Kemme Fitness

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Functional Fitness barefoot

I stole from an old post, but wanted to share some of these thoughts again.

pull-up

There is a movement out there that is picking up momentum. It is the barefoot running and minimalist shoe running movement. Shoe companies such as Merrell have even changed the way they do business and are turning towards minimalist shoes that they call “barefoot shoes.” I know it is an oxymoron, but it is the new buzz word in the shoe industry, so deal with it.

A leading expert in the barefoot and mimimalist running industry is Jason Robillard from the Barefoot Running University. He is on the forefront of educating the masses about the benefits of barefoot running. He still uses minimalist shoes as tools for various races, training, or terrains. You want to buy a minimalist shoe? Well check out his website for reviews.

Now, let’s get on topic. Crosstraining is a different animal than running, so even if there are benefits for barefoot running, what does that mean for crosstraining?  I’ll be honest with you, there is little research in this area. Having good running form is essential to avoiding injury, and being barefoot is the best way to learn good form. However, what we do here at Kemme Fitness does not involve long distance running.

So why do I crosstrain barefoot?

I’ll be honest with you again…it just feels sooo good!  I love the feel of the tactile response I get from getting out of my “foot coffins.”  Ok, I stole that phrase and I’m probably not cool enough to use it, so I’m sorry to you real barefoot runners out there.

There are some other practical reasons here as well. I originally started because we still do some running and my IT bands would flare where they attach on the outside of my knees whenever I ran frequently. I began barefoot walking as suggested by Jason Robillard in his successful book, The Barefoot Running Book (I strongly suggest you read his book for tips on good form and how to start slowly and avoid pain as you learn to walk and run properly). Myself, I felt some top of the foot pain originally, as well as some discomfort from my calf stretching out to the natural shape. But guess what…no more IT band flares!

I have written another post on some safety issues for crosstraining barefoot. That post included some of the benefits as well, such as better balancing and the ability to perform Olympic lifts with heavier weights.

The barefoot crosstraining movement is no where as explosive as the barefoot and minimalist running movement, but I am here to tell you…we are not alone!

I urge you to try taking off your shoes. Make sure you are not doing box jumps on hard edged wooden boxes or anything your first day, but try doing a workout barefoot.

If you need a little protection and don’t want to purchase those expensive minimalist shoes, then pick up a pair of Aqua Socks from Meijers (or whatever your local supermarket chain is called) for $9.99 and use those. They are just as effective, but most likely won’t fit perfectly. But since we aren’t running 25 miles, a little sloppy shoe seems to work just fine.

And we want to here from any of you out there who are already crosstraining barefoot. What advice would you give? What do you like best? What safety tips can you share?

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10 Comments»

pssst – I saw Pete doing “isolation” bicep curls today! He was barefoot though… :)

  Kemme Fitness wrote @

You are a cruel, cruel man. I still can’t move right now after today’s workout. And then…and then you dog me out for YOUR workout. I won’t forget this Mr. 14 seconds!!

  Aaron wrote @

Yet another great post.

I have been running barefoot off and on since 2010, and I totally agree with Pete. Try running or doing a workout sans shoes sometime. It is a totally different experience. Now, I mostly run in minimalist shoes and huaraches, but there is nothing like running truly barefoot.

Any barefoot runner will tell you, it forces you to find the proper barefoot running form for you. Note: while there are general guidelines for good running form, every runner is different and will run differently barefoot. A few key things to remember are to BEND YOUR KNEES, run softly, land with your foot under your center of gravity, and try to land toward your mid foot. It is perfectly fine if your heel kisses the ground with each step, in fact many experienced barefoot runners (like Jason, whose book I highly recommend) suggest landing with your foot flat on the ground. Just don’t slam it into the ground as if you were wearing cushioned shoes. Your heel will let you know if you are doing it wrong.

That said, I think the best piece of barefoot running advice I have ever read was from Christian Peterson (MapleGroveBarefootGuy) who said (I am paraphrasing here) to forget about all the hints and suggestions about proper barefoot running form. That will just lead to overthinking things or focusing on one aspect of your form to the detriment of everything else. The best thing you can do is run the way that feels most comfortable for you. If something hurts, experiment until it feels right. Case in point: when I start to feel a hot spot on the bottom of my foot, I know that I am pushing off too much and need to lift my foot more at the end of my stride.

Of course, you need to start slowly and try not to do too much too soon. Like Pete, I have also suffered from pain in the tops of my feet on a couple of occasions, and I can guarantee it was from bumping up my barefoot mileage too quickly. Each time resulted in me missing about 5 weeks of running.

