I still remember standing in my boss’s office at Rutgers as she explained barefoot workouts to me. This is before Vibrams were popular or it was all over fitness news about people running around barefoot. Her interest in barefoot workouts started from the class WillPower & Grace. It was here my interest was sparked and I was hooked on this barefoot concept. I began my research and as a science brain I really liked what I saw!
For the general public, working out barefoot can be a great addition! However, if you have had foot problems in the past make sure to consult a podiatrist on whether or not it is a good idea for you (1).
Shoes have not always been around, and it is this idea that appears to be at the core of working out barefoot. Without even researching I thought about it, so why do we wear shoes? In the medical world we wear shoes to protect us from a lot of things, including needles and random flying bodily fluids. On the street we wear them to protect ourselves from the many random objects lying around. While running we wear them to support our feet. But why do we insist on wearing shoes all the time? In one foot alone there are 26 bones (or one quarter of all the bones in the body in both feet), 33 joints, and over 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments (2). So as a personal trainer who is BIG on training all the muscles, especially the small forgotten about muscles why was I NOT focusing on training all those muscles in the feet?
That was a good question I started to ask myself. So after some research and making sure it was safe for me to try working out barefoot because of an abnormality in my back, off I went to try barefoot training. You want to know what I found out? I LOVED it and still do to this day!
What are the benefits I have found from it? As I strengthened my feet outside of my 13 hour shifts in my workouts, not only did I have the support up my supportive shoes as I walk 6+ miles per shift, but I also have the support of all those strengthened muscles in my feet. Barefoot workouts is something I highly recommend for anyone who is in a job that demands them to be on their feet for long hours! I have found that my back that has always hurt, hurts less because of the support that is provided by my feet now that I have strengthened the muscles in my feet. I also love the feeling of working out without shoes or with my Vibrams. It is so nice to not feel completely constricted!
It is recommended that when you can, take off your shoes to continue to strengthen those muscles. If your feet are in poorly fitted shoes for too long, it may even weaken your arch (3). The best way to strengthen your foot is to take away the support and allow it to strengthen from within (4)!
Some suggestions I have for if you are thinking about going barefoot:
Make sure it is safe for you as an individual.
Do it with your safety in mind. Don’t go running outside without shoes in a place where there could be sharp objects.
Start slowly. Don’t just jump right into an hour workout without shoes, start with 10 minutes and continue to work your way up.
Stretch out your toes and feet and do exercises that focus on strengthening your feet. Here are some examples of Feet Exercises. As your feet get stronger don’t be afraid to do things like jumping squats, burpees, and mountain climbers barefoot! Also, look at your local gym for barefoot classes!
I recommend getting a pair of barefoot shoes such as the Vibrams so that as you advance in your barefoot training, you are not limited to places where your feet will not run into sharp objects.
If you’re lifting heavy weights, please where shoes. We don’t want any of those many bones broken!
Erica, The Mastermind Sources: