Barefoot Training

Barefoot training has become a new trend in the fitness world. Athletes and fitness trainers have been emphasizing the importance of strengthening and maintaining strong feet. Shoes are now being made to maintain a feeling of being barefoot while keeping the foot protected from dirt and sharp objects.

By training barefoot or in these special shoes, you will strengthen the foot and ankle muscles, allowing them to complete the connective chain that runs through the body. You will immediately begin to feel if your ankles are rolling in or out. If you are aware of it, you will be able to correct the imbalance while moving. Being barefoot increases your awareness of the body and allows you to work on balance.

The idea behind barefoot training is that our technically designed shoes may actually give us too much support, cushioning and stability, making the muscles and neuromuscular pathways of the foot and ankle weak and “lazy.”

Taking off your shoes and performing the same exercises you used to do with your shoes on is an entirely new experience. For example, try standing on one leg with your running shoes on. Then try it in bare feet. Try to do alternating front lunges with and without your shoes on. Without shoes, you will see just how hard the foot, ankle, knee and hip have to work to make this movement happen.

Working out with bare feet in a safe environment (preferably indoors) is generally the best way to start barefoot training. Begin slowly and allow your foot muscles to become accustomed to bare foot activities. Use a sticky mat which allows your toes to spread out, which assists you with balance and with building up confidence in the body’s ability to achieve steadiness. Initially with bare feet you may experience instability because we are so conditioned to using shoes for support, but balance as a skill is soon learned once you remove your shoes and begin to build foot strength and dexterity.

Pros:

  • improves foot biomechanics
  • can develop a more natural gait and strengthen the muscles, tendons and ligaments of the foot. (wearing shoes causes the small muscles in our feet to weaken and the tendons, ligaments and natural arches to stop doing their job)
  • helps the Achilles tendon and calf muscle stretch and lengthen and may reduce injuries
  • helps improve balance/coordination: Without shoes, you activate the smaller muscles in your feet, ankles, legs, and hips that are responsible for better balance and coordination.
  • allows you to feel more grounded by spreading your toes and expanding your foot while it becomes a more solid and a connected base that supports all your movements.

Cons:

  • Little Foot Protection from debris or insulation
  • May Increase Achilles Tendinitis and Calf Strain when heel lift is removed
  • May Increase Plantar Pain
  • The right shoes can, in fact, correct biomechanical problems and help reduce injury risk

Note:

Bare foot training is not for everyone. If you suffer from peripheral vascular disease (diabetes, poor circulation, claudication, athersclerosis, skin breakdown, etc.), you should not exercise with bare feet, either indoors or out. If you have open sores, cuts or suffer from numbness or tingling in your feet, do not exercise with bare feet, especially in public areas such as gyms or studios. Before beginning or continuing with any exercise programs whether, you typically wear shoes or decide to try barefoot training, it is always important that you check with your physician if you have any physical ailments.

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