I recently started to live more paleo and I'm very interested in incorporating the barefoot paradigm into my life.
Now I'm still very much obese (100 lbs too much) and also have flat feet. My feet are pronating when I walk/run.
Is it advisable to start going barefoot as much as possible or should I have this corrected by orthopedics and wait until this has been corrected and I am at my goal weight?
Thanks a lot, tserb
I've been flat-footed since I was a kid. Last year I was 140lb overweight (25, now). I bought some VFFs to do martial arts on the grass - too slippery for barefoot and tore up the grass too much with the lugs on the shoes - and they were wonderful! However, I found that I couldn't wear them walking on concrete or other hard surfaces because I walk with a heel-strike habit and haven't mastered the mid-foot- or toe-strike consistently. When I joined a gym, though, I started wearing them all the time on the elliptical and stair master machines (don't shoot me for doing cardio, please! :-) ). My feet and calves have strengthened remarkably. Between the weight loss and the strength gain my plantar fasciitis hasn't bugged me in over a year.
In the last two decades I've missed out on a lot of fun by putting off doing a lot of things "until I reached my goal weight". If I was still waiting I would not be doing so much fun stuff. My advice is don't wait but do it with full knowledge.
If you regularly see a Podiatrist or OrthoPod, grab their opinion first if possible.
In my own non-medical degree advice :), when I first started going "barefoot" in my Vibram Five Fingers, I slowly incorporated them into my daily routines. 20min walks the first couple of days, worked my way up to 40 minute walks the following weeks, and then 60 minute walks within the first month.
And then I slowly started doing sprints in them, hikes, and more tedious activities after the first 60-70 days after going "barefoot".
I found that walking on sand (if you have a beach/lake source nearby) also helped get your feet ready for barefoot activities.
For what it was worth, I was pretty much in your shame shoes, and I have flat irish feet, no arch, and I have yet to experience an ounce of discomfort so far.
I still have about 50 pounds to go (already down 50) and had flat feet (and bunions). I started taking my walks in invisible shoes. At first, I had to consciously hold my arches up and walk properly to train the muscles. I no longer have flat feet. I still have bunions, but they hardly ever bother me.
Since you work with a podiatrist, I agree you should check, but I encourage you to give it a whirl. I'm certainly glad I did. My Birks feel lumpy now.
Like @scottmgs, I was once very overweight before discovering Paleo (have lost 155lbs - 20 more lbs to go).
Honestly, I'd go PURE barefoot as much as possible to help develop the muscles and correct your feet. Remember, man evolved the perfect mode of transport for himself: the BARE human foot.
Back when I when I was on the classic Low-fat Crappy Lie diet (the one I yo-yoed on for years), i dutifully strapped on my trainers and walked ... and my knees were a nexus of pain.
i have damaged meniscus,and arthritis in both.
Then, I went Paleo and minimalist footwear and have not looked back. I can now do (shallow) squats, kettlebell swings, and lunges.
I try to walk every day and my feet and legs, once flabby and weak, are strong. :)
I say dive right in. I have flat feet and have always been on the heavy side. I found that within a couple weeks of switching to minimal shoes that I was doing random little sprints just because if felt good to my feet, and I am sooo not built like a runner.
My hack for barefoot shoes is water shoes, they only cost about $10, so if you don't like it you haven't invested too much in them. They do wear down after 3-4 months, but that's still only $40/year on shoes.
Whenever people get in my face about arch support, I feel like making a rude gesture and running away. In my opinion movement is the cure for whatever ails your feet.
I like skeletoes from fila they have a firmer bottom and the two small toes fit in the same slot. They fit me better because my little toe curves under the fourth toe. Also to me they feel a little better in the arch area. Cost about $50. If I don't have them on I'm barefoot except of course for work. Don't be afraid of trying to go minimalist just ease into it.
I am overweight and wear vibrams, was still around 100lbs overweight when I got my first pair.
I will strongly suggest this - if you walk any sort of volume, do not under any circumstances, neglect your stretching. My calves got much more muscular (mostly due to the increased range of motion), and my ankle flexibility suffered (go figure, the increased flexibility decreased my flexiblity - if that makes any sense)... and I developed plantar faciitis quite bad. However, if you focus on ankle and calf flexiblity from the get-go, you'll not experience this and your shinsplints, calf cramps, and sole pain will be a thing of the past.
Lots of good answers here, but I just felt the need to add my two cents in, even though it may be a little late to the discussion. It's my usual reply: see what feels good for you.
Generally, the problem with cushy, supportive footwear is that it hinders proprioception (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proprioception), that is, the body's ability so know what's going on elsewhere. Often in the case of footwear, since the padding and support get in the way of your body knowing whats really going on with your feet, you'll have symptoms like less balance and stability all the way up to knee and hip pain.
Now in your case, since you're overweight you MAY need some support, going barefoot may hurt your feet more than help. But you can't know that until you try. You already know how you joints feel with shoes, so take a week or two and see how your feet feel without shoes. If the overall result is less pain or better feeling all around, go with it, otherwise, maybe go back to shoes and ratchet down the padding and support as you lose weight.
I know that when I switched to motorsport shoes (that help you curl your toes around the pedals when driving), the thin sole really helped my balance. I now go hiking in flip-flops rather than boots and I can go longer and faster with absolutely no hip pain, when before I'd be sore for days after a long hike. So for me, the less shoe, the better. But see what it's like for you.
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