The benefits of walking barefoot have become a key area of interest. This interest has extended to the fitness sphere with working out barefoot becoming increasingly popular among gym-goers. Should you trade your high-quality sneakers in favour of working out barefoot? Let’s talk about the pros and cons of this newfangled practice.
Benefits of working out barefoot
When toddlers are learning to walk, parents are encouraged to let them do it barefoot, without shoes. Shoes can affect how the child uses their feet muscles and bones. Walking barefoot improves their perception of their body in space as they receive feedback from the ground. Later, they can wear shoes without losing these things they already learnt.
Experts believe that cushioned shoes negatively affect balance, stability and foot strength because the layer of foam between your feet and the ground dulls the messaging between your feet and the brain. Cushioned shoes, they say could make your feet extra sensitive and even weaken your ankles. The benefits of working out barefoot are linked to the benefits of walking barefoot.
Benefits of walking barefoot
- Restores our ‘natural’ walking pattern, also known as gait.
- Better control of your foot position when it strikes the ground.
- Stronger leg muscles which support the lower back region.
- Improves balance and body awareness which can help with pain relief.
- Better foot mechanics which can lead to improved mechanics of the hips, knees and more.
- Maintaining an appropriate range of motion in your foot and ankle joints.
- Relief from improperly fitting shoes which may cause bunions and other foot deformities.
Benefits of exercising barefoot
Training barefoot improves your agility and coordination because it takes you back to the natural way of moving. This can lead to healthier joints and a significant reduction in injury.
Improves ankle stability
Training without shoes increases stability in your feet and body. It’s so effective that it can readjust feet that have changed shape over time because of footwear. It also improves the positioning of the ankle.
Working out without shoes engages all your feet muscles in a way that’s not always possible because of the accommodations that shoes provide. For this reason, training barefoot strengthens feet and improves muscle tone.
Increased foot mobility
Working out barefoot increases foot movement and mobility and engages all muscles in a proper manner. Shoes can lead our bodies to change to accommodate the footwear which can lead to weaker feet and unnatural weight distribution.
Not wearing shoes means there is direct sensory feedback between your feet and the ground which tells your body how to land the foot on the ground and how much pressure to exert. Wearing shoes affects this communication which can lead to us exerting more force than we need to, leading to damaged joints over time.
Working out barefoot may relieve low arch pain or pain from repetitive movements like running
Dangers of working out barefoot
Before you ditch your shoes in favour of going barefoot, here are some things to keep in mind.
Risk of injury
People who are not accustomed to walking or training barefoot may get tired faster and could be more prone to injury. If you want to start working out barefoot, start by walking barefoot for at least 5 minutes daily even if it’s just around the house then slowly introduce it during your shorter workouts or warmups. You can also consider buying minimalist shoes to use during the transition before you go fully barefoot.
Should you choose to start working out barefoot, consider the hygiene and cleanliness of your gym. An irregular surface or one with poor hygiene conditions is not conducive. Some gyms also require shoes as part of their dress code and for security purposes, so you should bear that in mind.
Type of exercise
The type of exercise is also a factor to consider. Unless you are an expert, you should avoid doing high-impact exercises barefoot. Workouts like jumping may also best be done with shoes because the sneakers cushion the joints from the force of landing.
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