What is Barefoot Training? Like it sounds, barefoot training is simply that; training (running, hiking, lifting weights, moving, etc.) without shoes.
What Are The Advantages of Barefoot Training?
1. Increased Balance, Stability, and Power
Do you ever wonder why so many martial arts are practiced barefoot? Well, in these disciplines balance is extremely important. Having a close connection to the ground has been shown to improve balance. Also, in order to generate the force and velocity required to perform kicks in Muay Thai, or Taekwondo you need to have solid ankle and lower leg stability. This stability can be improved by training barefoot to strengthen the stabilizers of the lower leg.
[Check out the stabilizers of the lower leg at work here. George St. Pierre has exceptional balance, control and precision in his foot movements. Man he is tough! GSP and other martial arts stars train and compete barefoot! Keep reading to find out if barefoot training is for you.....]
2. Injury Prevention and Increased Energy Transfer
[My left ankle after I sprained it for the second time playing basketball. Maybe if I was playing barefoot the worst I may have experienced was a stubbed toe!]
New research has shown that barefoot populations have a lower incidence of lower leg injury, and studies have estimated that with the average shoe you are losing 4% of energy transferred compared running barefoot. While it is not commonplace for competitive athletes to race without shoes, you may see this happen in the near future. Obviously there are some reservations to do so, as running barefoot does pose some risk, like puncture wounds and increased inflammation caused by over training.
3. Increased Proprioception
So, why go barefoot? The easy answer is increased proprioception (knowing where your body or body parts are in space, essentially “feel”). Having exceptional proprioception allows you to perform movements with power and precision. When you walk or run with shoes, your brain has to calculate not only where your foot is in space, but also where your foot is within your shoes, which is difficult to do. According to recent research the added padding created by a shoe may increase your chance of injury.
Imagine trying to tie your shoes laces with thick winter gloves on. If you have done this before you probably know what I mean. It is much easier to accomplish when your bare hands can touch the laces. The sensory receptors in your fingers send a message to your brain, this gives your brain more data which increases the spatial awareness of your fingers and improves your proprioception. The same effects can occur when you train barefoot
Now you can have the best of both worlds?
There is a popular product called Vibram five fingers (pictured below) which allows you to experience the benefits of barefoot training while protecting you from common hazards on the road or other training terrain.
[People sure seem to be happy with their Vibrams! They can be purchased for $100-$150 in North America.]
Incorporating barefoot training into your exercise program will be fun, challenging and rewarding. Just use common sense when training barefoot for the first time! If you have tried barefoot training or have experience with Vibram products, please feel free to share your experience, successes or failures.
Warburton, Michael “Barefoot Running” Sportscience5(3), sportsci.org/jour/0103/mw.htm, 2001
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