Why I’m working out barefoot, and why you should too. After a lifetime of intense physical activity I’ve decided to switch gears; I’ve started practicing yoga, body weight training, and light cardio– and I’ve been doing it all BAREFOOT. It has been an amazing adjustment for my body and my mind. The benefits of barefoot fitness are countless, but I’ve compiled a list of some of my personal favorites. Enjoy!
Note: Keep in mind… I work out at home on a sanitary hardwood floor with a padded yoga mat. I don’t recommend barefoot fitness at a public gym. Be smart.
(1) Arch Support: A majority of people purchase fancy artificial insoles and arch supports in order to eliminate knee and lower back pain– this is counterproductive. Sure, arch supports eliminate pain, but they also deprive your arch muscles from strengthening; basically it’s like patching a hole with duct tape. Barefoot fitness can build arch muscles and genuine arch support. This type of support will allow you to wear heels flawlessly and pain free.
(2) Shock Elimination: Do your feet hurt when you walk a lot? We have a natural shock absorption system in our feet that becomes lazy (and almost worthless) when unused. “Fitness shoes” that are enhanced by technology can make our natural foot and ankle muscles lazy. Barefoot fitness strengthens the stabilizing muscles of the foot and ankle, making them stronger.
(3) Barefoot Balance: Wearing shoes makes balancing exercises less challenging, in order to improve balance we need to challenge ourselves. When we practice balancing exercises barefoot we can target foot and ankle muscles as well as calf, dorsal-flexion and plantar-flexion.
(4) Athletic Range of Motion: Barefoot fitness will increase overall flexibility and mobility while giving your feet a wider range of motion. A large margin of athletes that train barefoot have seen tremendous results and experience fewer injuries. In college I was a volleyball player; volleyball is a sport which requires a lot of foot mobility–enduring countless hours of practice would leave my feet extremely sore. However, since I’ve started working out barefoot my feet are never sore and pain is no longer a problem.
(5) Hips Don’t Lie: Many hip problems stem from weak feet. This doesn’t happen overnight, it is the product of muscle deterioration over a period of years. Weak feet compromise the way we stand, which results in improper hip and spine alignment. Nearly 30% of the joints in our body are in our feet, and our feet serve as the base of support for our entire body.
(6) Toes: This is my favorite benefit of barefoot fitness. Without shoes your feet aren’t restricted, this will allow your feet to expand and toes to stretch. It feels amazing.
(7) Zen: When we workout with a relaxed mind our Qi (Chi) becomes active and strong; being barefoot allows energy to flow throughout our body…in other words — it’s really relaxing.
(8) Weights: If you are like me you have a question; “what about weightlifting?” I lift barefoot, but I only lift 10, 15, and 25lb dumbbells (at my house), I keep it safe; squat-and-press, renegade rows, flys, etc… There is always the chance that you could drop a weight on your foot, which would be horrible. I love dumbbell lifting barefoot, but it must be approached with caution. Workout smart.
Relax. Enjoy. Love Yourself. And Remember; the foot is like any other body part, it must be strengthened slowly, and smartly. Always Warm Up, and Cool Down. Keep in mind, there are cons to every type of fitness, so make sure barefoot fitness is right for you.
… and yes, those are my feet in the picture. Love, Elizabeth Mosley-Banks.
*My Favorite Barefoot Yoga Workouts: Jillian Michaels Yoga Meltdown, Jillian Michaels Yoga Inferno