You may have noticed that we have been having members ditch their shoes in certain classes, like kettlebells. And, if you have done a functional movement assessment with us, you were also “barefoot.” This is not an exclusively XPF practice, barefoot fitness training (and even running) has actually gained popularity over the last few years. Here's 5 reasons why:
1. Being barefoot is natural.
All species, including humans, enter the world barefoot. Think about it, we are the only species to wear shoes. And in fitness, we have unfortunately grown accustomed to shoes that provide TOO much support. This extra cushion actually degrades performance and weakens the body as a whole.
2. Training shoeless strengthens the muscles in the foot and ankle. Today’s high-tech athletic shoes provide stability, and actually do the work our feet and ankles are designed to do. Strengthening these small, stabilizing muscles can improve balance and overall athletic performance.
3. It improves our proprioception, or the sense of orientation and awareness of our surroundings and the relationship of body parts with one another via sensory (non-visual) input.
A perfect example of this phenomena is walking or running up stairs without looking down. Training barefoot strengthens the connection to our environment, which improves coordination and helps develop more natural movements.
4. It decreases the probability of injury.
Approximately 25% of the joints in our body are located in our feet, which support the entire body. Shoes not only provide artificial support, but they foster improper foot mechanics, placing unnatural pressure on the knees, spine and neck.
5. Training barefoot improves muscle alignment.
When barefoot, we use different, or even more, muscle groups than when wearing shoes, which positively impacts muscle patterns. What does this mean? Simply put, exercising without shoes engages--and strengthens--muscles in a more complete fashion.
Want to join the shoeless revolution?
We recommend you start slowly. Try a soft shoe with little to no sole like: Minimus or a Vibram(R) FiveFingers shoe. Keep in mind that some people require more support than others; and, if you have never run or trained barefoot you may experience some soreness at the beginning. If you experience any initial soreness, wait until it dissipates before trying again.
*Note: long distance running and plyometric training should be limited until feet are proper conditioned.