Today, I’ll answer my most asked question. “Why is everyone barefoot at your gym?”
Simply put, try walking on a balance beam with bulky running shoes, then try barefoot. Which is easier…probably barefoot.
When we are barefoot we can connect to the object we are walking on, our toes can spread to add support, and our feet can quickly respond to the balance needs.
Are feet are an amazing part of our body that has evolved to carry weight, run, walk, and jump! But, for some reason we have decided to lock them in a box. Sure there are surfaces when some foot protection is nice like super hot sand, concrete or gravel. A little padding when you are running or walking a long ways is nice too. But like gloves we should only wear them when we need them.
Why modern shoe design works against us:
•Modern shoes have lifted heels which pushes your weight forward causing you to sway your back and adjust your posture. Low back pain anyone?
•Arch support does what it says and supports your arch -making it so the natural arch muscles do not develop often leading to flat and weak feet. There are exceptions here, of course.
•Shoes have excessive padding which disconnects us from the ground we are walking on usually leading to bigger heavier strides. This initially makes us less agile (balance beam for example) and often leads to heel, knee or hip pain. In the gym padding actually takes force and control out of our lifts.
•Those cute shoes are too tight, too pointed, too restrictive leading to weird shaped and crippled toes. Not only is this visually unappealing but we actually need our toes for balance, walking up hill, jumping etc!
Ok, now you are ready to throw out your shoes and start going barefoot or wearing minimalist shoes?
Wait, Start small! Just like how no one would suggest your go for run the day you pull your leg out of cast, you will also need to ease into being barefoot. It will take time to build up the muscles and adjust to alignment changes. And the more supportive your shoes are now the longer that adjustment period will take.
I usually suggest people start out walking barefoot at home and in other controlled environments like their Ascent class. Slowly start spending more time barefoot, until you can go all day. If you have super raised heels start buying shoes with a smaller and smaller heel lift until you are down to a 0mm lift. And give your toes a break and buy shoes with wider toe box.
At first your feet may be unhappy. Use a tennis ball to massage the fascia and let the feet adjust. Soak your feet, and be patient!
But, my work won’t let me be barefoot! I get it, I tried going barefoot for a year and got kicked out of many classrooms, stores, and restaurants. Lucky for you, there are many stylish minimalist shoes these days. A quick internet search will bring up many options.
Want to try a workout barefoot? Audit a class at Ascent!