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ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, Benefits of Barefoot Training, Plus Exercises and Precautions

Benefits of Barefoot Training, Plus Exercises and Precautions

Reading Time: 5 minutes

BY: ISSA

DATE: 2023-06-30


In recent years, barefoot training has gained popularity among fitness enthusiasts. The idea behind barefoot training is to exercise without shoes or with minimalist shoes.

The concept is based on the belief that wearing shoes alters our body mechanics. When training without them, you can improve strength, mobility, and balance. In this article, we'll explore the benefits of barefoot training and how to get started.

Top Benefits of Barefoot Training

Barefoot training, also known as barefoot exercise or barefoot workouts, involves engaging in physical activities without wearing shoes. While it may not be suitable for all individuals or all types of exercises, there are several potential benefits associated with barefoot training. Here are some of the benefits:

Improved Foot and Ankle Strength

One of the primary benefits of barefoot training is improved foot and ankle strength (1). When we wear shoes, our feet are often in a fixed position, with little room for movement. This can lead to a weakening of the muscles in our feet and ankles. By training barefoot, we can improve our foot and ankle strength, which can help reduce the risk of injuries like sprains and strains.

Improved Balance and Stability

Another benefit of barefoot training is improved balance and stability. When we wear shoes, we rely on the support and stability they provide. However, training barefoot forces us to engage the muscles in our feet and ankles to maintain balance. This can help improve our overall balance and stability. It can be beneficial for athletes or individuals who engage in high-impact activities.

Better Posture and Alignment

Barefoot training can also improve our overall posture and alignment. Shoes can alter our body mechanics, causing us to compensate for the changes in our gait and posture. By training barefoot, we can improve our body mechanics and reduce the risk of back pain, knee pain, and other common injuries caused by poor posture.

Learn More: Effective Approaches for Correcting Bad Posture

Injury prevention

Strengthening the muscles in the feet and ankles, improving balance, and correcting movement patterns can contribute to injury prevention. By developing strong and stable feet, barefoot training can reduce the risk of common foot and ankle injuries, such as sprains and strains.

How to Get Started with Barefoot Training

Before you begin barefoot training, it's essential to start slowly and gradually build up your foot and ankle strength. If you've been wearing traditional or supportive shoes for most of your life, your feet and ankles may not be used to the additional stress of training barefoot.

Start by walking around your house or a soft surface, like grass or sand, without shoes. This will help your feet and ankles adjust to the new sensations and build up the muscles needed for barefoot running. Become comfortable walking without shoes first. Then you can start incorporating barefoot exercises into your workout routine.

One of the most popular barefoot exercises is the toe raise. Stand barefoot on a flat surface with your feet shoulder-width apart. Slowly raise your toes off the ground, keeping your heels planted. Hold for a few seconds, then lower your toes back to the ground. Repeat for several reps.

Another effective barefoot exercise is the single-leg balance. Stand on one foot without shoes and try to maintain your balance for as long as possible. Once you feel comfortable, add in additional movements such as shoulder presses or bicep curls to challenge your balance further.

Choosing Minimalist Shoes

If you're not ready to train completely barefoot, you can opt for minimalist shoes that mimic the sensation of being barefoot. Though these still provide some support and protection. When choosing minimalist shoes, look for shoes that have a thin sole and allow your feet to move and flex naturally. Avoid the traditional running shoe with high arch support or thick soles, as they can interfere with your body mechanics and negate the benefits of barefoot training.

Some popular minimalist shoe brands include Vibram FiveFingers, Merrell, and Xero Shoes. When trying on minimalist shoes, make sure they fit snugly but comfortably and allow your toes to spread out naturally. 

Learn More: How Barefoot Training Affects the Human Body 

Precautions to Take with Barefoot Training

While barefoot training can be beneficial, it's important to take certain precautions to avoid injuries. If you have any pre-existing foot or ankle conditions, such as plantar fasciitis or Achilles tendonitis, consult with your healthcare provider before starting barefoot training.

Start slowly and gradually build up your barefoot training routine. Avoid training on hard or uneven surfaces, as this can increase the risk of foot injuries. Use caution when training on surfaces that are hot, like asphalt or sand, as they can cause burns or blisters.

Types of Barefoot Training Exercises

Barefoot training can be incorporated into a variety of workouts—it’s for more than just walking or running. This includes strength training, yoga, and Pilates. Here are a few types of barefoot training exercises and how they can benefit your fitness routine:

  1. Squats: Squats are a great barefoot exercise that can help improve your lower body strength and mobility. When performing squats barefoot, you engage the muscles in your feet and ankles. This helps to stabilize your body and maintain proper form.

  2. Deadlifts: Deadlifts are another lower body exercise that can be performed barefoot. By removing the barrier of shoes, you improve your body mechanics. It also helps engage the muscles in your feet and ankles to maintain balance and stability.

  3. Yoga: Yoga is a popular workout that can be easily adapted for barefoot training. Practicing yoga barefoot can improve your balance and stability. This leads to an increase in your flexibility and range of motion.

  4. Plyometrics: Plyometric exercises, like jump squats and box jumps, can be performed barefoot to improve your explosive power and speed. By training without shoes, you can engage the muscles in your feet and ankles. This impacts and helps absorb the impact of the exercises.

  5. Balance training: Barefoot training is ideal for balance training exercises like single-leg stands and stability ball exercises. By removing the support of shoes, you can engage the muscles in your feet and ankles as well. This in turn maintains balance and stability.

Putting It All Together: Barefoot Training

Barefoot training is a growing trend in the fitness world. It offers several benefits, which include improved foot and ankle strength, balance, and stability. You can also expect improved posture and alignment. Remember to start slowly and gradually build up your barefoot training routine. Whether you choose to train completely barefoot or with minimalist shoes, be sure to take precautions. This helps prevent injury in the foot or ankle.

Want to take your personal trainer business to the next level? Become an ISSA Barefoot Training Specialist today. Learn the benefits of barefoot training, and how to perform with balance, body weight, and body tension. Take your clients' performance to the next level. 



Featured Course

ISSA | Barefoot Training Specialist

Training based on foot science. The Barefoot Training Specialist Certification sets the foundation for advanced concepts in barefoot activation, reflexive stabilization, and movement efficiency. This course focuses on two important topics, Barefoot Training and Bare Workout. During this course you’ll learn to recognize common foot and core imbalances and how each impacts alignment, stability, and the transfer of impact forces from both a sensory and biomechanics perspective.



References

  1. Fuller, J. T., Thewlis, D., Tsiros, M. D., Brown, N. A. T., Hamill, J., & Buckley, J. D. (2018). Longer-term effects of minimalist shoes on running performance, strength and bone density: A 20-week follow-up study. European Journal of Sport Science, 19(3), 402–412. https://doi.org/10.1080/17461391.2018.1505958 

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