Education

How to Transition to Minimalist Shoes

Posted By Robyn Hughes, ND

Essential Footgear:

Comments
April 16, 2015
Donna Kurimay

My standard walking shoe is a women’s 10.5/5E without toe spacers (with a narrow heal). I have had bunion surgery and bunionette surgery (scraping the arthritic bone on both feet). I also have one surgically “corrected”(?) hammertoe (2nd toe), and on the other foot, the same toe has a cushion underneath. My feet tend to supinate. I wear corrective inserts.

What’s the chance that Lems shoes would work with my feet?

April 16, 2015
Natural Footgear

Hi, Donna,

Thank you for your comments. All of the Lems shoes have exceptionally wide toe boxes. And because they’re widest at the ends of the toes, they usually do well to accommodate bunions and hammertoes. You can read more about natural footwear solutions to these problems here:

www.naturalfootgear.com/blogs/education/tagged/conditions.

Most customers find that the Lems shoes accommodate their inserts, though sometimes removing the included (optional) liner is necessary.

If we can answer any further questions for you, just let us know!

Kind Regards,
Andrew Potter

April 16, 2015
Karen B.

I received my first pair of minimalist shoes 1 week ago and have worn them almost exclusively since then, for treadmill, hiking, and everyday use. I haven’t experienced any of the things described in the article. I like the feel of the ground and the lightness of the shoes. The only side effect I have experienced is slight stretching pain in my calf muscles. I wore my old shoes to the gym by mistake this morning and didn’t like them at all. Is a transition period necessary for everyone?

April 16, 2015
Natural Footgear

Hi, Karen,

Thank you for your question. And thank you for providing some history for us! We’re always happy to hear about individuals who are successfully transitioning to foot-healthy footwear. Calf soreness is quite common among individuals transitioning to minimalist footwear (especially in the lower portion of the calf). In our experience, this transition period is a necessity for most, and we often recommend regulated use for individuals who are undergoing the initial change. As the feet and legs strengthen and adapt, the symptoms usually cease, and this is a good time to fully integrate minimalist footwear into your activities (and hopefully experience the joys of uninhibited natural foot function!).

If you have any further questions or concerns, just send them our way!

Kind Regards,
Andrew Potter

April 16, 2015
BillD

Good article. I am trying to figure out how quickly I can transition to wearing minimalist (Altra) shoes, especially when running trails. I have been mostly wearing zero drop shoes for everyday wear for a few months and a 10 mm drop racing flat for running. Everyday I do stretching exercises for running. One complication that I have is that about 6 weeks ago I hit a root buried in leaves while running and fractured the second bone in my big toe. So, I had to take a month off from running and my toe is still stiff. My podiatrist said that my X-rays were good, but recommended a running shoe with a stiffer sole. However, I now seem fine while running. I was a competitive runner in high school and college and now at 67, I want to get my 10k time under 45 minutes. My plan, which started today, is to wear my Altra shoes for warmup and a mile or two and then to switch to the racing flats for longer or faster running.

April 16, 2015
Natural Footgear

Hi, Bill,

Thank you for your message. We’re happy to hear that you’re planning to transition to minimalist footwear! It’s difficult for us to recommend an exact amount of time needed for the transition, as all individuals respond differently to these types of changes. We often recommend transitioning to a minimal-drop shoe before fully engaging with zero-drop, but in your case, it seems as though you’re already on your way. Your plan to wear them for a warmup before switching to your racing flats sounds like a good idea. The most important thing is to listen to your body and allow proper healing time if and when soreness occurs.

We hope this has been helpful! Please keep us updated on your progress, and if you have any further questions or concerns, please do send them our way!

Kind Regards,
Andrew Potter

April 17, 2015
lotusgdess

Do you have any videos or animated films that actually show visually the way the foot is supposed to make contact with the floor when walking?

April 17, 2015
Natural Footgear

Hi, lotus,

Thank you for your question. This is one of our favorite pages for viewing different kinds of foot strikes:

www.barefootrunning.fas.harvard.edu/4BiomechanicsofFootStrike.html

This page is maintained by Professor Daniel Lieberman, a leader in the field of barefoot biomechanics.

