The Pros and Cons of Barefoot Training
There’s a lot of discussion from clients and within the fitness industry about whether barefoot/toe shoes can rival conventional training shoes when it comes to long distance running or during cardio sessions that include jumping and impact work. And now, the conversation around barefoot/toe shoes has piqued again due to the rise of movement and flow training like AnimalStrength, with people wanting to have more of a free and natural connection throughout their session.
For those that don’t know what toe shoes are, they're designed to mimic wearing no shoes at all, having five individual toes that supposedly allow your feet to move naturally but keeping you protected from the elements.
Despite studies and research being carried out on barefoot training…the verdict is still out. Below, personal trainer and co-founder of Fit Squad DXB, Daniel Wells talks us through everything we need to know…
- For long distance runners, the major (and probably most beneficial) advantage of barefoot/toe shoes will be your striking point (the part of the foot that hits the ground first), as barefoot generally results in a mid-foot or fore-foot landing as opposed to a heel strike, which is said to be optimal for distance runners.
- Muscle activation in the feet, ankles and lower legs will greatly increase. This will result in better balance and also increase your body’s ability to sense the movement and position of your joints.
- Will strengthen muscles, ligaments and tendons of the foot and in turn allow a more natural gait.
- Will help stretch and strengthen the achilles tendon which will cut down the number of injuries such as achilles tendinitis or a muscle pull/tear.
- The most obvious con is the fact that you’re losing all that nice cushioning comfort that you’re used to in a training shoe with a fairly thick sole.
- Training barefoot/with toe shoes can result in shin splints at best and problems with your hips and back at worst, due to the increased impact your joints will receive. A slow transition from training shoes to barefoot/toe shoes is alway advised.
- The plantar surface (bottom mid-section) of the feet is very soft connective tissue and training barefoot could lead to quite a nasty strain in this area due to the lack of support the training shoes provide.
- Even with a slow transition it’s likely that those who switch to barefoot/toe shoes will find themselves with blisters and sores for the first few weeks or at least until your feet have fully got used to the new style.
In my opinion, if you’re not having any issues with your feet, ankles, calves or knees then there’s no need to switch to barefoot/toe shoes. There’s not enough evidence YET to show the need to switch before problems arise, but If you are experiencing problems such as osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, knee/hip/back pain or bunions then it’s definitely worth giving it a try.
Still not sure if barefoot training is for you? Our personal trainers are here to help with any advice needed.
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