Barefoot exercise is the best. Getting in touch with your feet by throwing your shoes away is a liberating experience. You will find a whole range of movement from heel to toe that you’ve never enjoyed before! FLexercisers will tell you about the huge benefits they have gained from years of working out in bare feet.
Why barefoot exercise?
We tend to forget that feet need exercising, training, and conditioning in exactly the same way as the rest of the body. They spend most of their time encased in a variety of shoes which, while protecting them, often restrict, confine and even prevent natural movement.
We wear unrestricting clothing to exercise the rest of the body so why not exercise with bare feet too? Foot exercise help improve strength, flexibility, balance and agility. That is why FLexercise teachers encourage barefoot exercise where possible.
Inevitably we become conditioned to the idea of wearing shoes for protection and support which is fine. But think about the disadvantages too. We are preventing the feet from becoming as strong, flexible and dexterous as they could be. Using the full range of movement from heel through to toe is much more difficult when wearing shoes.
Foot muscle strength directly influences the mechanics of the feet, gait (walking) patterns, stability of the ankles and whole body balance. The soles of our feet are perfect proprioceptors. Designed to send sensory information to the brain about the surface on which we stand and over which we are moving. The muscles of the feet and ankles respond immediately to this stimulus through motor pathways, improving strength, balance and steadiness.
Try standing on one foot for a few moments and you will soon feel the constant adjustments the muscles in your ankle and foot are making to stop you falling over. The thick sole of a trainer blunts that connection, modifies the movement and increases the risk of injury. Many of the original FLexercise foot exercises were devised to counteract the effect of wearing high heeled shoes. High heels alter the mechanics of the foot, shorten the calf muscles and throw posture out of alignment. They can also be pretty painful to wear too.
I always wear trainers in class
So why do people wear trainers in an exercise class? High impact exercise is often cited as a reason as trainers help protect the foot and soften impact. Plantar fasciitis and underlying conditions such as diabetes will always need supportive footwear and some people just don’t like their feet!
FLexercise classes are low impact. We believe that keeping your feet strong and flexible is an important part of body health. Barefoot exercise can help reduce foot and ankle pain, reduce muscle soreness, improve your overall foot health and keep you active. Dysfunction in the feet can lead to knee pain and lower back issue. Exercises that improve your range of movement and keep your feet flexible and strong may also reduce your chance of injury.
Foot infections and issues can be easily treated by a visit to the GP, but there is no cure for disliking your feet. https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Staywellover50/Pages/Foot%20care.aspx
What sort of shoe can I wear?
If you do have to wear a shoe, what should you wear? In FLexercise we would recommend a light soled jazz shoe with a split sole. This is as near as you can get to barefoot exercise. We don’t recommend slipper socks as they tend to stick to the floor. Clearly, we can’t force everyone to be barefoot in class but if you don’t try it you really don’t know what you’re missing.
So why not take care of your feet by taking your shoes off to exercise in class and at home. Slow and gentle stretching and strengthening exercises will increase your range of movement for lifelong foot health and mobility.
Next week we will focus on exercises to keep your tootsies healthy.