Why YOU need to train in your BARE FEET!
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Minimalist and barefoot training is one of the few things the fitness industry has done right, though in practice it is something that many get wrong if rushed into. Regardless of what activity you’re partaking in, if done properly, barefoot training or training in minimalist shoes can have extensive benefits to your physical health. Our bodies do not work in isolation and our modern lifestyles and bulky footwear are slowly disrupting our physical health, performance and wellbeing. That tight hamstring you have may not actually be caused from the hamstring itself but rather from an instability that started in your feet, that was then compounded by a tight hip from sitting too much, in combination with poor postural alignment. By finding balance from our feet up we can re-establish our foundations, reduce pain, prevent injuries, and improve athletic performance and agility.
Why barefoot training?
We spend so much of our time in confining shoes that our feet and the muscles that help establish our body’s stability are weak and underused. This underuse and heavy reliance on shoes makes us more prone to injuries. However, going barefoot or training in minimalist shoes takes time, as your feet and legs also need time to rebuild the tissues that are meant to stabilize your body, hence why injuries can also occur if you take the leap from being shod to unshod too quickly. The main issue with modern day footwear is that it destroys the proprioception that we gain through our feet. Proprioception is our body’s ability to sense our environment and spatial awareness and many of us may not even realize that it’s compromised. You can test your current proprioception by standing in your bare feet and closing your eyes. Lift your legs one at a time and see if you’re able to stay balanced. Severe stumbling or having a leg that’s better than the other is a sign of an impairment.
Benefits of barefoot training
Why exactly is barefoot training better? Besides improving on your proprioception, strong feet lead to a more efficient use of our muscles. A study performed on barefoot runners in 2012, found that heart rate and relative perceived exertion levels in the runners tested was “significantly lower” in the barefoot runners than it was in the shod runners. Additionally, runners who were in their bare feet saw a 10% increase in their cadence, also without any extra perceived exertion. In a similar study done on weightlifters, found that those doing squats in their bare feet activated more muscle fibres in the lowering motion of the squat than those who were wearing shoes. Even if you’re uncomfortable with the idea of exercising in your bare feet, there are plenty of minimalist shoes that will provide the same benefits as going barefoot (Vivo Bare Foot, Vibram). The Golden rule with going barefoot or wearing minimalist shoes is to start slowly and to start doing exercises with your feet to help rebuild their muscles. Once you have the basics you can start to incorporate minimalist wear and barefoot training into your fitness as well as your daily life.
Sources: Rothschild, Carey PT, DPT, CSCS. (2012, April). Running Barefoot or in Minimalist Shoes: Evidence or Conjecture?. Retrieved from https://journals.lww.com/nsca-scj/fulltext/2012/04000/Running_Barefoot_or_in_Minimalist_Shoes___Evidence.2.aspx.
Brown, Sarah E. (2013, April). Electromyographical Analysis of Barefoot Squat: A Clinical Perspective. Retrieved from https://dc.etsu.edu/honors/58/.
Oxford Dictionary, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/proprioception
Huffington Post – Why Barefoot is Best When Working Out - https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/taylored-training-fitness-/barefoot-best-working-out_b_9985612.html
Muscle and Fitness – Everything You Need to Know About Barefoot Training https://www.muscleandfitness.com/muscle-fitness-hers/hers-features/everything-you-need-know-about-barefoot-training
Self – Is Barefoot Training Ever a Good Idea? https://www.self.com/story/barefoot-training
Men’s Health – 4 Exercises You Should Always Do Barefoot https://www.menshealth.com/fitness/a19541126/barefoot-training/
Very Well Health – An Overview of Proprioception https://www.verywellhealth.com/proprioception-2696141
T-Nation – The Truth About Barefoot Training https://www.t-nation.com/training/truth-about-barefoot-training
Vivo Barefoot - https://www.vivobarefoot.com/uk/science
Vibram - https://www.vibram.com/