With all the fancy sneakers on the market, who would ever think that exercising barefoot could benefit you? Well, it can. Advertisements tout sneakers to reduce shin splits, relieve pain from bunions, or are good for specific types of exercise, but exercising without any shoes might be the smarter call. This isn't necessarily a new fitness idea. In fact, Arnold Schwarzenegger and his fellow training friends used to exercise shoeless. But lately, this has become a trend with more recognition from fitness specialists and podiatrists.
Dr. Emily Splichal, a fitness expert and podiatrist, says that exercising barefoot has many benefits. If you are someone who suffers from foot, heel or back pain, losing the shoes during exercising can help. According to Dr. Spinchal, all of the fancy shock-absorbing and ankle-supporting sneakers and braces out in stores today are actually doing more harm than good. Feet are the foundation of your entire body. These special shoes and insoles take away from the foot's natural ability to absorb shock. Back hundreds of years ago, people never wore shoes. They ran around barefoot all the time and these people definitely had a stronger foundation and less body pain than people nowadays.
Your hands and your feet are very similar in anatomy. Imagine if you had shoes that were made for your hands. Your hands would become extremely weak and incapable of doing what they were meant to do. The same concept applies to your feet. Shoes add support and take away from the foot's natural ability to strengthen.
Your foot has 28 bones, 38 muscles, 35 joints and 56 ligaments. Each one of these needs to be strengthened and stretched naturally. Wearing sneakers takes away from the natural strengthening and stabilizing ability of the foot. Just like any other body part or muscle group in the body, your feet need the same attention. So if you ditch the shoes, what are some of the benefits you will experience?
Because your foot is the foundation of every other body part, it is important that they are strong. Strengthening your feet should not be neglected, although it may sound silly. Although there aren't special exercises that you should do, exercising on your foot's natural surface will do enough strengthening. Wearing special shoes, insoles and braces won’t strengthen your foot, despite what the manufacturers may say. All of that special equipment will actually make your feet lazy and weak.
Exercising barefoot also puts you at less risk of injury. Bunions, flat feet, heel pain, weak ankles, and shin splints are all the outcome of wearing shoes for the majority of your life. Your sneakers are doing all of the work that your feet should be doing, weakening and diminishing your foot's natural abilities. If you do suffer from some of these common injuries, get rid of your sneakers and start exercising barefoot.
Exercising barefoot also gives your foot a greater range of motion. Those big, clunky sneakers that weigh two pounds limit your foot's mobility. In a sense, your feet are trapped. It's like putting your hands in snow gloves and trying to lift a pair of dumbbells. You will notice how much of a difference there is. It's the same thing with shoes. You are locking your feet in to this small space, not allowing your toes or ankles to move freely, the way they are intended to.
Barefoot exercise will also help to improve your balance and alignment. Again, your foot is the foundation of your entire body from your knees to your hips, to your back, to your head. Without your feet, you would not be able to walk let alone stand up. Having a weak foundation leads to a weak body. Barefoot exercise can help a lot with poor posture, back problems and neck pain. Just a couple of weeks without shoes will help to put your body back into its natural alignment, allowing you to stand taller and stronger. Aside from lessening your pain, standing up straight can do wonders for your physical appearance. Many Americans have terrible posture because of lack of exercise. This leads to a weak upper body and core. If you want your torso to appear leaner, stand up taller and strengthen those back muscles.
If you are going to start applying this new trend, it is important that you take baby steps. You have been wearing shoes your whole life. Even 2-month-old babies are put into sneakers. Going from wearing shoes your entire life to not wearing them to go on a three-mile run will do some harm. Exercising your feet is just like exercising any muscle. They need time to strengthen and grow. You must give yourself enough time before you do every routine barefoot. You may notice that things are a little more difficult when you aren't wearing shoes.
For example, performing some lower body exercises like lunges or squats may seem a bit harder. Your balance will probably be off for the first couple of times. That’s a good thing though! That will show you just how much your shoes have screwed up your natural balance and how much you are strengthening your body. One good thing you should do before exercising barefoot is to make sure the muscles are stretched. Performing a small massage to the bottom of your feet and your toes can help to stretch out those muscles and ligaments, preventing any injury. Also, your calves and shins will definitely feel a difference so you should pay special attention to stretching those out.
One thing that people may be concerned about when exercising barefoot is germs or getting cuts. It is wise to exercise barefoot in a safe place such as your home, the gym or a trail that is cleaned frequently. Your feet have a very tough barrier so germs will have a hard time reaching you. Plus, the benefits of exercising barefoot for the rest of your body outweigh the chances of getting some dirt on your feet.