Tag Archives: minimalist shoes

Zero Drop, Minimal Shoes: Ups and Downs

Update 7/28/19: I just noticed that scads of people are still reading my pre-Achilles-injury posts from years ago.  I’m no longer in minimal shoes.  In my opinion the whole minimal shoe thing is hocus-pocus.  Shoes were developed and universally adopted because they work better than bare feet.  Do what you want but don’t say I didn’t warn you!  

Original post from 6/8/2014


My custom zero-drop boots.

Over the last year and a half I have written several posts about making the switch to minimal and/or zero drop shoes.  There have been some ups and downs, but the upshot is, if you’re over 50, I don’t recommend you try to make the switch. Regardless of age, if you decide to try it, go way slower than you think you need to.

Beware — You Might Get Hurt

Although I tried to make the transition from traditional shoes to minimal ones gradually, it didn’t prevent injuries.  I strained my right Achilles over a year ago and I am only now 95% healed.  I’m pain free, but I sometimes get a twinge after some workouts.  Thanks to the Alfredson Protocol (which is 12 weeks of hell, but it works) I can run a couple of miles at a moderate pace without discomfort, but I’m nowhere near being able to attempt any hill climbing sprints.

About a month ago, while doing lunges, I started experiencing pain in the joint where my left big toe attaches to the foot.  It got worse and worse.  Looks like I’m in Stage 1 of Turf Toe.  I had to stop all exercises that involve bending back or springing off the toes (no Lunges, Mountain Climbers, Jump Squats, etc.) and I’m wearing my boots pretty much 24/7.  I’m probably going to have to buy a set of shoe inserts to wear until it heals.  This injury is directly related to wearing thin shoes that allow greater range of motion in the toe joints.

What I’m Wearing Now

I have gone back to traditional shoes for workouts.  For hiking and long walks I sport my zero drop boots.  For work and casual wear, when the load is light and there’s no ballistic movement, I’m wearing very low drop shoes (Chuck Taylor’s around town, and to work a pair of very flat, black leather Keds-like shoes from Aldo’s).

The Final Analysis

So how do I feel about the entire experience, start to finish?  Injuries aside, my feet feel better overall.  The frequent arch pain and foot cramps I used to get are gone.  But I think that is attributable to (a) gradually going from a very high arch support to none, and (b) going up a half size in shoes to allow my feet to spread out.  If I had my ground to go over (pardon the pun), I would have stopped at that point and I would not have tried to make it all the way into minimal shoes.

My Recommendation

My recommendation is that you stick with traditional shoes for workouts.  Consider gradually reducing the amount of arch support to allow your feet to spread out and fill up a larger traditional workout shoe.  This will allow them to do their job more naturally and effectively.  When I say gradually, I don’t mean over the course of a few weeks or months — I mean over a couple of years.

Maybe if you start when you’re in your teens or twenties you could get into minimal shoes without the kind of problems I’ve had.  But if you’re over 50 like I am, stick with functional footwear.

Zero Drop Boots


My zero drop boots

I’ve talked about shoes before.  In a nutshell, some time ago I decided to transition to the most minimal shoes possible (here’s why).

The problem is that I couldn’t wear my favorite boots.  The heels, although not very high, still allowed my Achilles tendon to shorten.  If I wore them all day, I had Achilles tension the following day when I tried to exercise in a minimal sneaker.

This was a problem because I firmly believe that if a man has a good pair of boots and an attitude, there is nothing he can’t get done.  Also, as a martial artist, I consider my boots important tools for self defense.  You don’t understand.  I need my boots.


Another shot of my zero drop boots

Buying zero drop boots wasn’t an option.  They just don’t make them (don’t ask me why, I have no idea).  So I took them to Jerry’s Shoe Shop and had them pull off the old sole and put on a perfectly flat one with no heel.  This cost me $50.00.  They aren’t minimal (the new soles are about 1/2″ thick), but at least they won’t shorten my Achilles tendon, and if I want to go for a hike, work in the yard, or go on a globe-hopping expedition to find the Ark of the Covenant, I’ll get more support and protection that I would from Chuck Taylors.

Look out world.  I got my boots back.

