There’s a lot to be said for the proper fitting pair of training shoes. But there’s also a legitimate case for losing them now and again. Footwear doesn’t always support your workouts and the wide range of barefoot workout benefits may make you consider the alternative. Here’s what you can gain by ditching your Nikes…
Barefoot workout: Benefits of going sans-shoes
You’ve probably seen a deluge of fitness influencers lifting weights, dancing, performing HIIT or even running without shoes on. It’s not just a fad – it’s our natural state of being. Let’s explore the best barefoot workout benefits:
- It enhances proprioception. Which is, quite simply, a long word to describe our awareness of the position and movement of our body in the space it’s in. Imagine trying to type on a keyboard wearing chunky padded gloves. You can’t quite feel exactly what you’re doing and will probably end up writing gobbledegook. A similar thing goes for feet: when your soles hit the ground, small sensory nerves absorb impulses and send those vibrations to your brain. As a result, you’ll connect more efficiently to your movements, boost balance, and have a better feel for your environment.
- Stronger, flexier feet and ankles. One of the most noticeable barefoot workout benefits is the strengthening of those small, stabilising muscles in your feet. Shoes make your feet and ankles lazy – by ditching them, you’ll feel the muscles working to keep you upright and balanced. Do this regularly and you’ll build a strong foundation in the body overall.
- Injuries are prevented. Ankle rolls can quickly become sprains. With a regular barefoot workout, benefits will extend into your workouts with shoes on. By building strength, stability and reflexes in the base of your body, you’ll have a better sense of form. It’s not just orthopedic problems you can help prevent, either – if your feet are weak, you’ll compensate for it all the way up the body, from your knees to your hamstrings to your brain.
- It’s nature’s way. We all naturally love the feeling of being barefoot – it’s how most of us learned to walk as toddlers and how our ancestors exercised long before shoes. Many indigenous people live their entire lives with free – and healthy – feet. They wander forests and deserts without protection in the form of shoes and never suffer from bunions, corns, athlete’s foot, hammertoes, ingrown toenails or fallen arches – all of which are problems solely created by shoes.
Going shoeless should be a slow transition. Your feet will have to get used to it, so it’s especially important to warm up properly to avoid injury during your training. And don’t transition to full barefoot workouts straight away. Running on flat, wet sand is a good place to begin and can help reduce the risk of tendon strains or pulled ligaments.