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Barefoot Training. Why au-natural is better for you.

by Shayleen M. Pastick, Elite Trainer and Owner of Vitality Personal Fitness Inc.

What do the Brooklyn Bridge, the Roman Coliseum, and your spine and foot have in common?  Arches.

There are 3 major arches that are integral to the functionality and performance of the human foot.  Just as you wouldn’t fill in the arches of the great Roman Coliseum with concrete unless it was in danger of collapsing, neither should you overly support your feet, unless it’s absolutely necessary and medically indicated.  Go to any shoe store, pick any shoe and you may be unintentionally selecting a shoe that will provide your feet with too much support.

When left to nature and used as intended, your foot will get stronger, springier, and will allow for a clearer message to your brain as to what’s going on underneath it.   As an owner of a smart touch phone, every once in a while I try to do something on my phone with a pair of gloves on.  Texting a friend or posting something life altering on Facebook becomes nearly impossible as soon as a simple pair of gloves enter the scene.   “Let’s take the dogs for a walk?“, can easily become, “Lets ya DIY wall?”.  That’s quite a different message, isn’t it?  Gobbly gook.

Imagine how your feet feel in “shocks”, “gel”, or a “foot-rocker” when trying to run, play tennis, or even better, get a full body primal pattern workout at Vitality.

The message that your overly supported feet send to your brain can just as easily get scrambled as your message from your smart phone while texting with gloves on.  I’ve unfortunately experienced this twice in my life with a complete ACL rupture on two separate occasions.  Both were during what would be considered “normal sporting behavior.”  But that was then, and this is now.

At Vitality, we’ve had many “frequent fliers” transition to complete barefoot training.  I’ve been encouraging barefoot transitional training in myself and some advanced clients for over 7 years now.  We have 6 people who are now able to run, lift and train barefoot and they are all experiencing personal bests monthly with no pain or discomfort.   I can proudly say that I’m one of them, and honestly, my “franken-knees” have never felt better.  I actually have an allograft in my left knee, so I can say that literally.  I’ve also gone from the “Frankenstein” stability shoe with a custom orthotic in it, to my bare feet.   From the dorkiest shoes on the planet to bare feet, I’ll take it.

For those of you who know me, you know how careful I am with progression.  My transition from a stability shoe to barefoot training really did happen one workout at a time, one day at a time.  My personal history includes the following transition steps: a Brooks stability shoe with custom orthodics to just a Brooks stability shoe without the orthodics, then to an Asics Gel Nimbus Cumulus 9 runner to a Nike Free 7.0, then 5.0, then 3.0 and finally now to a Vibram five finger shoe and/or au natural bare-feet at Vitality.  Pay attention and take your time.  Train smarter then harder.  If you have discomfort then restore and maintain first and don’t progress until the discomfort has subsided.  Listen to your body first, your trainer second.

The feedback from athletes without foot dysfunction, who are training barefoot at Vitality, is unanimous. We all love our bare-feet, and how functional training barefoot, or training in a barefoot transitional shoe, affects our bodies.  We’re all getting stronger, better, faster, period.  We burn more calories, we have less pain, and we definitely are sporting more muscle than ever.  What would the Roman Coliseum look like if all of its arches were plugged up with concrete?  Without barefoot training, regular exercise, an all organic diet, FMS and its indications for corrective strategies, and training in a functional training center like Vitality, where would I be?  I’d hate to even try to imagine.

For more history and fun facts about barefoot running, read Born to Run, one of my favorite reads from the summer 2010.

February 8th, 2011 Posted in Barefoot Training, Tips & Recommendations