Cheers,
Marty Hughes, DC

April 17, 2015
Marilyn Raskin

Thanks for all the great info, however I am still not sure of which shoe I should buy if all I want to do is walk and perhaps some mild hiking. Do I need to purchase one style shoe and then transition to another style? Please advise.

Thanks,
Marilyn

April 17, 2015
Natural Footgear

Hi, Marilyn,

Thank you for your message. The Lems Boulder Boot (www.naturalfootgear.com/pages/lems-boulder-boots) is a great option for both activities that you mentioned. The Lems Primal 2 (www.naturalfootgear.com/pages/lems-primal-2-shoes) is another fantastic option. Both models are lightweight, flat from heel to toe, and possess a toe box that encourages natural toe splay. If you’re used to wearing conventional footwear, you may want to consider Altra shoes (www.naturalfootgear.com/pages/altra-shoes) as well, as these are great transitional shoes, especially for folks participating in outdoor activities.

Kind regards,
Marty Hughes, DC

June 17, 2016
Sherry

I have had two surgeries for a neuroma. I’m studying various options to relieve pain.

June 17, 2016
Natural Footgear

Hi, Sherry,

Thank you for your message. And thank you for checking out our article. To help guide you in your transition to minimalist shoes and to help you better understand natural approaches to neuromas, I have included some resources here:

Neuromas:
www.naturalfootgear.com/blogs/education/17888848-neuromas

Neuromas Email Course:
www.naturalfootgear.com/pages/do-you-have-foot-pain

Neuromas and Natural Foot Health:
www.naturalfootgear.com/blogs/education/17888880-neuromas-natural-foot-health

Six Ways to Restore Foot Health After Surgery:
www.naturalfootgear.com/blogs/education/17914760-six-ways-to-restore-foot-health-after-surgery

Neuromas: Conventional vs. Natural Approaches:
www.naturalfootgear.com/blogs/education/17888868-neuromas-conventional-vs-natural-approaches

Please do let us know if you have any additional questions!

Kind regards,
Laura Trentman

December 13, 2016
Chris

I tried to convert to barefoot shoes but I seem to have some overpronation issues that cause pain in my hips. Do you have any suggestions on exercises to fix the pronation?

December 13, 2016
Natural Footgear

Hi, Chris,

Thank you for your comment and question. When it comes to pronation, I think it’s important to first understand what pronation is and what causes overpronation. This video is extremely helpful on both counts:

www.naturalfootgear.com/blogs/education/75219013-pronation-vs-overpronation

So, overpronation occurs when the big toe is forced into a deviated position by conventional footwear. It’s important to note that even a lot of “barefoot” or minimalist shoes possess tapering toe boxes, and so even though they are minimalist in all other respects (i.e., lightweight, zero drop, etc.), they may still not be foot-healthy.

My suspicion is that your experience may have been different had your shoes possessed a sufficiently wide toe box to allow for natural toe splay. Proper toe alignment (especially proper big toe alignment) enables natural arch support and helps prevent overpronation.

In terms of exercises to help the overpronation issue, a couple of my favorites include:

Big Toe Stretch:
www.naturalfootgear.com/blogs/education/17856416-big-toe-stretch

Foot Arch Strengthening Exercise:
www.naturalfootgear.com/blogs/education/foot-arch-strengthening-exercise

I hope this info helps!

All best,
Marty Hughes, DC

March 04, 2018
Sandy Kreh

Hi. I’ve been reading all of your information and courses. I feel like I’m ready to put forth the effort in transitioning to a minimalist shoe to help correct my bunion and alleviate the pain of my chronic plantar fasciitis. I live in a very hilly area. How will the hills affect my transition? I won’t be running due to my osteoarthritis and the severe pain in my heels, just walking. Also, can any of the shoes you promote be worn to play tennis?

March 04, 2018
Natural Footgear

Hi, Sandy,

Thank you for your comment. We’re happy to hear that you’re transitioning to more minimalist and foot-healthy shoes!

