Lose the Shoes! 10 Benefits of Barefoot Training and Getting Started


posted by on Diet & Lifestyle, Equipment


Barefoot training is becoming more and more popular with more and more trainers and coaches.  Barefoot running has been gaining in popularity and there are many other sports and activities can be and are done barefoot, including: my favorite, HIIT and also yoga, gymnastics, dance and Tai chi along with many martial arts.  

Being barefoot is a natural way of being for us. Most of us learned how to walk barefoot and spent lots of time as a child barefoot. We have grown accustomed to shoes but it is a very liberating feeling to be without shoes and I think that once we get used to it, we all naturally love the feeling of being unconfined and shoe-less. More importantly, training and walking barefoot is something simple that we can do to improve the health of our feet as well as our whole body.

Being barefoot is our natural state of being. But it seems that there are many who think that wearing shoes is natural and that think that our feet are not designed to support us properly and that they are naturally fragile.  Not so, and we realize this thought is just silly when thought out. Of all the species of the world, why would humans have been given inadequate feet that need to be supported by shoes?

Many indigenous and other people all over the world live almost 100% of their lives barefoot. Many wander savannas and rain forests without the protection or support of shoes and have strong healthy feet. The fact is that people who have never worn shoes have very few foot problems at all.


Bare Feet - Benefits of Barefoot Training


Why Barefoot? 10 Benefits of Barefoot Training and Going Barefoot

  1. Going barefoot strengthens the stabilizing muscles of the foot and ankle and makes them stronger. Shoes give a lot of stability and support and can make the foot and ankle lazy. Strengthening the small stabilizing muscles of the feet can improve our balance and overall sports performance.
  2. Going barefoot improves our proprioception which will improve our balance and movement. Proprioception is our unconscious perception of space and our orientation and movement within the space around us. Going barefoot helps us to feel and connect us to our environment and this helps our balance and develops our natural movements.
  3. Go barefoot for stronger ankles and more support. Almost 30% of the joints in our body are in our feet. Our feet are the base of support for our whole body. Often knee and back pain stem from improper foot mechanics. Artificial support from shoes can place unnatural pressure on the knees, spine and neck. Our foot mechanics affects our whole posture.
  4. Going barefoot improves muscle alignment. Different muscle segments are used when we are barefoot than when we are in shoes and different muscle patterns become habitually recruited and strengthened. In addition, going barefoot improves and strengthens the neuromuscular pathways of the foot and leg. These mold the muscle firing sequences and affect the way we move.
  5. Going barefoot gives you stronger arches. Wearing shoes will artificially raise your arches and directly remove the responsibility from the arch muscles to do their job. Wearing shoes can create a vicious circle with arch support. First our arch muscles become weak from not being used, as they are supported by shoes. So you get weak arches and you need more support to relieve the tension temporarily. But now if you go for a flatter or less supported shoe the symptoms will return. So you end up needing more and more support but the root of the problem does not get addressed. This leads to a life of shoes and orthopedic problems. Let your natural arch muscles develop naturally to avoid these problems.
  6. Going barefoot increases flexibility and mobility of the foot and gives a much wider range of motion.
  7. Going barefoot will give you healthier feet overall. Shoes are the cause of most foot problems. Shoes often lead to bunions, corns, athlete’s foot, hammer toes, ingrown toe nails and fallen arches. People who spend lots of time barefoot do not experience any of these and generally do not even get any callouses. Research has shown that people before the invention of shoes had much healthier feet.
  8. Going barefoot improves our Chi (Qi) and strengthens the entire body. Our feet are often the only part of us that touches the ground. It releases all of the energy and force that we accumulate throughout our body. Going barefoot helps energy to flow smoothly through our body.
  9. If the stability and mobility of the feet deteriorate, this affects and changes the ankle, knee and hip positions and makes them all more prone to injuries. How many older people do you know who have hip problems? It could easily stem from having weak feet. Go barefoot now for prevention later!
  10. Many athletes who train barefoot have tremendous results and experience fewer injuries.
  11. Bonus benefit:  Bare feet do not naturally stink. The sweat glands in the feet are just like the sweat glands in the hands. Feet will only stink after being cooped up in shoes for hours.