Some recommend running barefoot on grass, but I do not. Grass may look nice and even on top, but it can hide lots of nasty things like rocks, sticks, and divots. I personally really like running barefoot on concrete and pavement, as long is it is not too rough. I live near a major college campus, which is full of nicely maintained sidewalks, streets, and walking paths. I get comments all the time about watching out for glass and needles. Seriously, I have never seen a needle while running, walking, or riding. The grossest thing I ever stepped in barefoot was food that some idiot threw on the street. The only time I ever got poked in the foot by a piece of glass, I was running in Five Fingers. Went right through the sole.

As for doing K-Fit barefoot, you just have to try it. Yesterday, for instance, I did a K-Element workout barefoot on grass and concrete. This one involved lots of push ups, squats, and lunges of different types. The barefoot lunges and squats felt especially good. About the only exercise I do not like doing barefoot is frog jumps. Seriously, provided you are not working out in a gravel parking lot or in super hot or cold weather, there is no reason to not try doing it barefoot. You will be amazed at how good it feels.

As a trend, I think barefoot running has probably jumped the shark. It is still something that I think everybody should try, but the popularity of running barefoot is fading. The impact it has had on the running community, however, is undeniable. It is barefoot running that lead to all the discussion about good running form and resulted on the boom in the minimalist shoe market. It was like what punk did to rock music in the 90s. It made a lot of us totally re-think our running and ditch the old ways of going about it.

  Kemme Fitness wrote @

Seriously Aaron, you just need to start writing guest posts.

Ok – I wanted to put in a serious $0.02 on this topic before it falls too low on the web-page. About 1 1/2 years ago I spent about 1 week or so doing my workouts barefoot.

In the beginning I LOVED it. It reminded me of my mma training & like Pete, I really like the tactile sense you get barefoot.

But then it went all wrong for me… :( Box jumps were not the problem – I found that as I did some of the exercises that included more than your body weight – i.e. deadlifts, clean & jerks, & exercises that required extended periods of jumping on my poor little feet onto hard surfaces (I do my box jumps onto cushioned benches) my feet got injured. Badly. It was to the point where I was having trouble the next morning just walking around the house in the morning to get ready for work.

Unfortunatly – those pains have continued to this day. :( My feet have never made a recovery from my experiement. I *wish* I could workout barefoot, b/c I love the feel, but I think the combination of my 220 lbs frame & the extra weight/excessive pounding did not work out so well. Which sucks.

Certainly the point of this post is NOT NOT NOT to say barefoot training sucks. I only post it as a precautionary ‘hey this could happen to you’ type post. I wish it had turned out better for my toes…

  Kemme Fitness wrote @

Thanks for the words of caution. Sad story, but that was very important for the readers to have. perhaps if you talked nicer to barefoot training and quit being so condescending, barefoot would have liked you a little more. Just saying :)

  It’s not the years honey, it’s the mileage wrote @

Maybe, but let’s face it. It’s far easier just to blame the instructor. :) :) :)

I can already feel the pain tomorrow morning from that horrible urban run this morning. Dear Lord – my shoulders are in pain all the time, my feet hurt every other day. I need to trade this body in for a newer model…

  Kemme Fitness wrote @

You’re the one who suggested we go all the way up to the “X.” That was freaky-far for an Urban Run. My face is still bright red!!

  Aaron wrote @

Y’all are in Grand Rapids. What is your definition of an “urban run?” Here on the South Side of Chicago, it means something completely different.

Kidding. I would love to hear about your urban runs and how you do them. I ended up doing my standard lunch run barefoot today. I haven’t done much barefoot running this year due to the extended winter we had. It felt great and was a sort of “re-set” button for my running posture. Later this week, I would like to mix it up and do a run with some push-ups, squats, lunges, etc thrown in. Is that what you do?

  Kemme Fitness wrote @

I suggest taking a list of all the bodyweight exercises off the exercise page. Then make sure you stop on green spaces, look for walls, bike racks, stairs. etc. Try bear walking down some stairs, doing bodyweight rows under railings, dips off bike racks, etc. You can do little mini circuits on the grass, or combine a bunch of planks. Frog Jumps along 4 or 6 or 10 parking spots, climb up walls, try pull-ups along the face of a wall, crawl under things, do a lunch walk all the way across a bridge. The key is to have fun, do crazy stuff, and don’t go more than 50 yards without doing something other than running. Find a parking structure, run up the stairwell, do Burpees at top, run back down with Push-ups on each landing. I could keep going, but you get the idea


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