Benefits of Bare Feet Training

I was an early adopter of Vibram Five fingers ever since they first came out (I think back in 2008). After hearing about the numerous benefits of bare foot training [which I will talk about in this post] I just had to try them out.

The whole point of these funky shoes is to mimic barefoot training. Here’s a picture of my first pair. Back then there were only 3 colour choices, red & black, marine blue and grey. I went for the red.

I wear it religiously, sometimes in winter too. One day I got caught out by the snow. (Snow was pretty rare in England, so I never anticipated it).

Vibram Five Fingers red and black

My first pair of Vibram Five Fingers

Whoever discovered these footprints later must've had questions

Some interesting facts about our feet

Our feet are pretty important, did you know that 1/4 of our bones are in our feet. Read that again. 25% of ALL the bones in our body are in our feet.

On top of that our feet have to bear the weight of our entire body too.

Problems with ordinary shoes

Hoffman et al. found that since the human race has started wearing shoes a number of changes have occurred. Because of shoes, the way we use our feet has changed, this has caused a biomechanical change in the way we walk, run and stand too.

Our feet used to be naturally wider and our toes had more strength. In fact, our toes used to curl downwards to grip the floor. Thus we had incredible dexterity in our feet.

We also had far greater balance too, Mickle et al. observed that people with greater toe and feet strength had less tendency to fall.

Why train bare foot?

But there are benefits to at least training bare foot. For one thing it burns more calories because your feet muscles get a workout too. In an ideal world we would be walking around bare feet. Though, I don’t think people will stop wearing shoes any time soon. So it helpful then to give your feet a workout whenever you can.

Wearing Five Fingers during your workout can be beneficial. Also, the Vibrams are great to wear to the beach.

Better stability
It allows you to build better balance by improving foot strength, in addition to this it gives you more stability. Having good contact with the floor is important when you’re trusting kettlebells up in the air.

Calf workout
A lot of people use the calf raise machine in the gym. That machine just bugs the hell out of me. There’s no reason to use that. Barefoot running will give you a killer calf workout. In fact, when you do barefoot running for the first time, your calves are probably going to struggle after just 10 minutes. Many people who are used to running for hours struggle to run just 10 minutes with the Vibram Five Fingers, but with practice you can build your calf strength up.

Improves foot posture
Ballet dancers are known for their high arches, this is actually how our feet are supposed to be. But years of wearing shoes causes our feet to become flat. Studies have shown that just 6 weeks of barefoot running/training can improve foot structure.

Prevention/relief from chronic knee and back pain
With the lazy heel strike way of running [with shoes] a lot of the impact is borne by the knee and back. Training bare foot allows you to better absorb the impact of your stride (using your Achilles tendon and calves).

How do I run and do I need to buy “barefoot shoes”?

The video below explains beautifully how to run properly and no you don’t need “barefoot shoes”. You can run with proper form wearing shoes. But barefoot shoes are a great way to keep your form in check.

Range of bare foot shoes out there

The four original Vibram Fivefingers

The four original Vibram Fivefingers

 

Adidas Adipure jumping onto the toe shoe game

 

References

Hoffman, P. et al. Conclusions drawn from a comparative study of the feet of barefooted and shoe-wearing peoples. Am J Orthopedic Surgery, 1905.

Mickle, K. et al. Toe weakness and deformity increase the risk of falls in older people. Clinic Biomechanics, 2009. 24(10): 787-791.

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