Bare Feet - Benefits of Barefoot Training - beuatuful long legs on a white background


Strategies to Start Training Barefoot

Start slowly. Keep in mind that some people require more support than others and if you have never run or trained barefoot you may experience some soreness at the beginning. If you experience any initial soreness from training barefoot, wait until it goes away before re-attempting to train barefoot.

HIIT is a great way to start training barefoot doing bodyweight exercises. Just practise without shoes for a few minutes each day. If it feels uncomfortable to you, try for just a few minutes a couple times a week and gradually increase the time you spend barefoot.  Another alternative is to try doing your warm up or a period of yoga barefoot.

Try Vibram Five-fingers or another soft shoe that simulates the feeling of being barefoot.

Start on a flat and cushioned surface, such as a cushioned floor or a thick dense carpet. If you have a safe grassy spot outside that you feel confident is free of little rocks or worse glass, this would be ideal.

If you wear shoes most of the time, be careful in transitioning. One issue that can develop is calf pain or Achilles tendinitis, which occurs due to shortening of the Achilles tendon and from the foot being under developed due to the regular use of shoes. As your foot gets accustomed to walking, training and being barefoot the symptoms will disappear. The muscles, tendons and joints of the foot, ankle and leg will get stronger, but give it time to build up.

Blisters can appear on the feet if they are not used to training barefoot. They will go away and the skin along with the foot will become stronger.

If you have health conditions, such as diabetes, which affects the sensation of the feet, consult your health care provider first regarding barefoot training and make sure it is suitable or recommended for you.


Bare Feet - Benefits of Barefoot Training


Happy barefooting! To your optimal health!

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  • Shame

    I wish I was never obsessed with being barefooted all the time. Every since I was little I would hate wearing shoes, thanks to that I am severely flat footed and my bone is out of place. Reason? Because of never having arch support.

    • I am so sorry to hear this. I still am convinced that going barefoot is best for us. It is a very older traditional thought to think we should be wearing shoes from the day we are born and I just want to suggest (without offending) and only coming from a place of love and helping) that you may want to go get a second opinion (or maybe you have) or look into it further.

      I am very convinced of the opposite and by googling going barefoot you will see so much evidence of it being a good thing. I am not sure of your situation – and am not a foot doctor, so can’t make any real claims. It’s all research and personal experience.

      I actually went last week and checked my arches and feet out with a friend of mine (who lives in shoes, mostly low heeled ,comfortable ones. My feet were at the top of the scale (good) and his were at the very bottom (not so good) and he bought the arch support inserts they were selling.

      I still stand behind barefoot, but realize we have different circumstances and feel badly for your experience.
      Best wishes, love and peace, Robin

      • Jo-what-do-you-kno

        I think it may be the care of walking on the flat ground, asphalt etc. This can make your feet go that way. In the past people would walk on the grass, stones etc. or in the forest, cause there was no asphalt.

  • Shoes ****

    I started going barefoot because I spotted a varicose vein on my ankle, I never had one before, looked it up and read that shoes play a part in this. It has something to do with shoes causing weak feet muscles, stifling circulation and overheating the feet and that all contributes to varicose veins. I was all kinds of worried I was going to get more when I first saw it.

    Long story short I ended up ‘getting good’ at going barefoot, at first I felt awkward having to watch my step with my ‘fragile’ feet like I always had but I noticed that within days barefoot felt natural and in about 2 or 3 weeks I could walk around all day even on the rougher pavement without the soles of my feeling sore at all and that bent inward 3rd toe straightened out a bit.

    Strangest thing is now when I have to wear shoes it feels wrong and I don’t like it.

    • I really believe in the benefits of going barefoot and I love hearing this. You have a really interesting story and I am so glad to hear it’s ben working out well for you. It has for me too and don’t like having to wear shoes either! 😉 Cheers!

