There’s something inherently nice about taking your shoes off and moving around in bare feet. We can move our toes, our posture changes, we move differently – almost with a sense of purpose and play. For most of us, the first 4 years of life were predominantly barefoot. We used our hands and feet to explore our environment – a process that literally shaped our movement as older children and adults.
When we started school, we also started wearing shoes for longer periods of time. The result was a steady decline in our ability to fully sense our environment from the ground up. At the same time, we over-protected our feet with cushioned and/or rigid shoes, further depriving the senses and significantly affecting our ability to move skillfully. To provide more context, there is a growing body of research that suggests that many exercise-related injuries and indeed many other health conditions can be attributed to long term use of inappropriate footwear. This evidence strongly suggests that modern footwear has weakened our feet, and we need to strengthen them (again).
There’s no doubt that going barefoot is one of the best, and natural ways to strengthen the feet. However, there is a caveat: the vast majority of people will need to transition slowly if they want to enjoy a lifetime of healthy feet. The ugly truth is that if your feet have been imprisoned in padded or inappropriate footwear for many years – it will time time and effort to re-train them for comfortable barefoot movement.
When we designed EVO, we had natural movement in mind. Our policy clearly states you can train in bare feet. We even created distinct training zones and selected essential equipment that supports barefoot movement. However, we also understand that like any other part of your body, your feet must be physically conditioned and nourished for long term health. With this in mind, here are our top 5 tips for going barefoot in EVO.
- Walk before you can run – If it’s your first time training barefoot, you may feel a little conscious, and exposed! This is OK – don’t forget, in EVO, it’ll feel natural. Start by taking your shoes off at the end of your session when you cool down/stretch. As you feel confident, try walking on the treadmill barefoot. All EVO clubs have a Woodway Treadmill just for this purpose. It’s a slatted treadmill that provides comfort and traction for barefoot movement.
- Get assessed – all our clubs have Integrated pressure plate technology, which can asses your current foot/ankle health. The results of this give us a clear picture of how functional your feet are, and where to improve strength and mobility. All our personal trainers are qualified to assess your feet using pressure plate analysis.
- Move your feet – our unique training system incorporates a foot/ankle mobility and strength training program. We call it Toe-ga, or yoga for the toes! A series of toe and ankle exercises will quickly build long-lost strength, mobility and elasticity back into your feet. To learn more, download the EVO App, and select ‘Toe-Ga Warm Up’ from the workout menu.
- Try different movements – as your feet get used to being bare, start exploring different movements. Try a few jumps, crawl down the sprint track, use TRX, lift weights, throw a slam ball against the wall. Notice how being barefoot affects your ability to move. Notice how it changes your posture. When you have optimal feedback from the ground, you will enjoy optimal movement.
- Respect your feet – don’t forget to give your feet time to recover. Early in your barefoot journey, you will need adequate rest time. It’s normal for the feet to become sore, like any other muscle. If you still want to train, you can wear a padded shoe in between barefoot training sessions. As your feet become stronger, you will enjoy longer periods of barefoot training without discomfort.
If you are interested in learning how barefoot movement can improve your movement and reduce risk of injury, please speak to an EVO Personal Trainer – feeling is believing!
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