Retropoplifestyle

Health & WellnessLiving

Barefeet Training

By AmrinMemon (High School Strength and Conditioning Specialist and Founder of AHFitness)

When it comes to training, most people overlook two of the most critical parts of the body – their feet. They train the upper body, lower body and core giving no thought to strengthening their feet.

Our feet are undoubtedly important. They are the first contact point when hitting the ground and the last contact point when leaving the ground. They play such crucial roles in movement.Thus, it is easy to agree that a strong foot, and the whole ankle complex for that matter, has major performance implications.If you are unable to perform a majority of your activities including strength training, walking, jogging etc. in either barefoot or the most minimal shoes, your feet and ankles just aren’t functioning the way they were meant to.  When these muscles aren’t activating properly, much of the stress is transferred to tendons, ligaments and joints and surrounding connective tissue thus resulting in various injuries over time. Instability in feet and ankles also result in various postural issues that may go all the way up to the spine.

Our body is a constant feedback loop of information. With the foot as the only contact point between the body and the ground- much of this information enters our nervous system through the feet. If this information is tuned out or unable to be sensed by the nervous system, inaccurate movement patterns and delayed time to stabilization (i.e. injury) are the results. One of the primary causes or reasons for the inability to sense the essential proprioceptive information of human movement is footwear.

How to get started?

Test your feet

No matter what shoes you have on your feet, you have to learn how to use your own feet first. Simply transitioning to barefoot or minimalist shoes will not automatically strengthen the feet. Increase awareness of your feet. 1. Can you actively spread your toes? 2. Can you roll the ankle in and out by collapsing then activating the arch of your foot? 3. Can your toes bend upward and downward?

After years of wearing shoes for more than 12 hours a day, beginning to embrace barefoot training must happen gradually. The small intrinsic muscles in the feet are so weak, suddenly jumping from supportive cushioned shoes to no shoes may actually lead to injuries. The damage done by wearing supportive footwear must first be undone before training barefoot. Simply walking around barefoot can begin to strengthen the small muscles in the foot and is a good way to start. One can invest in a pair of minimalist shoes and start by wearing them for 1-2 hours a day gradually adding an additional hour every month. The transition to barefoot training should happen over a course of a few months or even a couple of years.

 

Benefits of training Barefoot

  1. Better Proprioception

Each foot is made up of 33 joints, 26 bones and more than hundred muscles, tendons and ligaments and it is loaded inside and out with sensors that subconsciously interpret space, orientation and our movement in it. This is what maintains our balance and stability. Barefoot training helps enhance this mind body connection. It  is one of the most effective ways to stimulate the small nerves found in the feet for proprioceptive training and is widely used for rehabilitation as well as injury prevention.

 

  1. More Power

All the force we generate to walk, run, jump, deadlift comes from the ground. Our feet are the only part of our bodies that are in contact with the ground and transmit the force. If there is a cushion between the ground and the feet, the force output reduces.  But if we are barefeet the force isn’t lost and instead can be incorporated into the lift.

 

  1. Glute Activation

The big toe is directly related to glute activation. Training Hip hinge movements like deadlifts and kettlebell swings barefeet can help create improved foot feel and can help target the larger muscles in the hip that drive these movements.

 

  1. Improved posture and overall mechanics

Our feet affect us much more than we realize. Numerous studies have consistently shown that the entire kinetic chain of movement from the feet up gets affected when the feet are not their optimum. Foot and ankle dysfunction often contributes to faulty hip and knee mechanics which indirectly affects the spine. Poor spinal alignment is often the cause for low back pain, neck pain, shoulder injuries as well as weakness of the upper extremities. Going barefoot strengthens the neuromuscular pathways of the foot and leg thus improving the initial neural firing which in turn helps the rest of the body movements.

 

  1. Stronger Base

Our feet are intended to feel the ground and to withstand incredibly high forces and should provide more in terms of shock absorption than perhaps any other body part. The balance and stability required while moving without shoes maintains this ability and strengthens the foot musculature over time.

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