      • Shoes *****

        No problem,

        I didn’t know that feeling of fragility and hypersensitivity to every little thing just goes away. Its nice not having shoe dependence anymore. I am not a fish out of water if I venture off carpet or beach sand barefoot . One thing that really helped get me past that initial ‘fragility don’t know how to walk state’ I now know was caused by wearing shoes was when I started keeping my shoes in the trunk of the car. I didn’t plan it that way I just was annoyed with having to stop go look for them when I was going out just in case I needed them for a real yucky place and that lead to more time barefoot time not having them in the house to ‘naturally’ put on.

        Driving the car with shoes is odd now too, barefoot I get instant feedback and know my exact foot position and time of contact and contrary to what someone said to me, bare feet don’t slip off the peddles at all, smooth sole shoes hitting off target do.

        I can’t explain really how being barefoot makes you feel better over all but it absolutely does and if people can get past the initial transition they would see what I mean.

        In fact I bet if they did one of those studies like they do testing anti-depressants the bare foot group would show improved mood and all that over the shoe control group and no one would get those chemical side effects.

        I just should have taken a before picture of my feet when they looked somewhat unhealthy so I could prove the changes I know I saw.

        • I love it. and you’ve beaten me.. I haven’t driven yet barefoot. but you’ve inspired me and I will try that soon! Peace and great to hear your story on barefoot living. thanks!

          • Shoes ****

            Here is more of my barefoot living story.

            Barefoot living can be rough, I found your page looking for the barefoot health code MYTH page after being told I wasn’t allowed in Dunkin Donuts without shoes the day before my first post here. The place is only about 4 blocks from the beach and they get upset over a barefoot customer, why ?

            Look up “barefoot health code violation” on google http://www.google.com/search?q=barefoot+health+code+violation

            I sent an e-mail to that store informing them of this myth but havent been back in yet, I made the subject “barefoot health code violations” because nothing scares resteraunt owners more than the health dept , I got nothing back but I know they read it.

            Great web page on the ‘you need shoes’ myth.

            Keep spreading the word !

          • I love to drive barefoot! If I am not in work shoes, then I always go barefoot.

            I also run barefoot, but that’s another story…

  • Pinky Alive

    Robin I am so happy that you have found your grounding and oneness with nature. I have been grounded for years. Started with my love of all animals and that is why I proudly live a Raw Vegan Lifestyle and I’m a consultant to get people from the starting gate to the finish line. I’m grounding with my body, mind connection by going to my Bikram a Yoga class everyday and give back by teaching chair yoga to the physically and mentally challenged. I have also been practicing Transcendental Meditation for over 40 years and chant Nichiren Buddhism for over 10 years. I do cleanses 4 times a year which are amazing and really open your senses to the max.

  • Barefoot Jedi

    Check out The Society of Barefoot Living at barefooters.org. I learned all about the health benefits of going barefoot after suffering through years of chronic back pain. Since I’ve kicked off my shoes nearly 2 years ago, my pain has dropped dramatically! My arches have regained their natutal curvature, my posture has improved, and I’m more attuned to the world around me. I don’t limit myself to just going barefoot at home or outside on the lawn. I drive barefoot, hike through trails, and you can even see me barefoot while I’m shopping. The “health code reguations” are pure myth. In fact, The Society for Barefoot Living conductec a letter writing compaign to each of the 50 states health departments, and every state said that they do not have any rules or codes that require shoes in public places including restaurants. You can actually go to the Society’s website and print a copy of the letter pertaining to your specific state.

    Bare feet are natural and healthy and are not anything that should be considered shameful, dirty or digusting. Every nowand then people will stare but I’m feeling betterr than I have in a long time!

    • Hi, and thanks for the info. Really interesting that there are no health code/rules about wearing shoes in restaurants, awesome.
      I think barefoot is definitely the healthiest way to go too!
      Great to hear from you. Cheers!

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