Barefoot Workouts

If you have spent any time on this site, you have clearly seen that I am a huge fan of Barefoot Running University. Now…the founder, Jason Robillard, does happen to be my good friend and occasional beer drinking buddy. And yes, I did write a few hundred words for the 2nd edition of his wildly popular book, The Barefoot Running Book.  And no, I am not a barefoot runner myself (I’ll talk more about that later).

However, I am a proponent of the barefoot movement (and that includes the use of minimalist shoes) because of the research and common sense behind it all.  I’m not going to go into into all of that, as I would drastically bastardize the topic with my attempts.  Check out Barefoot Running University. You can read the first 50 pages of his book free if you are hesitant in making the committment.

But I’m not here to talk about running.  I am here to talk about our workouts. I had a recent post addressing the use of minimalist shoes or being barefoot while working out (click here to go directly to that post).  I personally have tested out every workout that has been posted on this site, and I only post them here after they have been tweeked and adjusted if needed. In that same regard, I have started my journey to practice what I endorse – ie barefoot workouts. 

I have been doing my workouts barefoot, both at home and at the gym.  I am beginning to understand some of the issues that Jason talks about in his book and on his even more extremely popular blog, such as mild pain on the top of my foot. In addition to the aches that come with using all my muscles that have been stagnant for so many years in those “feet coffins,” I have found a few other issues that are relevant for Functional Fitness workouts specifically, as opposed to running outside.

Remember, I am just in the beginning stages of my journey and I am only 1 man. Following is just a sample of things from my experiences alone. Others may have differing experiences and opinions.

Here are just a few issues I have experienced thus far:

Box Jumps:  Typically I do box jumps on a nice hard plastic chair provided for us at my gym.  My other options are a box made out of OSB board, or the nice padded benches.  I originally avoided the padded benches in order to not put wear on them.  However, jumping onto the hard plastic chair proved to be unrealistic. Either my foot would land half on the edge (ouch), or if I made it entirely onto the chair, the curved hard plastic shape seemed to not welcome the shape of my foot, causing discomfort as well. So far, I am using the bench, hoping no co-workers will complain. 

Stigma:  Yes, there are some issues here about taking off your shoes in a gym.  I’ve heard comments such as how I am going to be spreading disease, etc.  Here is a nice post on Jason’s blog with some good comments on the subject.  Apparently I am not alone in this fight.

Treadmills:  For the at-home workouts, I sometimes incorporate the use of a treadmill.  First attempt at that barefoot brought to light the issue of friction. Fortunately, Jason came to my rescue again with a post on “pawback,” which helped with this greatly.  Plus there is a great video on funny treadmill mishaps!

Pull-ups:  Why does being barefoot matter with a Pull-up?  Simple. Be careful when you drop back down, as it can hurt with week feet. And yes, we all have week feet if we have been wearing padded shoes with raised heels all our lives.

Bodyweight Walks:  There are a few walks that can be difficult with barefeet.   Doing the Bear Walk down stairs is probably the most difficult to do without pain. Alligator walks are hard on the toes and overall feet at first, and Frog Jumps again are issues with the landing.  I am confident that most of these will resolve as my feet get stronger.

Jumps:  This goes along with the Bodyweight Walks as far as having the same issues. This category would include Squat Jumps, Lateral Bounds, Stutter Steps, Slaloms, etc..

Miscellaneous:  I found issues with basically anything that involves some type of landing, such as Pistons or anything on the Pull-up bar. Again, I’m sure this will resolve as my feet get adjusted to working the way they were intended.

Here are some of the benefits I have experienced to date:

Running:  I am beginning to see the benefits from running already, even though I am doing most of it on a treadmill.

Olympic Lifts:  The ability to use the tactile response I get from having my feet touch the ground has greatly aided my lifting with Dead Lifts and Snatches. This is a no-brainer, as professional lifters have been wearing basically slippers for decades if not longer for that very purpose.

Balance:  This is where I see the greatest benefit. The ability to balance on one leg is magnified intensely by having my foot on the floor without a shoe in the way. And as you should already know, we do a lot of stuff here while on one leg!

Freedom:  Not sure how to explain this one.  It is just a feeling you get. We have called ourselves superheroes. Others use the term “warriors,” or “ninjas.”  Yes, that is all for good fun, but I tell you…you will feel like a superhero once those shoes come off. Doing a 1 Arm Snatch with a barbell while barefoot is just plain cool!

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