How to Adapt to More Natural Footwear

Transitioning to more natural OR lower drop OR less cushioned footwear

Adapting to natural shoes, minimalist shoes, barefoot shoes running styleAdapting to more natural footwear is an incredibly rewarding process that typically results in stronger, healthier feet, less pain, and less pressure on the joints. Better walking and running technique and improved quality of life follow. However, a small percentage of people don't adapt back to their natural state as easily as others, and others are simply afraid of making the change. 

Bridge Soles are designed to be the ultimate tool for adapting to more natural footwear. They work well as a bridge from one shoe type to another, as they are the best tool for reducing the “landing response” (tensing up before landing) of the foot and lower leg. This makes them ideal for transitioning shoes, such as:

  • A less cushioned shoe than the customer has ever worn before (like track spikes or a performance trainer)
  • A zero drop shoe that is not more cushioned than the shoes they’re used to. (i.e. putting BridgeSoles in an Altra Escalante will at first make that shoe structurally similar in drop, cushion level, etc to a Hoka Clifton)
  • Minimalist or barefoot style shoes OR anyone concerned about transitioning from one type of shoe to another.

Why buy a 'transition shoe' when you can get an insole that does everything a transition shoe does and more for a tiny fraction of the price?

Additionally, for runners, it is imperative to perfect efficient, natural running form in order to avoid common transition that are caused by carrying old habits in to wearing more natural footwear. These are often issues with over-striding, shin splints, calf soreness, top of foot pain, and/or glute tightness. Studies show that 2/3 of runners don't run and land the way they think they do. For this reason, we highly recommend the FloatRun Harness to any runner wanting to adapt to more natural footwear or even barefoot running. The FloatRun Harness will make it easy to get proper posture and arms, resulting in ideal cadence and landing. 


Why do people move toward less structured shoes? Simply put, typical modern shoe design alters natural movement patterns, causes harder impacts, weakens the feet, and is also likely the cause of most chronic foot pain. 

73% of U.S. adults report foot pain annually(1), yet in populations of people who go barefoot or wear primitive sandals, the incidence of chronic foot pain is less than 3%(3).
Nearly all modern shoes feature tapered toe boxes and elevated heels (with most dropping 10-12mm or more from the heel down to the forefoot) that deform feet out of their natural position. When the heel is elevated and the big toe pushed inward like this, it opens up the gaps between the bones that make up the arch and make it nearly impossible for the arch to naturally support itself. This is why arch support is necessary in modern footwear, and also why humans existed for eons without the need for it. 

Why Bridge Soles? More natural and zero drop footwear aim to take pressure off the joints and instead place it on the foot and lower leg muscles, which are much more adaptable. Minimally cushioned shoes---even those with elevated heels such as distance track spikes---function much the same way. While most people rather easily adapt from traditional shoes to more natural footwear, a small percentage of people experience excessively sore calves, arches, or other transition difficulty while their soft tissue is adapting to taking on the load instead of their joints. This is mostly only typical with running and other high impact activities. 

How do Bridge Soles work? To use, simply stack Bridge Soles under your current insoles. The Triple Adapt support zones in Bridge Soles relax the "landing response" of the foot and lower leg that experts hypothesize is the main cause of adaptation difficulty.
Contrary to popular belief, lower leg soreness is rarely caused by less drop (heel lift) alone, but is more affected by the body bracing for impact (something called muscle tuning or "landing response"). This happens mainly due to a change in the total amount of cushion or support underfoot. This is the reason experts believe that some people have no problem walking around in more natural footwear, but may experience foot and lower leg muscle tightness while transitioning to running in them full time. It is similar to how track distance runners still get sore calves and feet when wearing non-cushioned spikes for the first time in a season, despite most distance track spikes traditionally featuring a similar amount of heel elevation as typical running shoes. This is also the same reason why solely putting a heel lift in a non-cushioned shoe doesn't seem to help much at all either. In all these instances, the foot still senses that the arch and forefoot will be taking on a greater load than usual, and they tense up to brace for impact.  

Note: It is generally much easier to adapt to zero drop shoes when the total cushion/support level of the shoe is similar to what the person is already used to. Moving toward less cushion should be done after fully adapting---or something like Bridge Soles can be used as a bridge with a less cushioned shoe. 


For running and other impact activities, we recommend the following program for transitioning to lighter weight or less structured shoes:

  • Week 1: Wear Bridge Soles full time or as much as is comfortable in new shoes
  • Week 2: Remove Bridge Soles for easy efforts
  • Week 3: Remove for easy and moderate efforts (everything besides hard/long)
  • Week 4: Remove for all efforts, including hard and long ones. Use for recovery efforts if desired.
  • Afterwards: Wear only if or when excessive feet or lower leg soreness is anticipated, or any time you need to take pressure off the feet and lower leg areas.