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My first real minimalist walk: is some degree of pain normal?

Hello everyone,

Though this isn't a question pertaining exclusively to footwear, I hope this forum is an appropriate enough place to put it.

For much of my life - as far back into my thirty or so years as I can remember, anyway - I've worn "normal" shoes and boots. My interest in minimalist footwear started some months ago after having bad luck with a number of pairs of work boots. Nothing about these was low quality (save, for the effects they had on my feet), and the price reflected that.

Yet, after bad foot and leg fatigue, toes that screamed to be let free and a weird-feeling gait (stomping down with my heels against my will and a twisted ankle), I discovered - maybe rediscovered - the idea that all these raised heels and cramped toe boxes and supports and all that are not such a good thing, after all. My experience seemed to validate this theory.

I recently purchased two pairs of footwear - Run Amoc Dash, which I have yet to test, and a pair of Arrow Moccasins - the "Lace Boot", seen here:

(No affiliation, by the way! - and there are better pictures found via an image search.)

I got the double-sole version (double leather soles). The guy behind the operation is pleasant to deal with and patient, even with a worrier like me, and the leather on this is amazing stuff - thick, strong and heady smelling. I'd check 'em out! Custom made to tracings of your feet and you're supporting an independent, traditional business.

ANYWAY - before it sounds like I'm lying about having no affiliation, ha ha - I wore these for a course of errand-running today; I figure I walked a good five or more kilometers in them.

Most of the walking was done on sidewalks and pavement, though I noticed a strong tendency to walk on the snow-covered grass and soil beside the sidewalk - the natural ground felt better underfoot.

Even though 2 leather pieces each up to 1/4" thick may comprise the double-sole, I could definitely feel changes in the terrain underfoot, and the thick leather was still more flexible, giving and less supporting than the rubber-soled footwear to which I've been accustomed.

I had to remind my body to not heel-strike hard, and it took a concious effort. I'm also not sure what to do with my gait, how much my knees should be bending, etc.

I'm certain I have some postural imbalances - a bit of swayback, some joint laxity, and probably tight hips and lower back stiffness...knee pain - haven't been able to run more than a very short distance with any confidence on account of it for years...yadda yadda ya...and I walk around the house barefoot frequently, as well as to step out and check the mail, etc. - but walking a longer distance on pavement, with a loaded backpack on is a different story.

Here's what I noticed:

-I can't seem to take strides that are as long as what I usually do

-I experienced a fair bit of pain - not really joint pain, but muscle or other soft tissue pain on the undersides of my feet, a bit in the arch and more on the bottom of the forefoot/ball of the foot areas.

-When I got home, my feet were kind of sore and uncomfortable.

-My calf muscles definitely felt worked out.

-At the same time, there was a distinct absence of pain in the top part of my leg - I guess, the bottom of my shin bone that joins to the top part of my foot where the foot can flex (above the ankle) - and that area usually gets quite sore and tired after just a block of walking in "normal" shoes.

Having said all that (sorry, this isn't a short first post!), is the pain I experienced a usual thing - ie, muscles that haven't been used this way over any considerable distance in quite a long time, if ever?

Any suggestions on loosening up my stride (or whatever "proper" barefoot/minimal walking technique is)?

I appreciate your input.


Barefoot Science Foot Strengthening System

My knees and feet are structurally unsound genetically. My ankle bones sag downwards on the inside about 10 or 12 degrees. I am extremely knock-kneed and have been aware of that since I was a teenager. I have a horrific Q angle. I wore orthotics for all of this plus plantar fascitis which I was told would never go away. It went away when I was on bed rest for something else and quit wearing the orthotics.

There's one therapist who refuses to speak to me because I said, "Explain why foot pain is more enjoyable than knee pain. I'm listening."

She's also infuriated because I wear moccs instead of "proper" shoes.

I'm getting near a point now. Damien told me to try Barefoot Science footbeds. You are supposed to wear each level for a week then go to the next.

I got stuck at the 2nd stage for a month. My feet were working out like mad, sometimes so much I could not stand it and had to quit for a day or 2 and go without them to rest from the exercise because I could not take it anymore.

Something big is going on here. I'm starting the 3rd step tomorrow. I decided I'm ready because my feet have not protested in a couple days.


how I got here

I spend years working on cement and asphalt. I jogged in mid-range price shoes because I was in the USAF and was not allowed to be fairly chunky, which seems to run in the family.

