as arch support or cushioning etc), but after years of being conditioned away from their most natural state (thanks to fashion dictating the construction of footwear, rather than common sense), feet will require some time, patience and diligence to return to their natural glory. What this means is that moving to barefoot/minimal footwear, will require a progressive approach, often in stages.
We’ve already established that you need to GIVE AN ‘F’ ABOUT THE FOUR F’S by mainly (if not exclusively) wearing shoes that are
FEATHER LIGHT; and
It’s important to remember though that FREEING YOUR FEET is a process that requires transition. Here are some things you can do to assist you in moving from conventional to minimal footwear:
Build Sole Tolerance:
The soles of our feet are designed to be sensitive because their main job is to feel the surroundings and to transmit messages to the brain. Based on this messaging, the brain in turn controls necessary responsiveness and adjustments (i.e overall movements) during gait.
Sadly, a lifetime of wearing inappropriate footwear, namely thick soled/cushioned/structured shoes, has prevented our soles from functioning and FEELING, as intended. This is why initially wearing thin and flat shoes can seem strange and uncomfortable - all of that plush cushioning that we’re taught to seek out is suddenly missing.
The good news is that this is normal, it passes and all of that unnatural ‘cushion conditioning’ can be reversed. This is what the transition process can help you to achieve. For some people, they will take to barefoot shoes like a fish to water, however others will be more bothered by that ‘hard’ feeling of the ground (as opposed to that ‘walking on clouds’ feeling that we’re told is beneficial, but actually is far from it).
The key here is to build up the soles’ tolerance and one way to achieve this is to wear additional inner soles in your PaperKrane shoes when you purchase your first pair.
Inner soles are relatively affordable and accessible and come in different thicknesses. At first, those who are used to highly cushioned shoes, may need to start with a slightly padded inner sole, following which they can make the change to a thinner inner sole option. How long this takes is very individual, but as soon as you feel more adjusted and even comfortable with the thicker inner sole, it’s time to make the change to a less padded option.
Most of our customers never use the store bought inner soles, and make the transition to barefoot without them, however if you really do feel an abrupt and bothersome contrast between our shoes and your conventional footwear, there is nothing wrong with commencing your barefoot journey with store bought inner soles, just until you’ve gotten used to the new feeling.
Once you remove the added inner soles, please note that this doesn’t mean that you should don your PaperKrane shoes and immediately go for a 10km walk - now is not the time to get cocky! Take it slowly at this stage too.
Start off by wearing your PaperKrane shoes for shorter walks and strolls, perhaps for half an hour at a time (go slow and do what feels right for you). As you build tolerance, you will be able to wear them for longer periods. Eventually, you will look back at your old conventional footwear and wonder how you ever walked in those squishy bricks!
You can find basic flat insoles for a few dollars at your closest supermarket. Kiwi Comfort insoles are a good option. Just flip over the insole and ignore their non-foot-shaped markings, trim down to fit your PKs shape instead.
Take your Time:
It took years of wearing incorrect footwear to create the foot problems that so many of us experience these days. Plenty of foot deformities such as bunions and ingrown toe nails etc are borne of narrow footwear that pushed the toes inwards rather than allowing them to form their natural splay.
It’s hardly surprising therefore that years of mistreating our feet cannot be remedied overnight. Like any other limb, body part or muscle that has been prevented from moving as intended, our feet will have lost strength and mobility over the years and will require time to return to their factory settings. Thus you may feel initial mild discomfort and fatigue in your feet when wearing minimal shoes at first. This is not abnormal (although any sharp or intolerable pain is, so please seek the advice of your practitioner in this instance).
Be patient and take your time. There are plenty of podiatrists and physiotherapists who offer a wealth of information on building optimal function and mobility through your feet. Give yourself a lovely foot massage at the end of the day and monitor your body’s response with each new wear. Believe us this initial period, if engaged in with patience, mindfulness and care, will breed significant long term gains.
Heel Strikers Beware:
Conventional shoes often have thick and elevated heels, as well as an abundance of unnecessary cushioning in the heel area. This has created a pandemic of heel strikers - meaning when you walk, you hit the ground heel first.
When we have cushioned soles to absorb the shock, our heels may feel wonderful despite slamming into the ground consistently. Rest assured though, whilst your feet may feel great, other areas of your body will pay for that ‘walking on clouds’ feeling.
When wearing barefoot shoes, heel strikers in particular will likely feel discomfort in their heels, but the great news is that your amazing and intuitive body will change its gait in order to prevent you from doing something that is causing the discomfort. This is precisely what our feet were designed to do - feel the ground beneath them and send messages to the brain that then determine macro movements during gait.
It’s not good for your body to slam your heels into the ground with every step, and so the pain you feel in your feet when doing so, is your body’s way of saying ‘stop doing this’. We shouldn’t ignore this by cushioning our heels, we should adjust the behaviour by letting our feet, brain and body communicate together - something that wearing barefoot shoes will help you to achieve.
When wearing your new PaperKranes at first, be mindful and pay attention. It is important to follow your body’s cues rather than actively trying to change your stride - let your body talk to you and show you how it wants you to move.
IMPORTANT: Always avoid pushing through significant pain, limping or deliberately trying to counter a heel strike with a forefoot strike. Anything that feels unnatural or significantly painful is not correct so please do not push through, and once again, seek out the advice of your practitioner where necessary.
Barefoot Shoes and Bare Feet:
It goes without saying that where possible, barefoot is best. Try and incorporate some safe barefoot time into your daily routine, even if it’s only around your house at first. The more you engage with your feet and allow them to splay naturally and feel the ground they’re on, the closer you will get to rebuilding their natural strength and mobility.
There are plenty of amazing podiatrists out there who promote the barefoot and minimal shoe life, and there are a wealth of exercises that can be incorporated into your daily routine in order to assist with your transition from conventional to barefoot shoes.
We can’t stress enough though, make sure to stay in tune with your feet and body. At no stage of this transition process should you ever feel sharp or severe pain, and nor should you engage in the process of switching from conventional to barefoot shoes in a rushed or impatient manner. If in doubt, please be sure to consult with a qualified health professional.