[UPDATE: I’m no longer in minimal and/or zero drop footwear.  See the comments section below.  If you have already transitioned without any trouble, enjoy!  But if you’re just starting out, I strongly suggest that you turn back now and stick with regular shoes!]

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Changing Your Life from the Ground Up

Awhile back I blogged about working while standing up.  I’ve also talked about changing to minimal footwear.   Trust me.  All of this dovetails.

Some time ago I started writing while standing up at home.  Then, once I got stronger and more accustomed to standing, I made the switch at the office as well.  Standing up changed everything.  My energy level is higher and I feel more in control.  Rather than being cemented to the spot, I am mobile, maneuverable, and unrestricted — and here’s the key — I feel that way both physically and mentally.

As a martial artist I know it all comes down to positioning.  A boxer uses footwork to rule the ring and cut off an opponent, and a wrestler maintains a  guard or ride to control his adversary.  Every technique, whether it’s a punch, hold, throw, trip, shoot, etc., has a spatial requirement.  If you lock yourself into one position you’ve taken all of the other techniques off the table.  But if your position is fluid and your body nimble, allowing you to go in any direction, you can capitalize on openings.

Physical and mental attitude are more connected than I you think.  It’s all about space and position.   Literally.  From the 1913 Websters:

At”ti*tude (#), n. [It. attitudine, LL. aptitudo, fr. L. aptus suited, fitted: cf. F. attitude. Cf. Aptitude.]

1. (Paint. & Sculp.) The posture, action, or disposition of a figure or a statue.

2. The posture or position of a person or an animal, or the manner in which the parts of his body are disposed; position assumed or studied to serve a purpose; as, a threatening attitude; an attitude of entreaty.

And the less you have between you and the ground, the more you can feel it, the more you can adapt to the terrain.  That’s where the minimal shoe idea fits in.  If you’re walking on shoes with soles an inch thick, you’re not walking on the ground.  You’re walking on, well, an inch of foam.  You could be standing on stainless steel, concrete, tile or basalt and you wouldn’t have a clue.

But if you’re standing up in minimal shoes you can feel the bumps the ripples and since you’re on your feet, you can adapt.  Your body and mind can sense the difference in sensory input between being seated and standing up in minimal shoes.  The data that’s coming from your soles makes its way up your legs and into your body, shaping your outlook.

You might even say it’s sole to soul.

Let’s Talk About Shoes

Update 7/28/19: I just noticed that scads of people are still reading my pre-Achilles-injury posts from years ago.  I’m no longer in minimal shoes.  In my opinion the whole minimal shoe thing is hocus-pocus.  Shoes were developed and universally adopted because they work better than bare feet.  Do what you want but don’t say I didn’t warn you!  


wpid-1346593494015.jpgOriginal Post from 1/31/2013

Minimalism in the athletic shoe arena has moved from trippy new trend to status quo.  FiveFinger shoes are commonplace at running events these days, and the whole idea is the new normal.

My son had great results — healthier feet and a better stride — from his minimalist shoes, so a couple of years ago I decided I might benefit from a little less shoe as well.  I started going more and more minimal, getting  incrementally lighter and thinner with each new shoe.

I started by removing the arch supports from a light pair of New Balance runners.  Eventually I worked my way into a pair of torture devices known as the New Balance MT-10.  It’s a horrible shoe so I’m not posting a link.  The whole idea of a minimalist shoe is that the foot should be allowed to spread.  But the New Balance Sure-fit Specialist at the local shop assured me that they are supposed to fit tight.

Not only did they cost an arm and a leg, these shoes are disposable.  That’s right — MT-10s are designed to last for just 125 miles.  The guy at the New Balance store didn’t mention that detail until I came back to complain that the shoes sucked for comfort and held dirt like nobody’s business.  Ridiculous.

A few weeks ago I strained by Achilles tendon doing sprints in the MT10s and they went into the trash bin.  I’m convinced it’s because they fit so tightly that they restricted blood flow.

So, what am I working out in nowadays?  Chuck Taylor All-Stars.  I have come full circle.  This is the same shoe I wore in 3rd grade.  Go figure.

I’d love to hear what you’re wearing during workouts, if you’ve gone minimal or not, if you like/hate the MT-10s, if you love your Chucks, or what-have-you.

Let’s talk shoes.