Barefoot training is good for me? Really? So why do Asics and Nike sell me shoes that help me lift my collapsed arches, for $300?!
Learning why barefoot training is so beneficial is the key to understanding the importance of it.
I will do my best to explain to you why it is so beneficial in this article. And hey! Schwarzenegger does it, he turned out alright ;)
First, we need to see why we wear shoes. For decades and decades, we have been taught to wear shoes when we go outside, and especially to the gym, because it's safer and there is a risk we will hurt ourselves. Most of us probably put shoes on as soon as we get dressed in the morning. Yeah? Once they are on, they likely stay on for the whole day. Or we change from one pair of shoes to the other throughout the day. Heels, runners, flats, heels, flats, then runners for the gym.
Runners especially, as I'm referring to barefoot exercise, all offer the buyer a specific aid for a problem. Collapsed arches, high arches, external rotating, flat foot etc etc. All of these shoes are to modify an issue the person has which has been diagnosed by someone and they've been told it's a bad thing. Often the issue is worsened by the corrective treatment rather than looking at how the person can better function with the foot and ankle structure they have.
I agree, some people will need some additional assistance, but orthotics is not always the best option. This can change how they naturally move, and by doing so, they create more issues, and it triggers a domino effect of more injuries and issues around the body. So what was once a flat foot, then diagnosed orthotics, has now turned into lateral knee pain, hip tightness, lower back chronic pain and so forth. Changing one small thing like this can trigger a flow on effect of injuries as the body tries to compensate with the change in connection at ground level.
Every person has a slightly different foot/bone structure, as well as a strong genetic influence. It also has a lot to do with the lifestyle and external influences they have in their upbringing. Think about babies and young kids, they don't start wearing shoes until they are walking. If you can, look at their feet. They are naturally flat, well, relatively.
Once we start wearing shoes, our foot structure begins changing. Now, instead of having a lot of room to move around, our toes can spread and provide a wider base of support and more connection with the floor, we are now confined to a narrow, restrictive shoe, our toes push closer together, the true feeling and connection with the floor while we are training is gone, and we now have a spongy, uneven layer between us and a flat surface. Now, to complicate that, put a barbell with 80kg on your shoulders and squat 10 times. See how your true balance is compromised and you're now having to rely on finding the sweet spot of your shoes where you can get the best balance.
The flatter the shoe the better it is for your feet, but runners that have high support arches, or heaven forbid, some Sketchers with the rounded sole, you will be changing how your body wants to naturally move. When exercising, we want our body to have the best chance possible so we can deliver the best strength output as well as perform it as safely as possible. When we are barefoot, we can do this more effectively and safely.
It will take some getting used to, but once you do, watch how much better it feels!
Connection With The Floor-
When you do anything, the better connection and balance you have while doing it makes it far easier to do. The same thing goes for exercising barefoot. Being able to feel the floor under your feet, with your skin in contact, totally changes how you do the exercise. Just like walking on the beach barefoot is far more satisfying on a neural level than walking it with shoes on. Connecting with the ground is a very powerful tool you can use to reconnect yourself. Spread your toes, plant your feet, and watch how much force you can deliver during your squat now.
When you connect with the floor under your feet, you also receive a lot of neural stimulation, which in turn, helps send more messages to muscles via the nervous system. When you get more muscles receiving messages, you get more muscles activating, greater strength output, more force delivered, more weight lifted, more strength gained, more calories burned and a more rewarding workout. IT'S WIN WIN!
The next time you are training, legs especially, go barefoot and watch your big lifts improve, your body start to respond, and the euphoric feeling you experience.