What if I told you that you own a simple item (you actually have a lot of them) that is actually making you slow, decrepit, injury-prone, and have horrible balance? It’s 100% true.
What’s this hateful item?
Shoes = weak feet
Have you ever had to get a cast for a broken bone?
Do you remember what happens when you finally get the cast off?
It atrophies. That means it shrinks and gets smaller. It’s also gotten weaker.
Did you know you’ve been wearing casts for decades on your feet?
Yep! Your shoes are just fancy casts. They serve their purpose-like preventing you from stabbing your foot on something when you walk. However, shoes are robbing your ability to use the soles of the feet to strengthen and help support our body.
We have the second most nerve endings of our whole bodies in our feet! Yet, because of the dulling sensation from the shoes we often don’t know how to feel or move them independently.
Another interesting thing about the feet is that they change. As babies, we all have flat feet. We need to balance as we learn to walk so we need the increased surface area. As we grow up we ‘sacrifice’ increased stability for more speed and agility-so our foot changes and develops an arch. As we age, if we don’t do anything to counteract the vicious effects of aging, our brains will once again decide we need more stability rather than agility and flatten out.
You’ll remember that our feet have these little suspension-like bridges called arches. A common cause for fallen arches, or flat feet, and oftentimes plantar fasciitis is that your feet need to be strengthened.
Stronger feet will help you move better. They also help decrease some aches and pains elsewhere in the body due to better structural support. If you are prone to ankle sprains/strains you should look at how strong your foot is because it’s very possible that the weakness of the intrinsic foot muscles is putting more stress on the ankle for the support your body needs.
Now we don’t mean go out running 5 miles barefoot. That’s crazy. What we mean is get out of your shoes more, especially when working out at home or at the gym.
You can go in your socks, completely barefooted, or even minimalist type shoes (we like xeros or the minimalist merrell’s) if your big commercial gym is disgusting. If you do choose to go with different shoes, keep in mind that in order to reap the benefits of ‘barefoot training’ while still holding dogmatically to shoes, then the shoes must pass 2 tests:
- Twist. You should be able to twist the shoe up like you are ringing out water out of a rag.
- Roll. You should be able to roll the shoe up from heel to toe.
If the shoe can’t pass these 2 tests-it’s not a minimalist shoe.
The whole point of barefoot training is to help you activate the bottoms of your feet. Feel them working and moving.
It’s really common that as you start your feet will hurt after a few minutes. That’s ok. Next time try to last a little longer out of your shoes.
For starters, just walk around, and do your exercises like squats, and balancing out of your shoes. Balancing is really only effective when out of your shoes because shoes give you an artificial platform to balance off of.
As you build up your strength, start incorporating specific foot mobilizing and strengthening exercises into your day and training like ankle CARs or toe yoga.
Strengthening your feet will do wonders for just about any ailment of the lower leg. Remember, strength has never been a weakness.