Shoes don’t have to be a must when it comes to a good workout. In fact, barefoot running, or natural running is becoming more and more popular these days. The most recent spike in the barefoot movement has been seen with weightlifters. Because of this, gyms have started incorporating the policy of “socks required.”
On the other hand, yoga and pilates studios will not let you step foot in the classroom unless you have your shoes off.
So today, I want to talk about barefoot training and what it’s all about. Is it really a good idea to ditch your favorite workout shoes? And what about the risk of injury?
Why Barefoot Training
Have you ever heard of the term “foot coffin”? That’s precisely what podiatrists call shoes.
By wearing your shoes all day, you are letting your feet slack off, making them weak with time. It turns out, shoes do all the work for your muscles and connective tissues, allowing your feet to rest almost all of the time.
Now, you’re probably wondering why that is so bad.
Well, when you think about your body, your feet are the foundation. It’s like building a house—a good foundation is necessary. Otherwise, your house will be precarious and might crash.
When you’re wearing shoes all day, your feet are not going to be so good at doing their job. Luckily, you can retrain them to become your firm foundation once again.
By constantly wearing your shoes, you actually have a slightly bigger chance of injury. This is because your arches, ankles, and toes can become weaker and more susceptible to getting hurt. There are many areas at risk here, including ankle injuries, shin splints, and knee issues.
Just by looking at these possible consequences, you might go all-in on a barefoot workout, and if this wasn’t enough, there’s more.
You will especially love this next part if you’re a lifter. Most of the lifters you see barefoot want to include every muscle in their body. Weightlifting barefoot means they’re more likely to move slightly differently than they would with their shoes on.
Because your feet are flat on the floor, it challenges your ankle mobility, thus making it more robust and firmer. While your squat dip might be limited, you’ll have complete body balance.
Basically, there is no right way. Of course, footwear is considered one of the most important pieces of running gear for men and women. It can benefit you, but knowing that there are options can give you a much more well-rounded workout routine.
When Barefoot Training is Not Good
Barefoot running wouldn’t be so popular if there weren’t good and bad sides to it. So when it comes to running, it’s probably not a good idea to go for it if you have underlying conditions, like issues with Achilles tendonitis.
Many people sustained injuries after reading the book Born To Run. However, most of the injuries had a lot to do with people not being prepared, so they went and did too much too soon.
Also, a lot of barefoot running injuries are tied to stepping on something sharp when performing running exercises, while injuries in people who practiced yoga, pilates, or barre barefoot are rare.
The bottom of the feet is soft and tender for many people, and going off without the support that shoes offer can cause plantar pain and even increase the risk of plantar fasciitis.
Also, be ready to deal with blisters, especially at the beginning of your barefoot training journey. Your soft feet need some callusing, and that doesn’t happen overnight.
When running barefoot, a runner must learn how to land on the midsole and front of the foot rather than the heel. When running in shoes with lifted heels, runners tend to land on their heels, making them less efficient when it comes to natural running.
By using minimalist running shoes or going barefoot, runners tend to lean forward, which leads to more efficiency when running.
How to Start With Barefoot Training
Just like with anything in life, if you’re thinking about starting barefoot training, you need to start small. If you’re a runner, try jogging on a soft surface like sand or grass first.
If you’re a lifter, try doing a set with smaller weights to warm up a bit, and if you feel like adding more weights, do it, but make sure you’re careful.
Beginners in barefoot training need to be especially careful. If you feel like your feet are not strong enough, give them some time to become stronger and more flexible. Then you can consider doing more complex and vigorous workouts.
Whatever you choose, however, let your body guide you. If you ever feel discomfort during or after your barefoot training that interferes with your movement, it is best to hold off a bit and see how it feels next time.
Make sure you’re practicing a good running form. What I mean by this is that you need to pay attention to how you run, now more than ever, because the correct running form is crucial if you want to be successful in barefoot running.
Landing—make your land as light as possible, making sure the transition between your midsole (the place that should first hit the ground) and the forefront of your feet is as smooth as possible.
Stride—your strides should be short, and your feet shouldn’t be slapping the ground.
Heels—your heels should be the last point of your feet to touch the ground, if at all.
Toes—make sure you’re not pushing the ground away with your toes because that might cause a lot of pain, discomfort, and blisters.
Try these tips for a few weeks and see how barefoot training works for you. If you feel like you can’t adjust to the change, try picking out some minimalist shoes and see if that works.
The most important part of barefoot training is to do what feels good for you.