Kick Your Shoes Off - We're Talking Barefoot Training!

man standing barefoot

The first thing to touch the ground in the morning and the last thing to touch the ground at night is your feet. The benefits of training barefoot are far more enjoyable than quickly going through shoes. Your body will end up with stronger feet, which means better awareness in space (proprioception) and increased ankle stability. Ankle sprains account for 15-30% of all sports-related injuries and occur during everyday activities.

Your feet form the base of your kinetic chain, helping to align your hips and knees. They generate control from your core (everything from mid-thigh to collarbones) and impact the way you walk. Training while barefoot (or with barefoot/minimal footwear) allows the bones and muscles of the feet to develop strength, which helps improve our balance and movement in our everyday activities.

Typically, when selecting shoes, you might look for comfy, breathable, with arch support and more cushion under the heel than under the toe. Realistically though, you shouldn't have to  "support" your feet. When wearing shoes, it's almost like wearing an oven mitt everywhere you go since your feet can't feel the floor, it will change how your body interacts with it. Over time you will get used to your shoes and the fact that that slight 1-inch heel throws off your biomechanics over time. 

Thick-soled, rigid shoes disconnect the communication from the feet. Shoes that "support" the arches of the feet contribute to weakness in the muscles of the feet and legs, further dampening the feedback from the ground that is essential for moving well. The messages we get through our feet impact knowing where our limbs and body are relative to the environment (proprioception),  balance, posture, and muscle activation. 

Just as a desk job constrains our back, hips, and shoulders, shoes constrain the movement in our feet, toes, and ankles. The goal of barefoot training is to bring mobility and strength back to the feet rather than rely on cushioned shoes for support. Your body has 206 bones, with 52  originating in the feet; therefore, we can understand how important it is to care for our feet'  strength and stability. 

You're ready to ditch the shoes, so where do you start? With any new fitness regimen, it's best to start SLOW. That means slowly increasing the amount of weight over time as you get comfortable with the feeling of bare ground on bare soles. If you do barefoot training right, you'll fall head over heels for the results.

If barefoot training isn't an option where you train, barefoot/minimalistic shoes are a great option that still allows your toes to splay and feel the feedback from the ground. When considering minimal shoes, ideally, you're looking for a two to five mm drop. The drop of a shoe is the difference in height between the heel and forefoot. The greater the drop, the steeper the angle between your heel and forefoot. You want to look for shoes with a smaller drop and a wider toe box so you can splay your feet and use every inch of your foot when moving. 

So kick off your shoes and relax your feet. See you on the mat with your MAXPRO.

References:  

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-98070-0 

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/19424280.2019.1606299 

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34545114/ 

https://www.salomon.com/en-us/running/trail-running-advice/what-drop-running-shoes