I've had orthotics, been put in casts just to hold my foot still and keep me from using it for plantar fascitis. I've had those steroid shots in the sole of the foot. I've also called one doctor who gave me that fabulous shot such vile things that he bragged to another doctor about it, who came in and asked me about it very delicately because I was the 1st woman to ever use those exact words in their office and I don't normally act that way. On another occasion, I did manage to hold my breath until I passed out and the third time I made such a horrific keening noise that medics came to the door to check and I did not even realize I was the one making that noise until they were nearly finished with me.

I just had bone spurs removed and had both my big toes fused to the metatarsals because the bones on each end had resembld a road map for years and the cracking crumbling mess was causing me great pain. At the same time, I had not worn a high heel shoe in 15 years and had not worked standing on cement in 10.

I started wearing moccs after the operations because regular shoes did not fit anymore. My feet were high and wide before, now they are much, much more so, possibly because I only wore scuff style house slippers, moccs and sandals for 3 years during the operations and recovery.

I came to realize my knee problems were much less and began to throw out shoes that were not helping. I'd like to live entirely in zero drop shoes with flexible soles because they are helping me with my foot and knee health.

I've also just started making my own shoes with a sewing machine. I want to talk to people that make their shoes and people that think their health has been improved.

Doctors wanted me in more and more complicated orthotic devices forever. I just got tired of the pain and walked away from it all and decided to get better on my own because they weren't really helping. I still have problems with my feet and knees, but I'm much better.


VivoBarefoot's "Barefoot Running Coach app"

This app looks interesting:

It will be launched on Wednesday, and the launch event (in London, UK) will include a presentation by Lee Saxby at 7pm BST (UCT+1)

"This app closely follows the coaching methodology of Lee Saxby, allowing you to compare yourself to common running forms. Following Saxby’s mantra: Posture, Rhythm and Relaxation, along with foot strike, you will be able to self-diagnose your form and learn tips and drills to help you transition to skillful barefoot running."


Minimalist injury?

Well I've injured my foot and feeling a bit glum about it. Anyone else experiencing any injury possibly caused by going barefoot? Anyone have experience in needing to do less bare footing?

So here's the background info. I've been barefoot/minimalist for 2 1/2 years now. I generally believe I have strong well developed feet and never wear traditional shoes these days. I work on my technique to be a mid foot striker with knees betpnt etc.

Recently I've significantly increased my level of activity from normal hiking to some long days hiking fast and hard for an endurance event I'm working on. Training involved hiking 60ks mostly in off track country and running 5-16ks. When I push hard on longer trips I am getting some strong pain under my big toe which I believe to be Sesamoiditis. After resting for a couple of weeks the pain goes away. Unfortunately it came back when I did a 13k run yesterday (merrel road gloves).

I'm finding it hard to find some information that understand why we go barefoot/minimalist. Most health professionals I've spoken to and sites I've visted believe in padding, arch support and orthotics.

I plan on letting my foot recover and then to try and do something in slightly more traditional footwear. I'm not sure if this will help.

Any comments, help or recommendations welcome.


Hello from Fort Wayne Indiana

Hello to all, I am from Fort Wayne. I have been here since 1980, having been in the service before that.I was born and raised in New England. Mystic Ct to be exact. Growing up I was never into physical fitness at all. It was not until I was in the Navy Reserve that I took up running as part of the Navy physical Fitness program. Long story short, I have been running for about 25 plus years. I also swim laps 3 days a week.

Recently about 2 months ago I purchased a pair of Vibrams KSO off of Ebay. I started to walk and slow run in them and am now up to 30-40 minutes of a continuous run. I have managed to get a big blister on the bottom of my Right big toe. Having read quite a few barefoot/minimalist sites I corrected my form. Now I run free of aches that I would get with traditional running shoes......


Hi, from Los Angeles

In 1996 I was a sophomore in high school when I started playing with the idea of shoes that connected the form of the foot to the ground. I think it was during an English class that I started doodling designs. To my chagrin and dismay I lost interest, because that's what sophomore boys do...and pursued teaching, because everyone else told me I should.

