If you’re looking to buy that perfect pair of sport shoes for improved muscle training, then STOP! That’s because you don’t really need to wear shoes when you are training your muscles. YEAH! You can exercise barefoot. Shocking right?
You would have only seen people in yoga classes training barefoot. But if you observe the fitness nerds in your gym, then you will find them doing their muscle training routine either barefoot or with socks with grips. That’s because, according to reflexology, the pressure points in our soles are pressed harder and we perform better.
According to Mallika Tarkas Parekh, a fitness expert and owner of Physique 57 India, your feet, while notoriously ignored at the gym, form the base of your kinetic chain, helping to align your hips and knees. They generate control from your core muscles and impact your gait. Exercising barefoot (or with socks with grips on the soles) allows the bones and muscles of the feet to develop strength, which helps improve our balance and movement in our everyday activities.
Additionally, the nerves and receptors in your feet are more easily ignited to send signals throughout your kinetic chain. This wakes up certain muscle groups for strength gain. For many exercises, staying barefoot also allows us to enjoy deeper movement, because the toes are not constricted by the top of a shoe. The more grounded and supported you are, the better your range of motion and the faster you will experience results.
“All this being said, it’s best to focus on low-impact forms of exercise when venturing into barefoot territory. These types of exercises allow you to strengthen and lengthen muscles, build bone density and trim waistlines without causing damage to your bones and joints. And anyone who has told you that you can’t get a good cardio workout if it’s low-impact, hasn’t been to the right kind of barre,” explains Ms Parekh.
1. Raising and hovering heels: This stability exercise uses all the muscles in the feet, while pushing up and pressing down from the ball of the foot. Finding stability in the ankle joint, this exercise also helps strengthen the pelvis floor and lengthen the Achilles tendon.
2. Lunges: When you lunge, you use your entire foot to grip the floor’s surface. It helps the legs to feel more grounded by using the dexterity of your toes, which supports that movement. This increased support leads to better range of motion.
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3. Foot flex and point: This tiny movement helps with circulation, prevents muscle spasms in your foot and helps strengthen and lengthen muscles in your calves and hamstrings. As a result of the effect on these larger muscle groups, your lower back muscles become stronger and reduce lower back sensitivity.
4. Squats: While squatting, your body weight shifts back towards the heels. Doing squats without the restriction of a shoe allows you to engage your heels and core muscles more, creating a better, deeper and targeted squat.
5. Standing split balance: Like most unilateral balancing exercises, doing the standing split balance barefoot or in barre socks helps your body shift the weight to the centre, thereby engaging your hamstrings and glutes better. This exercise also helps increase your ability to sense your body’s position in space (proprioception), which improves balance, agility and coordination.
6. Push ups: In a full form push-up position, you flex your toes. When done barefoot, you increase mobility and range of motion in your toes.
“Still, working out barefoot is subject to different bodies, foot structure, and activity. Not at all workouts must be done barefoot, and foot pain is a clear indicator to throw on some shoes for cushion, until they get stronger,” concludes Ms Parekh.
So it doesn’t matter if you own a great pair of shoes or not – that’s not going to come in the way of your strength training routine.