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Why You Should Be Barefoot

And Throw Out* Your Shoes



If you have been in classes lately, especially with Devin and all that damn soleus training, you know we have been deep diving into the function of the foot and the importance of footwear, too. For some of you (hi, Emily) this is a reminder of why we are so personally and professionally smitten with barefoot shoes. For everyone else, we hope this is information you find helpful, or at least...informative. Now, warning: it's dense, so skip to the bottom if you just want some links!


Why do we practice yoga barefoot?


In addition to honoring cultures and traditions where being barefoot is a sign of respect for the practice, being barefoot when practicing yoga helps you to connect with the earth and better feel your body. Yoga is more than just a physical practice but a mindfulness practice, too, rooted in connection or union with all. By practicing yoga barefoot you are able to process more sensations and therefore improve your balance and alignment. 



A human foot is made up of 26 bones, 33 joints and over 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments. There are also over 7,000 nerve endings only in the sole and over 200,000 in the entire foot.



Exercising Barefoot 

  1. Improves Balance and Stability: Training barefoot challenges the small stabilizing muscles ( they are muscles after all!) in your feet and ankles, helping to improve your balance and stability. This, in turn, can reduce the risk of ankle and knee injuries and improve your posture during other exercises and daily activities.

  2. Enhances Proprioception: Barefoot training heightens your proprioception, which is your body's awareness of its position in space. This heightened awareness can lead to better coordination and movement control during workouts, translating to improved athletic performance.

  3. Strengthens the Foot Muscles: Traditional shoes often restrict foot movement and weaken the intrinsic muscles of the feet. Barefoot training encourages these muscles to become stronger, which can alleviate common foot issues and promote better overall foot health.

  4. Honors Natural Biomechanics: Training without the cushioning and support of traditional sneakers allows your feet to move more naturally. This can help you maintain proper biomechanics during exercises like squats, deadlifts, and lunges, reducing the risk of injury and promoting efficient movement patterns.

  5. May Reduce Pain: For some individuals, barefoot training can alleviate foot pain, plantar fasciitis, and shin splints. By strengthening the foot muscles and promoting a more natural gait, it can lead to reduced discomfort during physical activities. (No more heavy heel strikes)

  6. Increased Sensory Feedback: Barefoot training connects you directly to the ground, providing more sensory feedback to your brain. This heightened sensory input can help you react more quickly to changes in terrain or movements, which is especially valuable in sports and outdoor activities.


So why aren't we barefoot all day?


That's a damn fine question, isn't it. If we train and practice barefoot, why isn't that translating off the yoga mat? So often I am encouraging integration and application of the lessons from yoga into our lives. Yoga isn't worth as much practiced as it is applied. This is another opportunity to live as mindfully off the mat as we do on.


You've probably been told you need cushion, arch support, and protection. Overdesigned shoes weaken your feet, and as we now know, whole body chain reactions compensate. 


Go grab a pair of your exercise shoes or whatever you're wearing frequently (your danskos, rothy's, hokas). Compare yours with these tips from Anya's Reviews:



Photo Credit Anya's Reviews

A completely flat shoe keeps the center of gravity over the heels, where we are most stable. Heeled shoes (even small heels like the ones found on tennis shoes or the flats shown above) push us forward and force compensations throughout the spine to stay balanced. This causes some parts to be over worked and others to be under worked, aka IMBALANCE. Being in shoes that are zero drop is critical for whole body alignment.


Photo Credit Anya's Reviews

Our feet take the shape of the shoes they are in. So if you spend most of your time in squished pointy shoes your feet are going to start looking the same way, which can eventually lead to bunions and other toe deformities.

Try taking your insole out of your shoe and stand on it. Does your foot want to spread wider? Could you fan your toes out wider than the insole?


Photo Credit Anya's Reviews

Shoes that move with the foot allow those muscles to stay strong and supple, paving the way for a lifetime of stability.


Photo Credit Anya's Reviews

HEAR ME OUT ON THIS ONE

Flat feet can cause a lot of problems in your body, but sticking a support under there completely takes away the opportunity for your muscles to work. It also locks the foot into a single position, when it actually should be flattening out a little bit with each step. Weaning off arch support can take time, but in the end it’s much better for your long-term foot health.


Photo Credit Anya's Reviews

The ability to balance is a hugely important skill for a human, and our feet are a key part of it. Thin soles allow you to maintain a connection with the ground, making it easier for you to move confidently and strongly. Thick soles prevent your nerves from sensing where you are in space, which leads to sloppy movement. Especially for those who are older, children, or recovering from surgeries! 


* Do you toss your shoes??

Well, it's complicated, or it isn't. 


I want to be sure we acknowledge that fast fashion is slowly contributing to the degradation of the environment so tossing shoes that are in good shape is not suggested by us. Maybe your choice is to donate them or wear them less frequently. But if you are in the market for a new shoe, are experiencing some symptoms mentioned, are an athlete or gym rat and wanting to explore...these may be a good investment for you. Really, we would love everyone to have this information from childhood but you have to do what's right by you and the Earth. (And yes, Quin is on the barefoot kids shoe train, message if you want links.) ((Deb wanted me to add that she has a whole collection of Adidas sneaks she has no intention of parting ways with!))


If you go down the barefoot rabbit hole for some it may take a day or two adjustment, for others a much bigger change and commitment. Start small if you're unsure. Just walking the dog around the block...from your desk to the mailroom, only in the gym...but your feet are equipped to do all the things! In just about 2 weeks of wearing mine I can comfortably hike miles in them (and actually prefer to)! This email is already long enough but if you want to hear my experience more specifically ask me sometime.


And so we all know the unspoken truth: none of this is for diagnosis and specific injuries or conditions may need specific supports or process. We are sharing resources and our personal experience. You're not a better person if you have barefoot shoes or not.


I don't love telling people to go buy things. Just like you don't need a fancy yoga mat...but a good mat makes a hell of a difference...these are the resources I would suggest:


Anya's Reviews helps you to find the right brand based on your foot shape, needs, and budget. 


Vivobarefoot are the brand Deb and I have. It was almost accidental which brand we tried first. We partially fell for the aesthetics and some ads but found them on a great deal at Sierra !


Nothing is affiliated links, we get no money out of this. We've just been having this conversation a lot and we are passionate about sharing things we find effective and helpful.


Questions? Let us know!

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