HOW TO... Transition to Vibram FiveFinger Shoes

Author: Danny B.  Date Posted: 13 January 2022

Vibram FiveFinger shoes are great for your body and your fitness, but they do require a transition period to allow your feet to strengthen. We explain exactly how to safely transition to minimalist five-toed shoes.

We get a lot of customers interested in Vibram FiveFingers: both seasoned minimalist footwear enthusiasts and people totally new to the phenomenon. For athletes and weekend warriors interesting to moving from traditional cushioned footwear to FiveFingers, the transition can take some patience. But the progression will be worth the wait as your feet, ankles and calves become stronger!

 

LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
Switching to Vibram FiveFingers from traditional running shoes is a process that may take a few weeks or months. No matter how keen you are to wear minimalist shoes 24/7, your body will need some time to adjust. Your foot, ankle, and calf muscles could be very weak from spending a lifetime in traditional shoes. Have patience and pay close attention to what your body is telling you. Sore, tired muscles are normal, but bone, joint, or soft-tissue pain can signal injury. You might want to slow down, reduce your training schedule, and consider alternating Vibram FiveFingers with traditional training shoes until everything feels right.

 

IMPROVE YOUR RUNNING TECHNIQUE

If your arches or the top of your foot is hurting when running in Vibram FiveFingers, it might be because:

  • you are heel striking

It's generally best to run and jump with a midfoot strike; doubly so if you're wearing minimalist shoes that don't cushion your heel. In fact, that heel cushioning is partially why we've accidentally trained ourselves to heel strike! Can't figure out how to do it? Jump on two feet and notice how you land, walk backward while leaning slightly forward, or jog uphill. Your feet should naturally perform a midfoot strike during these movements.

  • you are over-striding

This means that you're landing with your feet too far out in front of your hips, which can make your toes point more than necessary. That extreme pointing can cause stress on your feet. Try focusing on contacting the ground with your feet beneath your hips - like how you land when jump roping or walking in place.

  • you are landing heavily

Landing with too rigid a foot and not letting your heel drop gently is a sure-fire way to experience discomfort. Try landing more lightly by focusing on making as little noise as possible when you land, or by running totally barefoot on a hard, smooth surface free from debris - sensory feedback will very quickly tell you if you are landing too hard!

 

TRY THIS TRANSITION PLAN
This is only a guideline, as everyone's feet are unique. Remember: listen to your body first!

  • Weeks 1-2: Wear Vibram FiveFingers for 1-2 hours per day for easy daily activities like walking to your office or sitting at your desk.
  • Weeks 3-4: Wear Vibram FiveFingers for 10% of your overall workout every other day (for example, if you plan to run 10km, run 1km in Vibrams then swap to traditional shoes)
  • Weeks 5-12: Continue to wear Vibram FiveFingers every other day. Each week increase the length of your workouts in Vibram FiveFingers, but not more than 10% from the previous week.
  • Weeks 13+: Continue to gradually increase the use of Vibram FiveFingers in your workouts, until you can experience a full training session. At this stage you may experiment with your distance, speed, and frequency.

Before each session, warm up by gently stretching your calves and arches. Cool down by stretching your feet and self-massaging your calves.

 

BUILD UP YOUR FOOT STRENGTH
Try some of these exercises to help strengthen your feet and improve their mobility! Try 1 set of 10 reps per foot for each exercise. As you become more comfortable, you can gradually increase sets.

Standing

  • Heel Raise - keep your toes on the ground and lift your heels off the floor while flexing your calves
  • Toe Grip - with your heel firmly planted on the ground, move your toes back towards your heel and raise arch upwards. It should feel like you are gripping the ground.
  • Toe Spread/Tap - with both feet planted firmly on the ground, raise up all ten toes, then tap both big toes on the ground. Repeat with your little toes.
  • Exaggerated Inversion/Extraversion - with both feet planted firmly on the ground, rotate your feet outwards so that only the outer area of your feet are touching the ground. Then roll them inwards, so your big toe and the inside area of your feet are touching the ground. Slowly roll them back and forth.

Seated

  • Toe Flex - start with your legs in front of you, parallel to the ground, feet pointed up at a 90-degree angle. Slowly point your toes forward as far as possible while flexing your calves, then return them to the 90-degree position.
  • Towel Pass - grab a rolled-up hand towel with one foot, between the big toe and second toe. Once it is secured, pass the towel to the other foot. Continue passing it back and forth.

 

ENJOY YOUR HEALTHY FEET
By transitioning gradually, listening to your body, and increasing your foot strength, you'll soon feel more connected with your underfoot environment and enjoy exploring natural movement!