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Should You Ditch Your Sneakers and Try Barefoot Training?

Updated: Feb 5, 2023

If you've ever taken one of my fitness classes or trained with me, you may have noticed that I don't wear traditional sneakers. Instead, I've been rocking Vibram FiveFingers since their launch in 2005. These minimalist shoes were designed by Robert Fliri with the goal of "moving around in nature better."

You might wonder if barefoot training or minimalist footwear is right for you. According to Dr. Emily Splichal, the answer is yes. Barefoot training can improve overall foot health and mobility, as the muscles in the feet can become weaker if they are not exercised regularly. To strengthen these muscles, Dr. Splichal recommends walking barefoot, stretching or using trigger point release techniques, and standing on golf balls or her Naboso Neuroball.

Minimalist shoes like Vibram Five Fingers have brought attention to the importance of foot health, but they are still different from being completely barefoot. Dr. Splichal does not recommend barefoot running as a foot-strengthening exercise but does suggest incorporating barefoot training and other foot-strengthening techniques for both beginner and advanced runners.

Barefoot training can also improve your lifting performance, as a recent study found that barefoot deadlifting can lead to improved performance due to the reduced distance the bar has to travel, allowing for more force to be generated. However, it's important to note that barefoot lifting is not allowed in most commercial gyms or competitive powerlifting due to safety concerns.

When it comes to weightlifting, it's important to consider how much weight you're lifting. According to Dr. Splichal, going barefoot should be fine if you're lifting a percentage of your body weight, but when you're lifting significantly more than you weigh, you may put too much strain on your feet. She suggests starting with warmup sets barefoot and switching to shoes for heavier sets.

It's also important to consider your body weight when it comes to any jumping activities. Impact forces on the feet can range from 1-1.5 times body weight while walking, 3-4 times body weight while running, and 10 times body weight or more for more ballistic activities like jumping or high-velocity landings.

Ultimately, it's up to each individual to determine what works best for them and their body. While some may prefer the comfort and support of shoes, others may find that the stability and efficiency of bare feet are the way to go. If you want to try barefoot training, start slowly and see how it feels.

To learn more, check out this interview with Dr. Splichal where she discusses all that you need to know to get started with barefoot training. She also has a great YouTube channel and Instagram (@thefunctionalfootdoc) where you can learn even more about foot health and foot strengthening exercises.

I also recommend Naboso products like the Neuroball and Training Mat. For 10% off, use my code: LAMB.



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