Lately, it seems like shoes have become optional for getting in a good workout. While we all remember the barefoot running craze from a few years back, a more recent spike in barefoot lifting has forced more gyms and weight rooms to develop “you at least have to wear socks” policies. On the flip side, most yoga, pilates, and barre studios won’t even let you step foot into their classrooms unless you take off your shoes first.
So what’s barefoot training all about? And when is it a good idea to ditch your sneakers—and when is it just asking for an injury? We talked to sports medicine doctor, a kinesiologist (an expert in the science of body movement), and a podiatrist to find out. Here's what they said about lifting, running, and taking classes barefoot.
Turns out, wearing shoes all day every day lets our feet slack off—and over time, they become weak.
There’s a reason podiatrist call shoes "foot coffins." "When you’re wearing shoes, the muscles and connective tissues don’t have to work very hard to stabilize your body," Gennady Kolodenker, D.P.M., a podiatrist with Hoag Orthopedic Institute in California, tells SELF. The shoes do much of the work for your feet, which more or less just chill out in your shoes.
What’s so bad about that? Well, your feet are designed to function as the foundation for your entire body. When you don't use them in that way every day, they aren't as good at doing this job and will need to be "retrained," Alberta-based kinesiologist and medical exercise specialist Dean Somerset, C.S.C.S., tells SELF. He explains that it’s a lot like wearing a cast on your arm. Remove it after a few weeks of wear, and you’re bound to notice a drop in your bicep curls, triceps extensions, and even your ability to type and write. Now envision wearing that cast on your foot for a good 12 hours per day, 365 days per year. Exactly.