Remember growing up barefoot. The brilliance of running, jumping and playing sans shoes. Hardly a care in the world was envisioned as a barefooted child. There was always something grounding to it. You felt more alive. Truth is there is something to that. There is good evidence that going barefoot allows you to be grounded to the Earth which then allows free electron transmission from the Earth to your body. These electrons act as a very powerful antioxidant which could reduce inflammation in the body. As we know, inflammation is the base cause of many chronic disease. There is actually a documentary called Grounded that you can watch for a short time on YouTube covering a lot of this information. On the flipside a well respected Doctor that I work with recently stated that skin is not a very good conductor and he thinks that it is highly unlikely. Of course as a Paramedic it is clear that the skin is capable of conducting electricity as shown through the example of defibrillation of a patient. Beyond this I tend to side with nature and the simple fact that our long lost ancestors did not wear shoes and we are not born with shoes.
Beyond these aspects it has been shown that running barefoot or with barefoot/minimalist shoes is a great way to prevent injury. Injuries are prevented by the natural changes in your running style that allow your body to use your lower extremities as the shock absorbers that they are. With the current running shoe fad the heel of the foot strikers first while running. This is caused by the shock absorber in the shoe eliminating the pain that you would otherwise have with this type of rhythmic event. However, running this way causes the body to have a shock from the heel to the hip joint. After years of this people begin to notice pain the the knees and hip joint from the constant rhythmic pounding. On the other hand, when you run barefoot your toes touch the ground first and your heel touches down much lighter. This creates a spring like motion that reduces the impact of the running. Therefore your joints remain safer. You also run with a smoother quicker motion that is more under your body instead of in front of your body when you run barefoot. This quick video demonstrates many of these points.
Beyond all of this there is also information that is available that shows that barefoot or minimalist lifting is good for the body as well. Two of these reasons are given in “Power to the People” by Pavel Tsatsouline. Loads of other fitness resources and equipment such as kettlebells can be found at dragondoor.com. Dragon Door is a fantastic resource.
1. Padded shoes can displace the center of gravity of the lifter leading to unnatural body mechanics.
2. There are reflexes that the body has based upon pressure the body senses.
Because of these issues I have chosen to lift barefoot outside these days. I also perform all of my kettlebell exercises barefoot as well. If it is too cold I will wear wear Chuck Taylors which many regard as the best all around shoes for weight training due to their minimalist design and thin soles. Say nay to the naysayers and refuse those that would force your feet into a struggled tight existence. Free your feet as nature intended and enjoy the world as we were meant to. It just makes sense if you were to think about it.
As with every change you want to start out lighter and with less intensity for your body to be able to compensate for the changes. These techniques should allow the body to compensate for any aspects of poor mechanics. Your body will become stronger in the areas that you are weak which will then allow you to perform heavier more intense exercise without injury due to that misbalance. Always remember to lift intelligently and within your limits. It is important to remain healthy while you are becoming stronger. That should certainly not scare you off of attempting heavier weights though. Form is the key to remaining healthy. Challenge yourself within the limits of proper form.
On a side note I just ran across StrongFirst: The School of Strength and I have become quite intrigued. It looks as though Pavel Tsatsouline is the Chairman of StrongFirst. I must look into it more.
Enjoy training one and all. Lets get stronger.