We've told you a little about us, and how we see ourselves as a footwear to aid in transitioning to zero drop or even just a more minimalist style of footwear. We also told you how we feel about the words "drop" and "stack" and how they are the two most important words when it comes to picking out footwear.
So now that you're ready to transition, how do you actually get started?
There are a great number of good ways to start, but we'll give you a few of our favorites, and to be honest, some of the easiest.
The easiest way to start the transition is to just take your shoes off and start doing some barefoot living. There are a lot of places you have to wear shoes, your home is not one of them. Leave your shoes at the door. It gives your feet time to breath and relax. Understandably, this may be uncomfortable for some folks who may only shower, swim and sleep barefoot. If this is the case, get yourself a cheap pair of slippers from your local department store and ease your way in. Slippers don't have the supports your shoes do, and the lack of supports is really what you're after. Not only does taking your shoes off help your feet to get used to the feeling of freedom, it keeps your house cleaner! It's a win-win.
Another easy place to take your shoes off is the office. Many folks stuck at a desk doing office work can slip their shoes on and off easily under the desk. Even if you're not walking around, it's good to get the feet out of shoes and let them move freely.
Running barefoot or in minimalist footwear requires more muscles in your feet as you replace the “supports” of traditional running shoes with the natural pre-existing “supports” you already have in your feet. Most of the muscles we need to develop are in the forefoot. While simply taking off your shoes is a great place to start, consciously building the necessary muscles in our feet is also a great help. These are some exercises that can help develop the muscles in your feet as well as give your nerve endings a bit of a workout, too.
1. Try standing on one foot and just maintaining balance. You may have to start with your arms out; if this is the case work to bring them down to your side. Over time you'll get comfortable and can stand on one foot without an issue; now try closing your eyes. When you close your eyes you'll shut down one of your major balance cues and will have to rely more on muscle control and proprioception in your feet and legs. It's hard. Another simple variation of the standing on one foot balance trick is to point the toes of your floating foot, and write your name in the air with your toes. You can try moving your foot at the ankle, or lock your ankle for more of a whole leg movement. This works ankle flexibility and/or leg strength as well as balance. If a hard floor is too easy, you can try balancing on a pillow or something softer.
2. Another good exercise is to put a smallish object on the floor – a marble, bouncy ball, pencil. Stand above it and try to pick it up with your toes. The easiest place to pick something up is between your second and third toes. The big toe also helps, but as you move out towards the fourth and fifth toes grasping things will become harder if not impossible. Consciously, work the toes to grasp the object, don't just jam it between your toes by stepping down as this defeats the purpose. If you're up for some real fun go ahead and see how far you can throw the object – with your foot.
3. Lastly – to get started – is an exercise that partly develops strength but almost does more to teach your mind where your toes are. If you think about your fingers, you know where they are; you can consciously feel them and move them at will (you also use them every day). Now try the same thing with your toes. It's much harder. Chances are for most of your life they've been confined inside a box. Now you're setting them free. Sit down and straighten one leg with your foot pointing upwards. Look at your big toe. Wiggle it. Do the rest of your toes wiggle with it? Try to move your big toe without moving the rest of your toes, it's tricky, but can be done over time. Try separating your toes. Start by attempting to move your pinky toe outward. It takes time and effort, but eventually you can train your muscles and nerve endings to be more aware of your toes.
None of these exercises are particularly serious and can be done just about anywhere. As you progress, you'll be able to introduce more strenuous exercises that require more work from your feet. While these exercises won't guarantee success and ease when it comes to transitioning, they will certainly aid in the process. And even if you don't plan on transitioning to more minimal footwear, these exercises will strengthen your feet, giving you a stronger, healthier foundation, thereby allowing the rest of your body (core, leg muscles, etc) to focus on their specific jobs. But that is a post for another day. And remember, you have a left and a right foot!