Today we’ll build on your better foot position and address those slick little kicks nearly every runner obsesses over: shoes. Specifically, we’ll talk about shoes in our second Standard:
#2 Flat Shoes
Surely-unless you have just discovered the internet and modern civilization-have heard whispers of this species of athletic shoes termed “minimalist footwear”. This category of shoe offers several unique features: a wider toe box instead of the tapered shape of many classic athletic shoes; a lack of extra heel cushioning to the degree that the heel of the shoe is level with the front of the shoe; and zero arch support. The main function of a minimalist shoe is to allow a foot to act like a foot. If you have followed this site for any legitimate length of time, you should be well-schooled now on the importance of your feet functioning as they were designed to.
Let me add one last nail to the coffin of the minimalist footwear/barefoot strength debate: The null hypothesis for the natural state of your feet states that the normal condition in your feet function best is without shoes. In order for you to refute this hypothesis, please forward me the research that demonstrates an improvement in the performance of your feet when you put on those $150 motion-control running shoes. Can’t find it? O.K., send me the research that selecting the right running shoe makes you less likely to get injured running. Can’t find it? So why are you wasting your money on those shoes?
Lest you get overly excited now and open a new tab in your web browser to order yourself a new pair of minimalist running shoes, slow your scroll, cowboy. The only thing more certain than death and taxes is that you will injure yourself if you transition to minimal footwear the day you get your mitts on those new kicks. You need supervision. This isn’t difficult but it does take a measure of daily consistency and a healthy dose of discipline. The outline is as simple to read as it is to follow.
The Rules for Making a Healthy Transition to Flat Shoes
- Apply at least 1 mobility drill and 1 strength drill for your feet every day. This post will walk you through some of our favorites.
- No shoes worn inside. Make bare feet, or at least sock-feet, the new normal in your home.
- If you’ve walked barefoot in your home for at least a week without pain or soreness, start walking to the end of your driveway and back in bare feet. After a week of driveway walking, start walking to the end of your block and back. After a week of that, walk around your block. The idea here is progressive overload and building some tissue resilience.
- When you can walk barefoot around your block and not wake up sore or stiff as a board the next morning, you’re ready to start transitioning to you flat running shoes.
- While transitioning, always use your flat shoes at the beginning of your runs, when your feet are their strongest. Start by running the first 10 percent of your runs in your flat shoes. Then switch back to your old shoes for the rest of your run. Use the soreness rules. If your feet aren’t sore for more than 48 hours after your run, you can add 10 percent more distance each week.
- If at any point you have pain or soreness that last longer than 2 days, you need to back down a week. Keep working on your foot and ankle mobility and strength and find the level of progression/regression that you can perform without pain.
It’s going to take a minimum of two months for you to get used to walking around barefoot and in “zero-drop” shoes. It may take longer. Don’t rush to start running any sooner than 2 months after you start making the transition to restoring your feet.
A Word About Flip-Flops
Take your shoes and socks off, stand up, and look down at your toes. Lift your toes off the ground and notice how your arch lifts up. In physical therapy-land we call this “The Windlass Effect”. In essence your big toe acts like a crank to wind up your plantar fascia and create a stable arch. This is an essential action of the foot, as the Windlass Effect helps support the foot’s arch, decreases joint compression in the foot, decreases sheering load through foot ligaments, and absorbs forces created by running and jumping.
Want to turn all that good foot function off? Slip on a pair of flip-flops and start walking. Notice now how your big toe has to flex down to hold the flip-flop on your foot. Congratulations, you are now creating acute artificial foot stiffness that, if prolonged,will most surely lead to plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, and shin splints.
If you’re in the locker room shower and need a pair of flip-flops to avoid foot fungus, go for it. But if you’re a serious runner who wants to run a long time and avoid injury, flip flops are not your friends.
Had enough of feet, shoes, and lectures about how everything you thought you knew about taking care of your feet (and what you could get away with) is wrong? Good. Next week Standard 3 comes to town.
Enjoy your weekend!
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