In a recent study done at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa titled “Shod Versus Unshod: The Emergence of Forefoot Pathology in Modern Humans?”, the feet of 180 humans from three different population groups (Sotho, Zulu, and European) were compared to one another’s, as well as to those of 2,000 year-old skeletons.
The researchers concluded that before shoes were invented, people had healthier feet. The modern Zulu population, which often goes barefoot, had the healthiest feet in the study. Europeans, the habitual shoe wearers, had the most foot problems.
The footwear (or lack thereof) you do your workouts in – be it body weight exercises, kettlebell training, or even running – has a huge impact on your balance, strength, and coordination. The above mentioned study is just a small example of a current thinking that most training is probably best done with no shoes at all. And here are five specific reasons why:
1. Proper gait
Wearing shoes makes natural gait impossible. And chronic shoe wearing can result in lower and upper back pain.
2. Improves balance
This is almost immediate. Just try it and report back.
3. ‘Feel’ the floor
Going barefoot allows you to build a nice strong base from the ground up. Also, cross trainers or running shoes may have elevation in the sole as to pitch your feet forward and impair mobility.
4. Strengthen the foot muscles
You get this only with barefoot (and minimalist footwear) training. Plus you can use your toes to grip things better.
5. No tension loss
If you follow Pavel’s teachings, you know that tension is strength. So cushy shoes are out.
So now you’re hopefully convinced to at least give barefoot training a try. But you’re scared you’ll step on glass, dog poo, etc. Enter Vibrams Five Finger Shoes.
Vibram Five Finger Shoes are a type of minimalist shoe manufactured by Vibram, originally marketed as a more “natural” alternative for different outdoors activities (sailing, kayaking, canoeing, and as a camp or after-hike shoe). The footwear has thin, flexible soles that are contoured to the shape of the human foot, including visible individual sections for the toes. Vibram FiveFingers are meant to replicate being barefoot and allow for the natural biomechanics of the foot to work.
I personally have a pair of Vibrams that I love and wear for most of my training. Barefoot training does sound glorious and romantic, but what if, for example, you want to train outdoors? Your first encounter with a sharp object can make you think twice. And Vibrams are a great solution.
In conclusion, barefoot training has a ton of specific benefits, including improving gait, balance, and ground feel, as well as strengthening of the foot muscles and preventing tension loss. If you aren’t ready to go totally barefoot just yet, Vibrams Five Finger Shoes are a great alternative.
Thanks for reading and talk soon -
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