Barefoot Training - Use Common Sense

By Debi Vincent and Monica Resa

Barefoot training, including running barefoot, is extremely popular now in the fitness/running world. But, before you hit the pavement, there are many things to keep in mind.

There are approximately 7,800 nerve-endings or receptors in each foot. This huge network of receptors relates to sensation, posture, balance, and body control. Some believe that wearing shoes has led to weakened senses and muscles in our feet and ankles, making us prone to injury when we run, jump, or do other fitness activities. Others believe that without shoes, we would not have the support and structure we need to prevent injuries.

We are not born with shoes. As babies, toddlers, and kids, we spent much of our time without shoes. And in many places, primarily third-world countries and indigenous cultures, adults don’t wear shoes. Take for instance a place like Kenya, which has produced some of the greatest runners in the world. You find many men and women performing their everyday tasks barefoot or with minimal footwear, but on natural surfaces, like sand, dirt, pebbles, and grass. These natural surfaces have give, much different than concrete and asphalt, where there is absolutely no give. Many people in these cultures have gone barefoot for most of their lives. So, once they reach adulthood, their muscles, joints, balance, and posture have adapted to not wearing shoes, which is much different than for most of us, whom may only go barefoot occasionally in the yard, at the beach, and in our homes.

Today, those who do martial arts, dance, gymnastics, swim, yoga, and pilates are, in fact, training barefoot. When we train barefoot in the gym at Active, it allows us to connect to our core through balance and postural training. It gives us a great sense of what our strengths and weaknesses are and, frankly, it’s fun! Pilates, BOSU, and Core Training workouts are all done barefoot.

Running barefoot, however, is a totally different matter and requires common sense. Some runners swear by it, saying it has lessened their injuries. Active recommends using common sense and avoiding shoes as much as possible when training, walking around, or just chilling - but you shouldn’t just hit the pavement without lacing up. Shoe companies are doing lots of research and have created several shoes that allow for some of the benefits of barefoot training, with the much-needed padding for pavement pounders.

Nike Free, Vibram Five Fingers, developed to keep sailors from slipping on their boats, and a toe-less nylon band used by dancers are recommended for those who don’t have podiatric problems and want to give this new way of running a try.

Ask us questions or let us know your experience with barefoot running.

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