The Fitness Zone

Barefoot Training… Should we or shouldn’t we?

Apr 18, 2023 | by Steve Irwin
Barefoot Training: The Benefits and How to Get Started

When was the last time you kicked off your shoes and felt the ground beneath your feet? For many of us, it’s been a while. In fact, as we grow older, we tend to rely more and more on footwear, to the point where our feet become weak and our movements are inhibited. 

The truth is that shoes are not a natural part of the human body. They are a recent invention, and they have only been widely used for a few hundred years. Before shoes were invented, humans walked and ran barefoot on all kinds of surfaces, and our feet were strong, healthy, and resilient.

It is only in the last few generations that we have become so reliant on shoes, and in the process, we have lost some of the basic motor patterns and movement skills that are essential for good health and wellbeing. By reintroducing barefoot training into our fitness routines, we can start to regain some of those skills and strengthen our feet and lower legs.

But what if we told you that going barefoot could be the key to unlocking your body’s full potential? Here’s everything you need to know about barefoot training, including why it’s good for you, and how to get started.

Why Barefoot Training?

Barefoot training may seem counter-intuitive, but it has a range of benefits that make it worth considering as part of your fitness routine. 

For starters, when you take your shoes off, your feet have to work harder to maintain balance. This improves stability and can help reduce the risk of injury, especially for athletes and dancers.

Another advantage of barefoot training is increased proprioception, or your ability to sense the position of your body in space. Without shoes, your feet have direct contact with the ground, allowing you to feel every movement and adjust your posture accordingly. This improved proprioception can help improve your overall body awareness and coordination.

In addition to improved balance and proprioception, barefoot training can also help to strengthen the muscles in your feet and lower legs. By strengthening these muscles, you can improve your overall performance and reduce the risk of injury. This is especially beneficial for runners and athletes.

Finally, barefoot training can help to improve posture and alignment. When you wear shoes with raised heels and cushioned soles, your feet are in a constant state of flexion, which can lead to posture problems. By training barefoot, you can help to correct these issues and improve your overall posture and alignment. In fact too much reliance on footwear can be a hindrance in development, as world renowned Fitness, Health and Wellbeing expert Paul Chek notes:

“Feet are not designed to be boxed in shoes. Wearing shoes is like wearing a back or next brace; the added support = reduced neuromuscular activity = diminishing functionality” [1]

How to Get Started

It is important to approach barefoot training with caution and common sense. If you have any pre-existing foot or ankle injuries or conditions, you should consult with your doctor or a qualified healthcare professional before starting a barefoot training program.

You should also take the time to gradually build up your strength and endurance when training without shoes. Start with short periods of barefoot walking or light exercise, and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts over time.

It is also important to choose the right surfaces to train on when going barefoot. Avoid hard or rough surfaces that could cause injury or discomfort, and instead, look for soft, natural surfaces like grass or sand that will provide some cushioning and support.

In addition to training without shoes, you can also take other steps to improve the health and function of your feet and lower legs. This may include things like foam rolling, massage, and stretching, as well as wearing shoes that provide adequate support and protection when necessary.

So, how do you get started with barefoot training? Here are a few tips to help you ease into it:

  • Start slowly: If you’re new to barefoot training, take it easy to start with. Begin with short periods of time and gradually increase as your feet adapt.
  • Choose the right surface: Start with soft surfaces, such as grass or sand, to help your feet adjust.
  • Check with your gym: If you want to train barefoot at the gym, check with your manager first to make sure it’s allowed.
  • Wear the right shoes: When you do need to wear shoes, make sure they match the shape and size of your feet, and are the best option for the activity you’re doing.
  • Spend time barefoot: Spend as much time as possible out of your shoes, especially when you’re at home or in the backyard. Even simple exercises at the dinner table can help “Make your Feet Happy” [2]

In conclusion, barefoot training may seem unconventional, but it has a range of benefits that make it worth considering. By strengthening the muscles in your feet and lower legs, improving your balance and proprioception, and correcting posture issues, you can improve your overall performance and reduce the risk of injury. So, next time you have the chance, kick off your shoes and feel the ground beneath your feet – your body will thank you for it.

Please Note: The information provided in this article are the opinions and professional experience of the author and not all activities are recommended for the beginner or participants with underlying health conditions. Before following any advice or starting any fitness, health and wellbeing journey please consult with an Allied Health Professional and / or General Practitioner. 




Steve Irwin

Steve Irwin

Steve has spent the last 19 years in the Australian Fitness Industry as a Group Fitness Instructor, 1-1 Coach, State Manager, Business Owner and is currently an Educator for the Australian Institute of Fitness. A lifelong fitness enthusiast he started his working life in the Military which guided him into the fitness industry where his passion for helping others on their health and fitness journey has been realised. Steve believes that for anyone thinking about getting fit or healthy they should “just get started” as “doing something is better than doing nothing”.

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