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THE QUESTION

I walk long distances regularly. I am thinking of starting to walk in a minimalist running shoe. Any advice?

THE ANSWER

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Transition slowly. Start by walking around the block. Increase the time you spend in your new shoes gradually.

In traditional running shoes, your feet are held fairly rigid. This is not the case in minimalist shoes, which are more lightweight and have less arch support. To prepare for this, I suggest foot exercises that promote strength and dexterity.

Try thera-band ankle work: Lie on your back, hold the ends of a thera-band with your hands and wrap the centre of the band around the ball of your foot. Step 1: Push up into the band with the ball of the big toe. Point your toes. Step 2: Bend at the ball of the big toe so that your toes move back, toward the front of your foot. Step 3: Fully flex at the ankle and bring the top of your foot toward your shin.

In traditional running shoes, cushioning elevates your heel. Without that cushioning, your ankle joint reacts differently. To prepare you for this change, try exercises that focus on bringing the front of your foot towards your shin. For instance try heel walks: Keep your toes off the ground and walk forward on your heels.

If you are making this change because you believe that a minimalist shoe will fix knee, hip or back discomfort, remember that feet are only one part of the kinetic chain. If faulty mechanics are causing you pain, you have to address the entire chain, not just your feet. Talk to a health practitioner to assess how your body moves as a whole.

TRAINER'S TIP

Not all minimalist shoes are the same. There is a continuum of support. If you want to transition to a more minimal shoe, wear the most minimal shoe you can handle, not the most minimal shoe available.

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Send certified personal trainer Kathleen Trotter your questions at trainer@globeandmail.com. She will answer select questions, which could appear in the Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail website. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.


The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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