This post has been a long time in coming, over two years in coming actually. I switched to the barefoot alternative in May 2008 and have been wearing barefoot alternative/minimalist footwear as often as possible ever since. I wish I had taken some ‘before’ pictures of my feet, but I didn’t think there would be that much of a change. I was very wrong. I thought I would share some of the observations of how my feet have changed after two years of minimalist footwear (and more recently going completely barefoot) and what makes me think these changes are real and not ‘wishful thinking’.
1. My feet are stronger.
I know this because I suffered from chronic plantar fasciitis before the switch. Every run, and every morning stepping out of bed, my right arch would scream in pain. Now, I have no arch pain, ever. I attribute this healing to stronger arches.
In addition, when I first started the transition from conventional running shoes to minimalist shoes (my first pair being the Vibram FiveFingers KSO), I noticed that my arches would get very tired very quickly, and they would tell me so with pain (although not the same pain as the plantar fasciitis). I transitioned slowly and eventually worked up to over an hour running with no pain. I also attribute this to stronger arches.
2. My feet are wider.
I know this because the running shoes I used to wear no longer fit my feet because my feet are too wide for them. I tried them on once a few months ago just to see if they would be comfortable for me after switching to the barefoot alternative; they were not. Not only did my back hurt with every step because of the raised heel, but they were too tight for my new wide feet. I don’t feel too bad that I can’t wear them anymore, though.
3. My feet are longer.
From what I’ve read in minimalist shoe forums and blogs, many people report that their feet shorten in length after wearing barefoot alternative shoes for an extended period of time. Not mine. I know this because none of my size W38 Vibram FiveFingers (VFFs) fit anymore. It took about a year before they started feeling tight in the toes but now they are unbearably uncomfortable because my feet have grown so long. I’ve discovered that my feet have grown a whole size and now the W39 VFFs fit great whereas they used to be way too big.
4. My toes are straighter.
I really wish I had a picture of my feet from last year. My outside toes used to all curl inward toward my big toes. I am extremely happy to report that most of my toes have straightened out and only my pinky toes have a little bit of twist left in them. Hopefully, that will resolve as well, but if it doesn’t, I’m really impressed with the change in my toes already.
5. My feet are warmer.
I used to have excessively cold feet ALL the time. Although I still enjoy wearing socks, my feet are so much warmer than they used to be. I think that this is due to increased muscles and the subsequent increased circulation, but I don’t know for sure. I just know that warm feet are better than cold feet.
6. My feet are more dexterous.
This is not exactly quantifiable, but I’ve noticed that my feet are more agile and move more finely than before being freed from foot casts. Perhaps all the ‘working out’ for my feet being barefoot and nearly barefoot have improved fine motor control in the muscles in my feet.
7. The bottom of my forefoot is larger.
I don’t know why this is but I know that the bottom of my forefoot is larger. It’s like my body has added its own padding to that area of my foot. I can’t be sure if this has been caused by an increase in the size of the fat pad under the metatarsal heads, but that would be my uneducated guess at this point. I just know that it is more comfortable to walk barefoot than it used to be.
8. My feet FEEL better.
This last change has two meanings: they feel like they have improved sensory perception and they just feel better than they used to. It’s probably due to going completely barefoot, which I don’t do all that often but strive to do more of in the future, but I think my feet feel the ground better than before. Kind of like the sensory nerve endings have ‘woken up’ after being asleep in shoes for so long. In addition, with the lack of pain and increased warmth, dexterity, and sensory perception, they just FEEL so much better than before I freed them from conventional shoes.
I don’t know that everyone who frees their feet with the barefoot alternative/minimalist footwear will experience the changes I have, but I think the improvements were definitely worth the switch. I also know that I am not alone in noticing significant changes in my feet after allowing them to move naturally.
What changes have YOU felt in your feet after progressing to a more barefoot lifestyle or wearing minimalist shoes?
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