What Is the Science Behind the Benefits of Barefoot Training? Precautions and Considerations

You know that relaxing moment when you free your feet from your shoes after a long training day? Many people wonder whether there’s a way to just do their exercises without the constraints of footwear. It can be a hypothetical experiment for fun, but training barefoot has advantages. And people have been doing it for years.

What Is Barefoot Training?

Barefoot training refers to fitness routines without footwear. This practice is the complete opposite of shod training or exercising with shoes. The main benefits of barefoot training are increased balance and mobility.

Many athletes have adopted training barefoot for the numerous advantages it offers. Abebe Bikila is one of the runners who popularized barefoot running with his first Olympic marathon win in 1960. He also won while barefoot the following year.

Barefoot training can be helpful regarding sustainability since it forgoes footwear use. About 300 million pairs of shoes are thrown away each year in America. Most decomposing takes up to 50 years, but there are still toxins and emissions as a result. Going shoeless while staying fit can help avoid creating waste.

Benefits of Barefoot Training

Fitness enthusiasts who have never considered barefoot training may think it’s simply a fad or impractical. However, there is some scientific backing behind why the practice works.

1. Improved Stability

Barefoot training can recalibrate your balance. Almost all footwear options affect your stability. Just look at heels and how they take some training before walking normally. With training sneakers, the cushioning and compression can change the sensation of walking

A study shows how barefoot walking may be superior to shod walking for balance training in older adults. There are notes about how the swing time between strides can influence overall stability during movement.

2. Extra Mobility and Coordination

With improved stability comes extra mobility and coordination. Since barefoot training improves your balance, you can focus on refining your movement patterns. Allow your feet to contribute to the rest of the body’s coordination when you walk or jump. 

Once you grasp your movement while barefoot, you remove your foot and ankle stiffness. You gain a better range of motion, preventing injuries like cramps and sprains in the long run. 

3. Heightened Reflexes

Barefoot training can help improve your reflexes and quicken your reaction speed. The feet have multiple sensory receptors to perceive the ground beneath us. When your nociceptors note a painful sensation like heat from the ground, you feel the burn and react by running away. Work on your sensory awareness.

4. Better Blood Flow

Barefoot training is often related to grounding or exploring bodily contact with the Earth. The primary reason people walk barefoot is because of the sensation of the environment. They also feel a deeper connection to the planet. Although it requires more research, there is a study on how grounding improves blood flow regulation to the face and chest. 

5. Quality Strength Training

Barefoot training can build strength in some body parts, which is critical to improving overall movement. Here are some examples:

  • Foot: The foot has multiple muscles responsible for carrying the weight of your whole body and moving you around. Barefoot training allows you to work out your feet without the need to rely on footwear support. Aside from great kicks, foot strength can help improve movement endurance.
  • Ankle: Ankles also benefit from barefoot training, especially stretching and jumping. High-ankle shoes can secure this specific part of the body. While it can provide aesthetic appeal and pressure, there’s little room for training. These joints are an injury-prone spot. Working on your ankle strength can reduce risks.
  • Calf: Some footwear can elevate one’s height. Although some may think it can accentuate the calves, it can shorten the muscles on your leg. Tighter calve muscles mean more discomfort and cramps. Barefoot training can build up your calf strength to ensure you can handle tension and avoid such injuries. 

6. Better Posture and Alignment

Poor posture occurs when your core muscles weaken from sedentary habits. For example, working at a desk all day can keep your shoulders, back, and abdomen stiff. Standing barefoot can make you more conscious of this misalignment and discomfort. Undergo some physical activity without your shoes to recharge those muscles in your body.

Key Considerations About Barefoot Training

Barefoot training can maximize your performance if you pick the right exercises. Working out without shoes can be foreign to some people, so explore some beginner movements. Think of routines that would benefit without the weight of shoes.

For example, it’s simple to engage in yoga or Pilates in various conditions, including going barefoot. Other exercises include:

  • Squats: Squats without shoes or heel elevation can help you gauge your balance. Focus on applying more pressure on the hips and glutes. You also get to free up your lower back from taking in more tension as you lean forward.
  • Deadlifts: People prefer deadlifts with shoes, but it can be good to try them out barefoot. You get to refine your form and increase stability as you spread out your stance and lift weights. Just remember to start with manageable weights first to practice.
  • Heel raises: There are many variations of heel raises, from single leg lifts to stair heel raises. Doing these exercises without shoes can give your feet much more freedom as you stretch and move your body upward.
  • Running: Running in place or jogging barefoot can improve overall running efficiency. You must be more mindful of your foot’s landing with each step than jogging with shoes. Aim to place pressure on the middle of your forefoot rather than let the toes take in the impact. 

Barefoot Training Precautions

Before you plan out your barefoot training routine, you must recognize your feet are vulnerable. Practice a couple of precautions to carry out this practice safely.

1. Take Your Time Adjusting

Some people aren’t used to barefoot training, so you don’t have to blitz through the process quickly. Shuffle out different days and take your time adjusting. Use more minimalist and flexible shoes for a barefoot feel if you feel uncomfortable. Some people also recommend grip socks for maximum movement.

2. Be Cautious of Equipment

Avoid dropping workout gear onto your feet since you have zero foot protection. If you want to experiment with heavier weights, have a friend spot you throughout the process. Treadmills also have a high incidence of injuries even when you’re laced up. Since they also heat up while in use, it may be best to steer clear of that machine during barefoot training.

3. Consider Your Space

Barefoot training is recommended in select terrains only. Working out on soil can cause dirt and possible fungal infections. Cold-tiled floors are discouraged too, since the temperature can cause discomfort. The ideal spot to exercise without shoes is in clean spaces with even surfaces. Make sure there aren’t any sharp objects on the ground.

4. Check Gym Policies

Reserve your barefoot training for at-home exercises. Some gyms do not allow people to go on their premises or use equipment barefoot. Exercising without shoes can spread your sweat. These restrictions are in place to maintain cleanliness. Shoes also help prevent injuries or lessen an accident’s impact if they do occur. 

5. Consult a Health Professional

Barefoot training is recommended for people from all walks of life. That said, it’s best to be careful if you have foot or ankle pain or conditions to take care of. Ask a health care professional to understand whether you can undergo barefoot training. There may be cases where you need to undergo physical therapy first before.

Engage in Training Barefoot

Barefoot training has many pros to adopt as you customize your fitness routine. Try it out and see whether it works for you. Just remember to take precautions and make the proper considerations to get everything in check.

Beth Rush
Author: Beth Rush

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