You learn a lot when you are barefoot. The first thing is every step you take is different. – Michael Franti
We have about 35 muscles in each foot and yet who says, “I am headed for the gym, it’s foot day. Gotta work out those feet!”?
Probably nobody but barefoot training is becoming more popular in all kinds of fitness activities. FitMania has been doing HIRT classes barefoot since we started in 2010 and we have seen many clients reduce the symptoms of their foot problems or be completely cured after working out with us for a while. It makes sense. Cultures where people generally do not wear shoes have very few foot problems. For many people shoes may be the problem, rather than the solution, to foot problems. The muscles in our feet don’t work unless the foot is bare. You can’t get strong feet wearing supportive foot wear.
As I was doing barefoot “toe touches” one day during my HIRT workout and took a good look at my toes and feet gripping the mat and my foot looked strong! I knew feet could and should be strong but I had never considered that feet could look strong. Having strong feet is not the only advantage of doing your workout barefoot. Here are a few more:
Improves balance and athletic performance because the stabilizing muscles in the feet are stronger
Improves posture because body alignment is more natural and neutral than when we wear shoes
Prevents common injuries like shin splints, plantar fasciitis, stress fractures, bursitis and tendonitis in the Achilles
Stronger ankles. Shoes give a lot of stability and support and can make the foot and ankle lazy
Improves our proprioception which will improve movement. (Proprioception is our sense of perception of space and our orientation and movement within the space around us.)
Similarly, going barefoot gives us sensory feedback from the world around us and to feel and connect to our environment. This helps us develop more natural movement
Going barefoot gives us stronger arches. Wearing shoes will remove the responsibility from the arch muscles to do their job
Joints get nutrient exchange from movement and nearly 30% of the joints in our body are in our feet.
Our feet are the base of support for our whole body. Often knee and back pain stem from improper foot mechanics. Artificial support from shoes can place unnatural pressure on the knees, spine and neck
Going barefoot increases flexibility and mobility of the foot and gives a much wider range of motion.
Shoes often lead to bunions, corns, athlete’s foot, hammer toes, ingrown toe nails, callouses, foul odor and fallen arches. People who spend a lot of time barefoot do not experience these problems
A few tips to get started
Most athletic wear has a raised heel so frequent wearing of those shoes shortens the calf and Achilles, Increase your barefoot time slowly
It will be tempting to compromise and wear socks. Many of the best benefits of going barefoot will be lost when socks are worn
The skin will strengthen with time. Dry skin is more likely to crack and cause problems so keep feet moisturized
Be patient as you experience some side effects of the transition
Do not go barefoot in the weight room. Find some zero drop shoes to protect your feet from dropped weights
Do this for a while and maybe one day you will look down and think, “Wow, look at those strong feet!”
“And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.” ― Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet