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Barefoot Training: WTFoot?!

***DISCLAIMER: Barefoot training can be dangerous if training with heavy weights lifted from the ground or with potential hazards such as glass or other objects in grass or outdoor area. Only perform barefoot training under the guidance of a trained professional, but as always pay attention to what you are doing. Also, if working out outside, I would suggest checking the area first IN SHOES for an possible injury hazards and, once the area is cleared, get after it!

Have you ever experienced some sort of foot pain? It sucks, right? Well you are not alone, 75% of all Americans will experience some sort of foot pain in their lifetimes. SEVENTY-FIVE percent, that’s crazy???!!! Aren’t shoes getting better; more able to move with and like your foot, specific to desired activity, and an increased volume of choices? Shouldn’t there be LESS foot pain related to shoes these days? It turns out; shoes are TOO good at their job; which is great except now our feet don’t have to do their job. That leads to conditions like fallen arches, plantar fasciitis, mortons neuromas, and hammer toes. Made even worse by the fact that pain that starts in the foot can travel up the leg, the hips, and into the back if not treated.

Very few people are born with foot problems; which leads one to believe that environmental factors, including shoes, bring on the problems later in life. For myself I have extremely wide feet, and have an impossible time finding shoes that fit properly. As I have gotten older, it has led to chronic pain (when you have long-term foot pain, it is when you realize just how often you kinda need to use your feet), and left me searching for a solution that did not require surgery. I am not a runner in any way shape or form; I lift and focus on anaerobic and burst cardio so running cannot be the culprit. Which led me back to the Chinese finger traps I called shoes (I currently have 3 different brands and all fall under the finger trap category) being the problem. That’s when I made the decision to try barefoot (or with socks) training to at least give my feet some relief during the day. Not only that, but on my days off I only wear flip-flops which allow my feet to work properly and funny enough the pain goes completely away…only to return by lunch time on the following Monday after wearing shoes all morning.

So besides eliminating foot pain by merely removing your shoes, what other benefits does BAREFOOT TRAINING provide:

  • Increases proprioception (body awareness in a given space), balance, and stabilization as the muscles of the foot get stronger.
    • Improves overall athletic performance
    • Feel more connected to the environment, the lift, etc
      • “Grounding” mechanism: release and get energy to and from the ground

 

  • Allows muscles to work as they should
    • Toes can spread and widen for balance
    • Arches strengthened and lifted
    • Sends better signals to muscles of the legs (neuromuscular pathways), movement becomes more efficient
    • No energy transfer is lost within soles, direct foot to ground contact ensures direct energy exchange

 

  • Promotes stronger ankles and provides more support

 

  • Increases mobility and flexibility
    • Foot can move in intended range of motion (ROM), not limited or enhanced by the shoe
    • Along with stretching and myofascial release, ROM can increase

 

  • Let’s the piggies breathe
    • If aired out, feet naturally do not smell (well most of them)
    • Decrease or eliminate fungal infections, ingrown toenails, corns and bunions
    • Feet are overall healthier

 

If you haven’t experienced some type of foot pain, consider yourself very lucky. The numbers show that the possibility of various foot traumas is very high. Most pain associated with the foot can be attributed to shoes; whether it be the wrong shoes for the job or ill-fitting shoes. Losing the shoes allows your feet to work as they should, just like any other muscle the muscles of the feet need to be worked or else they become weaker and prone to injury.  I know that for me it has made a world of difference as far as my level of pain goes, and I have found that I feel more “in tune” with my workouts. As always, be smart and safe with your lifts, and give barefoot training a try; your feet will thank you for it.

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