There are some very important factors to consider when making the transition, and the type of activity and terrain definitely come into play. Walking up and down hills is significantly more strenuous than walking on the flats, and it can take some time for the proper adaptations to occur in the lower leg, especially as it concerns the Achilles tendon and the muscles and other tissues near the shin (not to mention the foot itself).

Patience is key throughout the transition period, so we’d recommend wearing your new shoes on flat surfaces only and for short periods of time at first. As your feet and lower legs strengthen and you gain foot and toe flexibility, you can increase the amount of time you wear the shoes and take casual walks up and downhill.

Any of the athletic shoes we offer can be a great option for tennis, but again, we wouldn’t recommend wearing them for athletic activities until you’ve comfortably made the transition to minimalist footwear. You can view all of our women’s athletic shoe options by clicking this link:

www.naturalfootgear.com/collections/womens-shoes

Be sure to check out the info under the “Sizing” tab on each individual product page before ordering.

I hope this information has been helpful. If you have further questions throughout the transition process, please don’t hesitate to let us know. We’re happy to help!

Kind Regards,
Andrew Potter

March 11, 2018
Linda Turkaly

I need a shoe that has a wide toe box (for hammertoes) and a thin sole. Plus they must be lightweight. I have severe neuropathy and have difficulty walking with a thick-soled shoe. I also need to wear a shoe that has a narrow heel area. Do you make a shoe like this?

March 11, 2018
Natural Footgear

Hi, Linda,

Thank you for your message. We have a number of footwear options that fit your criteria. In Altra shoes, we offer the Vali and the Escalante, both of which have very wide toe boxes and a relatively narrow heel:

www.naturalfootgear.com/collections/womens-altra-shoes

In Lems shoes, we offer the Primal 2 and Boulder Boot. The Primal 2 is excellent for a variety of activities, including walking, gym workouts, hiking, and general everyday use. The Boulder Boot is an extremely versatile and minimalist boot that can be worn hiking or around town:

www.naturalfootgear.com/collections/womens-lems-primal-2-shoes
www.naturalfootgear.com/collections/womens-lems-boulder-boots

We also carry the Ahinsa Ananda Ballerina, which is a dress shoe, or a more stylish everyday shoe. The Ballerinas have a very thin sole in addition to the other features you’re looking for:

www.naturalfootgear.com/products/ahinsa-ananda-ballerina-black

Also, if you’re having trouble finding shoes with a tight enough fit in the heel, we’d recommend trying Tuli’s heel cups. These heel cups are helpful for a variety of foot problems, and they can also serve to provide a more snug and comfortable fit in the heel. You can find Tuli’s heel cups here:

www.naturalfootgear.com/products/tulis-heel-cups

I hope this information is helpful! Be sure to check out the “Sizing” tab on each individual product page, as some footwear models are sized differently than others. If we can help with anything else moving forward, please do let us know!

Kind Regards,
Andrew Potter

March 30, 2018
Heather Espana

Thank you so much for this article! I’ve searched far and wide, and this has been the most thorough and informative resource that I’ve found.

I desperately want to make the switch to minimalist shoes, but I am having difficulty deciding exactly when and how to transition.

Some background: I have a 7 mm (skeletal) leg length difference. I was given a heel lift in high school (I’m 33 now), and in my early twenties I got orthotics with a lift and have worn them ever since. I still had (and have) a lot of foot pain, and I was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis. I also have fibromyalgia, so sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference between my everyday average pain and pain I can do more to correct.

My question is, would/should my body adapt to not having that 7 mm lift anymore? Should I decrease the heel lift gradually? Or wear minimalist shoes, but continue to wear a lift?

Thank you for your help!

March 30, 2018
Natural Footgear

Hi, Heather,

Thank you for your comment. And thank you for your kind words about the article!

Most folks with a skeletal leg length discrepancy tend to do best with a full-length foot lift, so that the heel alone is not elevated. You might consider chatting with a local foot care provider to get additional insights about how to simultaneously manage your leg length discrepancy and your desire to transition to minimalist shoes.

Good luck to you!

Kind regards,
Marty Hughes, DC

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