Do you exercise barefoot or with sneakers? Did you even know there was an option? I personally exercise more without shoes than with them, if I am working out at home.
I did know that there was a such a thing as exercising barefoot, but my reason started out partly due to laziness, honestly. I figured if I’m exercising inside at home why am I going to put on sneakers to go nowhere? My exercise routines vary anywhere from calisthenics and running in place to a Zumba DVD – and I pretty much do most of it barefoot or at least with just socks.
According to Harvard researchers, “humans have engaged in endurance running for millions of years, but the modern running shoe was not invented until the 1970s. For most of human evolutionary history, runners were either barefoot or wore minimal footwear such as sandals or moccasins with smaller heels and little cushioning relative to modern running shoes.”
Basically, people haven’t always walked and ran with sneakers, so why do we necessarily need them now? Hmmm, interesting indeed.
It is recommended to follow a certain set of guidelines when shopping for sneakers including how to fit your feet properly and replacing your sneakers every 3-5 months, depending on how you use them. But, how many of us follow these rules all the way? By exercising barefoot the life of your sneakers will actually lengthen thereby saving you time and money for a new pair every 3-5 months.
Besides our ancestors, time, and money, here are at least 4 physical benefits of exercising barefoot
1. Improve your balance
2. Increase lower leg strength
3. Reduce orthopedic pains
4. Reduce the chance of injury
Wanna start exercising barefoot?
If you do, you’ll want to start slowly. Going from sneakers to none at all can increase your risk of injury. And if you don’t have strong feet muscles, that may pose a problem, too. Your sneakers took the beating when you landed after jumping, walking, and running, but without them it will be your feet instead. In a sense, exercising barefoot, especially, running and jumping, will almost have to be learned all over again. How you landed before with shoes on may have to be adjusted when you land without them.
1. Do not start the program with barefoot running. Begin by doing various activities of daily life without shoes; for example, gardening, walking to the mailbox and walking barefoot around the house.
2. Introduce some movement activities on an even grass or indoor surface. Perhaps do some walking, jogging, calisthenics and games (e.g., volleyball or frisbee) at a park, in a grass field or on an indoor track.
3. Do multiple short sessions of barefoot training during a regular workout (e.g., 10 minutes at the beginning with another 10 minutes at the end), or do two to three 10-minute bouts throughout the day.
4. For the first 2 weeks (or more), keep the total barefoot training time per session to no more than 30 minutes.
5. Gradually increase the time, and/or combine the shorter sessions into one longer session.
6. For variety, go with a combination of indoor and outdoor (grass and/or sand) movement activities.
7. Progressively transition barefoot training to harder-surface (e.g., sidewalk) walking and movement activities. However, be very aware of rocks, glass and other harmful surface disturbances (e.g., holes, rough spots).
8. Consider using a fitness facility, indoor location, mall or school gymnasium during inclement weather conditions, since cold environments can be a deterrent to barefoot training.
9. Injured runners should not do any barefoot training until the symptoms of their injury have subsided. Those with diabetes, barefoot running can be contraindicated because peripheral neuropathy (a common complication of diabetes) can lead to a loss of protective sensations in the feet.
10. Several shoe companies and footwear manufacturers now offer footwear products that reportedly simulate barefoot training. (Read about the ACE study on the Vibram FiveFingers Bikila shoe).
Do you exercise barefoot?