Putting on shoes is a pretty standard part of your everyday routine. And whether you are sliding into shoes for the office or lacing up a pair to go out, comfort is always key. Sacrificing comfort is not an option, especially when you’re headed to the gym. But how much are your super supportive new running shoes really helping you? If you haven’t already, you may want to consider integrating some barefoot routines.
According to Livestrong.com, “Analysis has shown that the mechanics of running is actually altered when wearing shoes, with runners striking the ground with their heels instead of the more efficient forefoot strike.” Strike is key in not only building muscles properly, but also maintaining strength and avoiding injury. Working out barefoot can help strengthen foot muscles, and provides benefits to many muscles that would not normally get a workout because of shoe support.
“Developing the strength of your feet and ankles will improve their overall dexterity and reactivity. Your balance, proprioception and quality of movement are also enhanced, and this benefits real-world activities, as well as training in the gym and for sports performance,” Steve Maxwell, a strength specialist with MaxwellSC.com, told Livestrong.
The key to barefoot workouts is a slow transition. Although barefoot workouts may not seem like a big adjustment, it is something that your body will get used to, and if you transition too quickly you may develop an injury or become overly sore. At first, try integrating barefoot exercises into your regular workout, or try doing simple exercises, like performing your warm-up barefoot.
According to Men’s Health, when you start out with barefoot workouts you might feel some discomfort. As you reawaken the muscles in your feet, ankles, and calves, they may feel stiff and sore, and this is normal. Although being sore is normal, you should be aware of joint or bone pain — this may be a sign that you are taking the transition from shoe workouts to barefoot workouts too quickly. This could indicate an injury. So if you experience aches of that sort, stop immediately and allow your body to rest and heal.
The overall transition should take a month or so, but once your body becomes accustomed to the workouts, your feet will become stronger, and the workouts will feel less challenging. Martin Rooney, P.T., C.S.C.S., chief operating officer of the Parisi Speed School, told Men’s Health, “When you stub your foot in a shoe all day, it makes your foot muscles, tendons, and ligaments weak. You lose mobility in your foot because it’s not moving over the ground like it’s suppose to.”
The key is knowing your body. Going barefoot can be integrated in your normal routines, but Rooney told Men’s Health that you should not always go barefoot. Most people don’t have the ankle mobility during squats to probably perform them without shoes. Without proper range of motion, too much of the weight can be transferred to the lower spine.
Getting familiarized with your body is key, and allowing yourself to feel comfortable enough to incorporate barefoot workouts will help you develop different muscles and allow you to grow as an athlete.
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