Your feet are critical to your joint health. From your knees to your neck, your feet are the only thing connecting you with the ground as you walk around all day. Your foot must be strong and stable, as well as somewhat flexible. It is easy to see how someone could want to really train the foot, but, should YOU jump in to barefoot training?
WHY YOU SHOULD TRAIN BAREFOOT.
“In order to allow it to support the weight of the body in the erect posture with the least expenditure of material, the foot is constructed of a series of arches formed by the tarsal and metatarsal bones, and strengthened by the ligaments and tendons of the foot.”- Henry Gray, Anatomy of the Human Body
The foot is one of the most incredible structures in the human body. Twenty-six bones, Thirty-three joints, and over 100 tendons, ligaments, and muscles all put together and cleverly designed to absorb force and reduce shock as well as to stiffen to provide a stable platform with which to translate force into the floor.
Increasing your foot’s functionality will help save your knees, hips, low back, shoulders, and neck. Which is all stuff that you want to save. If we ignore our feet in our training they will lose their functionality. We are born in shoes, so it is pretty safe to say to that some degree our feet start losing their functionality and relying on external support. Over years, your feet become shaped like your shoes. Some people become pronated. Some people become supinated. Almost everyone has some level of decreased functionality. No matter if you are an over arch or a collapsed arch, the most important ability of your foot is to be able to lock and unlock in order to absorb the force of the ground and then to become rigid to propel you forward by translating force into the ground. Being stuck in either position is sub-optimal.
The “arch” in the foot that most people think of is actually made up of 3 arches that could be referred to as the antero-posterior arches.
-The medial arch is made up by the calcaneus, the talus, the navicular, the three cuneiforms, and the first, second, and third metatarsals.
-The lateral arch consists of the calcaneus, the cuboid, and the fourth and fifth metatarsals.
-The fundamental longitudinal arch is contributed to by both, and consists of the calcaneus, cuboid, third cuneiform, and third metatarsal: all the other bones of the foot may be removed without destroying this arch.
You must develop the ability to spread your toes. People often think of the arch of your foot being one thing. However, all three arches are critical to your foot’s functionality. This is reason we always cue SPREAD YOUR TOES before nearly every movement.
WHY YOU SHOULDN’T TRAIN BAREFOOT.
Do see that photo of that sweet, sweet baby angel? Other than the gorilla, do you notice anything about photo? Shoes. Just as I said earlier, we are practically born wearing shoes. You have been relying somewhat on external support for your whole life. You can’t expect to have trained your body for your entire life and expect your feet to be able to catch up in 2 weeks, or 2 months, or even 2 years.
Your feet have not been trained to handle maximal loads or maximal forces. If you have a hard time maintaining a good foot position while walking, aren’t you going to have an even harder time while running? If your foot wobbles or you always curl your toes during a split squat, do we think that we should load that foot with a heavy back squat?
Things you probably should never do barefoot-
Back squats- Snatches – Cleans – Jerks – Deadlifts(?) – Jumping/throwing/sprinting for maximal force
Things you have to train your feet some before you try-
Lunges – accessory movements – jogging – dynamic warm-up
I know that people get away with deadlifting with no shoes and like the position and are really really strong. However, from a foot position and foot health perspective, they are usually not really enforcing a good foot position. Chances are, they don’t really care and want to lift the most weight and that is fine. However, for people not concerned with lifting the most weight shoes will likely help them maintain a better position as more external load is added.
YOUR FOOT TRAINING PROGRAM –
Developing strength and mobility in your foot is going to benefit your whole body, so while jumping right into barefoot training may not be the best answer, you will likely do good by yourself to start working on it.
First your should do these drills a couple of times per week. Daily wouldn’t be a bad idea.
You should be doing your DARKSIDE ULTIMATE MOVEMENT WARMUP barefoot. In the beginning, start with the 90/90, side lying, supine, and quadruped stuff barefoot. You may need to start with putting your shoes back on when you move into the half-kneeling and standing movements. However, before it is all said and done, you should be capable of performing your half kneeling work and your goblet squatting barefoot and maintain a good stable foot position the entire time. Eventually, you will be able to add some external load to those movements as you develop strength and endurance.
Then, once you eventually work your way into doing your entire warm-up barefooted you can put your shoes back on in order to do your real training. Think of the shoes like you do your belt. It is a tool to help you maximize your performance. We should develop the ability to brace without the belt, just as we should be able to use our feet without shoes. Most likely, you will always be able to lift more weights with the belt than without, and you will be able to perform better with appropriate foot ware than without.
Check out this 30 min video of Ryan and Dr. Quinn coaching a group through 90/90, supine, and quadruped drills.