A couple years ago I ran my first marathon in some traditional running shoes (Nike Air Pegasus) and damaged my knees and ligaments in my foot...I knew something was wrong. I'm so pleased to see such a burgeoning community of like minded thinkers...and a renaissance in footwear.

I guess I should have dropped out of high school and started making shoes.

Anyway, I love my Vibrams...but I'm really encouraged to see mainstream manufacturers getting on board with 0 drop tech, and super flexible soles.

I'm now a personal trainer, and the first step for all my clients is to get their feet on the ground.

Walk On.


Podiatrist talks barefoot

I attended a workshop today regarding athletic shoes and orthotics. To my surprise there was a section on barefoot running. I was only Pedorthist (and only one that has tried barefooting and still is) out 100 podiatrists attending so don't shoot the messenger, I'm just repeating what I heard. The instructor talked about heel vs forefoot striking, cadence, Vo2 max, foot training/strengthening and shoe design. Everything in the discussion was based on scientific evidence and not anecdotal (he says).

He started off the talk about Abebe Bikila, the 1st Olympic barefoot runner. He went to say how great it was that was able to accomplish this feat. Then said "how many has there been since then?" "only 3 or 4" "If they thought they would win barefoot why are they all wearing shoes now?" "Athletes are only going to things to help them win" "will a forefoot runner beat a heel striker? NO!" He knows of no one that trains 100% barefoot, all use it as a supplement to shod running.

Some of the problems mentioned were decrease in Vo2 max due shorter strides, stress fractures, peroneal/posterior tendonitis. One thing he said that I thought was interesting is when someone transitions to BF they complain of plantar fascitis. He said 9/10 it is not, the have strained the intrinsic plantar muscles that are above the fascia. Another positive thing was that people that have patellofemoral pain improve when the get out shoes, forefoot running puts less stress on the knees. Also talked about strengthening and proper transitioning.

He picked apart minimalist shoes, lack of torsional stabilty, no cushioning, too flexible, no toe spring, no heel rise. VFF, Saucony and Nike were the only shoes he brought in. All in all the Dr. were not impressed with the barefoot "fad".


Help with ITBS

I've got ITBS in my left leg/knee. I have been using a foam roller and taking time off but I can't seem to shake it. Any help would be great. Thanks.


time to adjust to bare feet

I have been going barefoot for 5 months now and I am wondering how long it should take until the feet will not hurt after a day of working. The hurt I refer to is the connecting ligaments between the toes and bones in the top of the feet and the plantar tendon. I should mention I am not running but I do maintenance around a cottage resort. I am up and down a hill all day. Carrying loads of lumber or what have you. the ground is mixed forest, grass and sandy scree. By the end of day when I sit for awhile my feet hurt for the first few steps when I get up.... not just the plantar facitias issue but between the bones in the instep. I have high arches, spent years in the gym so have what would be termed over developed calves so I understand this can be a problem for the plantar issue. Thanks Geoff


I'm not a runner...

I'm not a runner. Or at least I never thought I was. I was no stranger to the outdoors, I enjoyed a stroll through the woods, knew my wild eatable plants, my camping skills, but sports held no draw for me. I never saw the point of punishing my body for an artifical score.

In high school I dislocated a kneecap with the help of a school bully, and I never got better. Sure, the knee got stronger, and mostly functions like a normal knee today, but the pain migrated out of the knee and took up residency in the rest of my body, wandering about from part to part as it saw fit. The doctors called it Fibromyalgia, which basically means "we have no clue, but it looks like these other patients we have no clue about."

My fibromyalgia was kept "under control" with muscle relaxants and pain killers, but any sudden increase in activity would bring about a flare-up, and avoiding increases in activity led to decreases in activity and a long slow decline.

Sometime in college I realized that one of my major pains was related to my shoes. In an old pair of shoes my bad hip would ache more than in a new pair of shoes. There's a family hip condition that my pediatrician said we'd "keep an eye on", so I didn't think too much of it, and counted myself lucky to have such a mild form. I assumed the problem was related to the uneven shoe wear that results from the odd alignment of my hip. I started replacing my shoes every six months like a good little consumer. I continued to decline slowly.

I was training a dog as a mobility assistance dog, and considering that I might someday have to join the growing ranks of Fibromyalgia patients on disability.

