Not too long ago I got a kind email warning me about the danger of working out barefoot. Since I never looked into this topic before, and I had no clue of recent trends, I was panicking that in the past years I was doing something harmful to myself, so I have decided to search after and get more information whether it’s a good idea or not to work out without shoes.
Frankly, first I didn’t have a specific reason to work out barefoot, or at least it wasn’t a health related reason. It may sound crazy, but I am always displeased when I try on new pairs of trainers, it takes me forever to pick the pair which gives me the comfort I aim for. I know the supply of brands and styles are huge, still, it’s an overwhelming experience to buy trainers for me. So when I destroyed my previous shoes by making an attempt to climb into a car for some parts on a scrap yard, I was left with no trainers for a while, so I was just keep exercising without them.
I would like to re-affirm; initially I had no idea of the benefits of working out without supporting footwear, but my sensors, my instinct and my logic were suggesting this was good for me. And I like to listen to them. After all, being barefoot should be the natural way of being and in many sports like in marital arts, dance,yoga and gymnastics is the norm.
I was not aware of the trend of barefoot workouts, neither the popularity of special shoes imitating being barefoot. I just didn’t care about trends; I haven’t been in a gym since years, and I am not fashion-conscious, so I just didn’t know what was going on outside my “home gym”. I like to be bare foot at home, I prefer flip flops or sandals instead of shoes, and I like the liberating feeling of having my toes uncovered.
The first day of working out barefoot was a huge surprise, an entirely new experience, because every exercise felt like a new exercise, they were much harder to perform. I felt unstable, I couldn’t do as many sets as before and I got tired very quickly. I was shocked; I didn’t understand what was going on. I couldn’t do a proper lunge or squat. But I was keep challenging myself, and actually very soon I have noticed my improved balance and stability.
Today, I already know what happened, what changes I went through. Although I considered my feet strong, by wearing these scientifically designed, supporting, cushioning (and expensive!) shoes made the stabilizing muscles of my feet and my ankles lazy and weak. Basically, the shoes were doing the job, while my muscles were having a siesta. By leaving my trainers on the shoe rack the tiny arch supporting muscles, the tendons and ligaments were forced to do their job resulting a more flexible and balanced foot and stronger arch.Working out barefoot reactivates some other small muscles of the ankles, legs and hips – muscles which weren’t in use before thanks to the cushioning shoes. This leads to a better overall balance and coordination.
Having no shoes on allows me to pay attention to the position of my toes. Very often the toes aren’t spread properly and when we don’t keep the foot entirely on the ground – again – we can’t activate all the muscles. By watching our toes and feet position we can gain more strength; off shoes we can better monitor our body’s alignment and control its positioning.
Our brain can feel the ground through communication with the nerve endings in our soles. While we have padded trainers on, these nerves are transmitting false information to the brain. As they report soft surfaces – heavily cushioned thick rubber shoes – the choreography of our joint positioning and muscle contraction are wrong, we arrive to the ground with a greater impact which can lead to pain as well as risk of injuries.
So considering all these you can see that barefoot workouts can actually lead to better performance, posture and a healthier body.
It’s important to note that barefoot training can be dangerous. The floor needs to be clean and the area of workout needs to be free of small objects like toys, shoes etc. Also, and I can say this from personal experience,it’s not a good idea to jump over any object without shoes on. I have dislocated and fractured one of my big toe last year by jumping over discs of weights. Lesson learned: since that I either wear shoes or just use imaginary objects when I wish to jump over something.
Warning! Some people with certain health conditions are not recommended to work out barefoot – for example people experiencing plantar pain or have diabetes, when the sensation of the sole is reduced.
Are you ready now to kick off your shoes? Have you tried barefoot training? Please, share your thoughts and experience with me.