How do you go about transitioning from heel striking running shoes to minimalist shoes natural running?

Very slowly and carefully to avoid any injuries…

Also known as barefoot-style shoes, some of these running shoes like the Vibram Five Fingers requires some ‘pre-training’ before you take it out on the road.

My personal experience is with the Vibram Five Fingers KSO and its thin and flexible soles.

1. Get Bare

Walk around barefoot without any shoes, sandals, flip-flops, or socks so your feet can get used to the natural feedback. You will be walking without landing on your heels most of the time.

Jog barefoot on a grass field or local park or on the beach. Walk around hardwood floors or concrete.

Do this for a few days before moving on to the next step.

Your feet needs to ADAPT and ADJUST.

2. Strengthen Your Feet

Close your eyes and stand barefoot on one leg for 30 seconds to a minute – similar to a yoga tree pose. Repeat with the other leg.

If your foot roll outward (losing balance), your feet is weak. Strengthen your feet by balancing on each leg for one minute, ten times daily.

3. Feel Your Minimalist Shoes

Put on your Vibrams but do NOT run in them yet.

Wear them everywhere you go as if they’re your shoes. Walk and and do chores with them.

You might get blisters on your toes if they are too tight – go one size higher otherwise or tape your toes with paper tape.

I walked about 3 miles round trip with them to my neighborhood parks.

4. Let’s Run!

I put on my Vibrams and started running on the cushioned track of the local high school. Here’s what my weekly plan looks like before I felt I’m ready to run more than 5K in minimalist running shoes.

Starter Plan:
Week 1: M W F – 0.5 mile
Week 2: M W F – 0.5 mile
Week 3: M W F – 1.0 miles
Week 4: M W F – 1.0 miles
Week 5: M W F – 2.0 miles
Week 6: M W F – 2.0 miles
Week 7: M W F – 3.0 miles
Week 8: M W F – 3.0 miles

A more detailed ‘natural running’ training guide is provided by ECCO for BIOM shoes training.

Your muscles adapt to the new pattern of motion over a period of four to six weeks, but it takes much longer for your tendons, ligaments and joints to adjust.

ECCO Natural Running Plan:
Week 1:
Wear BIOM for normal usage for half a day every day you can.
Run gently 2-3 times/week, 20 minutes including running drills, stretch after each session.

Week 2:
Wear BIOM for normal usage for half a day every day you can.
Run gently 2-3 times/week, 20-25 minutes easy, including running drills, stretch after each session.

Week 3:
Wear BIOM for normal usage for half a day every day you can.
Run gently 2-4 times/week, 25-30 minutes easy, including running drills, stretch after each session.

Week 4:
Wear BIOM for normal usage every day you can.
Run 3-4 times/week, 25-35 minutes easy, including running drills, stretch after each session.

Week 5:
Wear BIOM for normal usage every day you can.
Run 3-4 times/week, 30-40 minutes easy, including running drills, stretch after each session.

Week 6 and beyond:
Wear BIOM for normal usage every day you can.
Run 3-4 times/week, 35-45 minutes easy, including running drills, stretch after each session.

Continue to increase the amount of time you spend in your BIOMs gradually. Remember to stay in tune with your body. At the slightest feeling of pain, take 1-2 steps back and continue again from there.

Let your body dictate the progress.

Always run at a speed that you feel comfortable with.

5. Soreness, Blisters, And Injuries…

You will undoubtedly feel soreness in your calves if you are not running naturally. Try and land mid-foot to forefoot but keep your heels less than 10 degrees off the ground.

Running long distances (2 miles or more) in your Vibrams might result in blisters in your new shoes. Tape your toes with paper tape – it helped me tremendously. I still tape some of my toes even after months of running in them…

You are NOT sprinting. DO NOT SPRINT. Or you will experience injurues and soreness on your arch or ankles.

That was my biggest mistake. Once you feel the joy of running fast in Vibrams, you want to race!

I use a tennis ball or iced water bottle to sooth and exercise arch soreness – just roll your feet/arch on it.

I also use a ProStretch device (I have the bilateral version) for easing my plantar fasciitis or to stretch my achilles.

Good luck with your barefoot or natural running!