Confused? Disgruntled? Dismayed? Walk it off!

The following is a guest post (mostly) written by our friend Clarissa.

Whether you’re up in arms over the state of the union, or just a bit stiff from sitting around the cubicle farm all day, walking is a great way to beat the blues, get active and stay in shape. In fact, most Americans are already walking as a part of their exercise routine! Since it’s easy for anyone to start, and requires nothing more than a pair of shoes, walking is the most common method of moving a muscle and changing a thought.

So if you’re ready to see where your two feet can take you, we suggest you start by donning minimalist footwear.  Beyond the benefits conferred by regular walking in a pair of supportive sandals  or sneakers, minimal shoes help take you one step further. They can help improve other aspects of your health, from posture to strength and balance. They can be an important part of any exercise routine, and you’ll quickly see a wide variety of benefits.

How Minimalist Walking Shoes Can Help

While so-called barefoot shoes used to be considered a fad, they’ve recently been supported by scientific evidence and are now enjoying more widespread popularity. Unlike the majority of walking shoes currently on the market, these shoes provide little cushioning and arch support. These design decisions were made to promote freedom of movement across the foot.

While the adjustment may seem strange at first, the reduced levels of support actually promote muscle growth, which can have a significant impact on your posture and balance. Over time, you’ll grow accustomed to the feeling and your feet will become noticeably stronger.

Most walking shoes suffer from three main problems: the design serves to squeeze toes, elevate heels, and elevate toes. These compress your foot’s natural shape and force it to move in unnatural ways. In contrast, minimalist shoes help your body learn to be comfortable with a more natural posture.

Types of Barefoot Shoes

Once you’ve decided to make the switch to minimalist shoes, you’ll need to decide which variety is right for you.

While all barefoot shoes have significantly less cushioning and weight, some are more similar to traditional shoes than others. Hikers, for example, may prefer to keep a moderate level of support to keep them comfortable on rugged terrain.

Transitioning to Minimalist Walking Shoes

While minimalist shoes will likely encourage significant improvements in your foot strength, posture, and balance, they will take some getting used to at first. Starting with a thicker shoe that’s closer to what you’re used to will help you acclimate to the new style and reduce the risk of injury. Many runners and walkers have written about this transition and how to make it easier.

Eventually, you’ll look back at your old way of walking and wonder how you dealt with the problems it poses. Transitioning to minimalist walking shoes can be a long process, and may also require you to reexamine the way you walk – certain muscles may not be used to the added stress. If you experience significant pain that won’t go away, talk to a doctor about a solution.