barefoot training

You see, there are about 20 muscles within our foot and 12 muscles from our leg that attach to our foot. According to Dr. Michael Nirenberg and Dr. Benno Nigg, while walking in shoes, only the tibialis anterior (a shin muscle) and triceps surae (calf) muscles are needed.
That’s right, only a couple of different muscles are needed to facilitate human locomotion while wearing cushioned shoes!
What do you think all of those other muscles are doing in the mean time? Well, if they aren’t ever used the body lets them shrink to maximize efficiency. And, if you have elevated heels under your feet, your calf muscles will shorten in length as well.
Exercising barefoot may prove to be a valuable program adjustment for many.
Training barefoot can promote one’s sense of balance, improve muscle alignment, reduce orthopedic pains, and lessen the chance of injury.

Different muscle segments are recruited when one is barefoot compared to when one is wearing shoes. From standing to walking to exercising, those subtle differences mold muscle-firing sequences and affect the way a person moves. Spend a few years training in shoes and different muscle-patterns become habitually recruited.

all sorts of things can be experienced barefooted :)
Often the difference can be seen in yoga class. The feet of those who have been performing yoga barefoot for a lifetime are different than those who may have just begun. Well-formed arches and un-cramped toes are often the results of barefoot training.

Another result of barefoot training lies deeper within the muscles and fascia. The subtly raised heel and the added arch support of the average training shoe change the natural mechanics of the foot. In short, time spent in a raised heel unnaturally tightens the calf muscle and lengthens the shin muscle. Calf cramps and shin splints are often directly caused by shortened calves and lengthened shins.

Plantar fasciitis (inflammation and pain in the arch and heel) is another common symptom that can be worsened by shoe support. The muscular structures in the arches of the feet are designed to absorb shock and encourage proper mechanics of walking, running, and exercise.

Artificially raised arches directly remove responsibility from arch muscles to perform their job.

Ironically, many find relief from these very symptoms when wearing high-heeled, arch-supported training gear. They do so for good reason. Initially, the added support relieves the tension bearing down upon weak muscles. Over the long term, however, if the root of the issue is not addressed, these supports must become higher and higher in order to avoid the same problems. Of course, the moment one steps into a flatter, less supported heel, symptoms return. Soon, one begins to blame the quality of their shoes, “My shoes just don’t have enough support.” The cycle can create a life confined to shoes and orthopedic responses.

Anytime muscle balance is altered, one is at greater risk of injuries like twisted ankles, pulled muscles and ligaments, chronic inflammation, and ultimately arthritic-like ailments. It is also common that knee and back pains rise from sources like improper foot mechanics. Artificially supported shoes can force unnatural pressure into the knees, spine, and even neck. Corrective exercise often solves joint pains by improving muscle alignments in completely unaffected areas. The mechanics of the foot are an important part of total body postural function.

One way to naturally strengthen the arch and shin, relax the calf, improve overall ankle stability, and promote proper muscle alignment is to train barefoot.

Perhaps the first thing one notices when removing their shoes for squats, lunges, and other strength training movements is an initial lack of stabilization. A person can be so conditioned to using external shoe support that he almost falls sideways in a barefoot lunge. Balance is one skill that begins to strengthen upon removing shoes. Improved balance will reduce chances of twisting the ankle or falling, among other balance-related injuries.

The field of reflexology (like acupressure for the feet) is based on the theory that locations on the feet correspond with other areas in our body, including glands and organs. The varying pressures of training barefoot may be important to maintain optimal function within the body.

Finally, being barefoot may receive further benefit when training outdoors. Feet that touch the ground without the sole of a rubber shoe may more readily absorb the electromagnetic field, free electrons, or some other form of energy from the earth. If so, benefits can include reduced free radicals in the body and greater energy flow. Both may further relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and generally improve health.

A good rule when transitioning to barefoot training is to start with just a few simple exercises. If one exercise seems to cause more pain than it’s worth, find a different exercise to practice. Use care if exercising on a hard surface. Just balancing on one foot for 60 seconds will be very difficult for most. Demonstrating the postural ability to do so for three minutes is a test not many will make on the first attempt. Not every exercise needs to be barefoot, of course. The idea is to be comfortable barefoot on more occasions, allowing the foot’s natural muscle alignment to improve over time.


Post a Comment