A New Way to Walk

It’s been a few weeks since we bought our Vibrams and I haven’t given very much of an update on them so here goes. I love these shoes! They are truly amazing. They are like wearing gloves on your feet. I was worried they would feel restrictive or tight but they don’t. You hardly feel them they are so light! It’s noticeably different from wearing traditional running or athletic shoes.

I want to stress that wearing Vibrams, or other minimalist footwear, is not just about wearing a different shoe. It’s about changing your biomechanics and walking or running in a totally different way. Minimalist footwear is designed to encourage forefoot or midfoot striking. When walking forefoot, the ball of your foot is the first to make contact with the ground and the muscles in your feet and lower legs support your body as your heel comes down after. Midfoot strike is landing flat footed. (Really, it’s not a bad thing.) Our greatest problem with shoes today is that they provide so much cushion and support that the muscles in our feet and lower legs are weakened by not having to do the work themselves.

Let me tell you, walking forefoot is awkward the first few times. I didn’t like it. I thought I probably looked weird and I felt like I wasn’t really walking for exercise because I couldn’t walk with the long stride that I’m accustomed to. But my legs and feet let me know it wasn’t a waste of time. My calves were sore for about a week after walking (more like strolling and stopping frequently) for a few hours. I think it was three or four miles we walked that day.

Your feet come down closer to your hips, almost underneath you if you walk midfoot or forefoot. After getting out a few more times and practicing, it’s coming more easily now. It still takes a lot of concentration for me to do but that’s ok. I know that eventually it will come naturally.

Running forefoot is much easier than walking. It feels very natural to run on the balls of your feet and not be striking your heel and jarring your body with each step. I have not had any trouble with that transition, but I have to remind myself to take it slow so my body can build up the muscles in my legs and feet.

If you’re thinking about trying barefoot walking or running, or minimalist footwear, keep in mind that it will take lots of work to re-program your body mechanics – don’t push too hard, too fast.  

Read more technical tips and information here. And check out a great video, it’s not long and is beautiful filming.

Also, if you’re brave, Your Day Without Shoes is coming up on June 11th. 🙂

Good walking leaves no track behind it.
~ Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching

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2 comments

  1. Hi Jessica,
    Congrats on trying minimalist footwear! I thought I’d share a point about walking in minimalist footwear: while walking naturally (no matter if you’re barefoot or in minimalist footwear) is still biomechanically correct to land on your heel. If the ground is flat and relatively smooth, you can still land on your heel, close to your body with a short stride, transfer the weight along the medial side of your foot, and lift from the big toe. Forefoot walking all the time is not really necessary. If the ground is uneven or rough, your brain generally automatically makes the switch to forefoot landing because it gives your body more stability and reaction time in case you need to lift your foot from something sharp, and is a more gentle landing. Minimalist running is always on the forefoot, however.
    Have fun with it and enjoy the journey,
    Tina

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    1. Thanks for the feedback Tina! I appreciate the distinction between walking forefoot all the time or just when desired or needed. I didn’t think to differentiate when I wrote my post. When I wear my vibrams it’s generally for the sake of working out, so I make the effort to walk forefoot for that little extra something. But there are plenty of times I’ve noticed that walking on my heel, say at the grocery store while still wearing my vibrams feels fine. I do still have to make an effort to shorten my stride through because if I don’t, I fall back into old habits of a very long stride with a heavy heel. When I wear heels I sound like a herd of elephants. 🙂

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