After a day of running around in your favorite pair of gym shoes, your feet still ache. Those colorful, cushy sneakers are supposed to be the most supportive, the most comfortable, the most effective shoe for your daily and fitness activities. But have you ever thought that maybe your shoes, comfortable as they are, could be making your feet lazy? A recent fitness trend encourages fitness fanatics to lose the shoes and opt for barefoot training. Think beyond yoga into walking, jogging, and strength training in bare feet.
The foot bone's connected to the ankle bone. The ankle bone's connected to the leg bone. You don't need an anatomy lesson to know that the feet, ankles and legs are all connected and support the movement for the entire body. According to BuiltLean, those fancy gym shoes you own actually immobilize your feet and restrict natural movement and stride. Muscles in the foot, ankle, and leg are weakened because of too much restriction from shoes. Feet are the foundation of good posture. Running mechanics, for example, changes when the runner is wearing sneakers, and repetitive heel strikes while running distribute stress from the feet up through the body. Even just walking around barefoot helps strengthen feet, ankles and legs.
Barefoot movement allows for full range of motion and allows your feet to compensate and adjust to the terrain and how you are walking. Your calf muscles and Achilles tendon will stretch and lengthen to prevent injuries while exercising. Foot and ankle injuries in sports and fitness are very common and may be attributed to weak muscles and tendons in the feet and ankles.
Not only will your feet feel much stronger from barefoot training, but your balance, coordination, and stability will improve as well. All muscles in the feet are activated when exercising because your body must rely more on the feet than a pair of shoes for stability. Your toes will spread out more naturally and help you feel more grounded.
If all this sounds great, it's important to know that you shouldn't just ditch the shoes and start running and lifting in your bare feet. It takes time to get used to the sensation and it's important to strengthen your foot muscles slowly to prevent injury. Slowly integrating foot strengthening techniques into your routine will help prepare your feet and body for more barefoot activity. The best place to start is often just walking around barefoot at home. As you continue adding in more activities, your feet and muscles will strengthen, but you may feel some initial discomfort and soreness as you reawaken muscles that are weak. Once you get comfortable in exercising without shoes, try Piloxing!
There are also a number of barefoot training shoes on the market with minimal padding and support to give the wearer the feeling of barefoot movement without the concern for surface elements on the ground. Also note that all gyms have different policies on barefoot (or sock foot) training, so be sure to ask before you go without shoes.
As always, your podiatrist can better recommend the shoe and strength activities right for your body and help you prevent injury. If able, try ditching the shoes for a freer, more grounded style of training!
>>Read more: If The Shoe Doesn't Fit, Don't Wear It