Then one day the hip pain returned with a vengeance, while I was wearing 7 day old shoes. I looked at the soles, no wear pattern. I looked at the previous shoes, much less wear than it used to take before I replaced shoes. I found if I switched between two or three pairs of shoes in a constant rotation, I could get by, but the pain was getting pretty intense just sitting in my office chair at work for long periods. I would come home from work, take piles of painkillers and try to sleep it off.

Soon after, while trying to figure out what to do, came my sister's wedding. Mom was ill and there was no professional wedding coordinator, so I was on my feet doing the little things a bride shouldn't have to do for herself all day long. I was wearing dress flats, since I was never coordinated enough to wear heels, which had no arch support and made my feet hurt, but my hip was fine. Near the end of the day, I was trying to move the car and my feet started cramping.

My feet were cramping? Common wisdom is that there are no major muscles there, but 15 years of living with fibromyalgia related cramping made it very clear what the arch pain was. I had overworked muscles in my feet and they were curling up in rebellion. But my hip was fine. Suddenly things those crazy barefooters had said made sense. Barefooting might not just be a crazy fad, but rather a real solution to my problem.

After the wedding I shopped around for a pair of shoes that was flat, had no arch support, and didn't pinch my toes, to no avail. I had had moccasins from a prepunched kit in the past that didn't fit well at all. Then I did what I always do: make what you can't buy. My first pair of homemade shoes were "ruby slippers" made from a couple layers of some Christmas brocade, and suitable for indoor use only. My hip felt great when I took indoor walk breaks in them. I decided the experiment was worth continuing, and ordered some leather to make a proper pair of moccasins.

Life was not peaches and cream right after the moccasins were finished and I went full time in minimalist shoes. My heels hurt, my arches hurt, and I could barely shuffle through my desk job day. But my hip felt better. Sore feet actually get better when you can sit down, the misaligned hip previously had me in tears for good parts of the day. I considered this a good trade.

I was soon hobbling 0.25 miles a day, just down to the corner, to the fire hydrant and back, or down to the trail entrance and back. I had a lot of foot pain, but movement was my new antidote to hip pain, and I was going to keep it at bay no matter the cost. Then after about three months, it started getting better. Normal life didn't cause foot pain, 0.25 miles was an pleasant little stroll, and I slowly upped my distance. I joined a gym with an indoor track and a hot tub. (A magic combination.) On the track, I not only walked, but occasionally jogged a lap. Last month I managed 1.2 km, half running.

I have a long way to go, but so far I've been able to recover from every setback, and for the first time in 15 years I'm seeing an overall slow improvement instead of a slow decline. Maybe I'll never run a marathon or win a 5k, but I'm finding out what my real capabilities are, finding health in the process, and maybe even becoming a runner.

Denise Skidmore AKA Hobbler Turning Cobbler


Confessions of an Englishman

Hi Guys,

Thank you for accepting me into your forum.

You maybe thinking that the title of forum topic is a bit weird but it was borne from a recent event.

My son of 7 had is his first confession prior to communion and as we talked about it he had to think of things to confess about. The usual came out such as being mean to his older brother, not listening his teachers etc. and then he asked me if I had anything to confess. Took me a back a bit as I haven't been to confession for some years and overall I have been what I believe to be a good person. It took me a few days of thought and then I realized that the biggest, baddest confession I had to make was to admit that I had in my previous vocation damaged people's health. In my previous profession I used to issue rigid orthotics, in fact I was so good at it that I was paid my normal wage plus a bonus.

I now run barefoot, preach barefoot walking and running and now also work for a company that has the same ethics that I have about the whole principle of being barefoot when it is possible and when it isn't to find the next available solution.

I am so looking forward to being part of this forum. And I hope you accept my confession without judging me too much.

BTW I watched my boys tear up the field in their bi-annual cross country 5K today both fitted out in ZEM Gear shoes fitted with Barefoot Science insoles. What an awesome combination.



Arches of Our Ancestor "Lucy"

Interesting article about "Lucy", or Australopithecus Afarensis, and a new fossil find that determines she stood upright because of the existence of arches in the feet of A. Afarensis. The interesting part of the article to barefoot runners is the explanation of the biological function of the arches in our ancestors feet. Something we have, for some reason (marketing), decided to negate in the design of modern running shoes.