How To Switch To Minimalist Shoes

Let’s be frank: shoes are terrible for you. They throw off pretty much all of your bodily mechanics by changing the way the human body is naturally designed to move. The elevated heel and things like motion control effect the way your ankles, knees, hips, and lumbar spine work and are the cause of a wide plethora of issues.

These problems are exacerbated when you start adding movement to an external object. It doesn’t matter if you’re carrying around your child or a bag of dog food all day. Even worse if you are trying to pick up something heavy under fatigue (deadlifts, kettlebell swing, anything in Crossfit).

These points are pretty well established within the Crossfit world and beaten into your heads by most coaches.

However, the solution is not as simple as a shopping trip. It is possible to make the jump too quickly. Yes, the barefoot mechanics are optimal and the faster you can get there the better off you will be. However, you can’t go from a tricycle to a road bike over night.

Taking this analogy to ridiculous levels, where feet are like the wheels on the bike. A tricycle will have the most amount of support: 3 wheels in contact with the ground at all times. Barefoot or minimalist shoes like Vibrim 5 Fingers or New Balance Minimus (my favorite) will be like a two wheel bike.

No one (at least that I know of) made that jump without an intermediary step. I personally spent weeks with training wheels and even more weeks with just one training wheel.

It has to be the same way with shoes.

I know dozens of young, athletic guys who caused themselves serious problems by trying to do the transition too quickly.

My favorite story goes like this:

Old Roommate: Hey Matt, I got a pair of 5 Fingers

Matt: Cool, take it slow and just do a few 400′s on grass or something till you get used to them

Old Roommate: OK!

2 days later…

Old Roommate: Dude I can’t walk, I think its the 5 Fingers

Me: What’d you do yesterday

Old Roommate: Ran a 5k in them


Unfortunately, this story happens way too often. By some intervention of fate, I was actually smart about my transition.

Here’s what I recommend:

1. Throw your old shoes away.

2. Don’t even think about doing anything over 2 miles until you’re Achilles and other structures and ligaments and bodily goodies have adjusted (probably a 1 month minimum, but I picked that number out of thin air and you need to go off of how your body feels).

3. Get a transition shoe. I like the Reebok Crossfit Nano 2.o and the Innov-8 230′s the best.

I think for most people, the Reebok’s are a little better because they have more of a heel. Yes, the point is to eventually have the least amount of heel possible. However, I think the 230′s can be too much for constant use for some people.

The bottom line, crawl-walk-run this transition. It’s possible to do some real damage by doing too much too soon in shoes that your body is not ready for.