As I have shared with you in the last Coffee Talk, walking and exercising barefoot is really healthy and can help you avoid a lot of pain, and muscle imbalances in a the long run. It is the first step towards strengthening your feet which is something that has been underestimated in fitness until just recently.
We’ve been paying so much attention to core training and core strengthening that we have completely neglected our feet. What we have now discovered is that the stronger your feet are the stronger is your foundation for all sports and fitness.
You’ll be surprised how much you can improve your strength, balance, power, and control, if you start strengthening your feet on a daily basis simply by building the foundation that is responsible for transferring all the force from your body to the ground.
It’s really important that you start training your feet slowly. Just like you can’t expect to be able to lift your own bodyweight overhead without proper training, you can’t expect your feet to be strong enough to do all the advanced exercises right away.
Start by simply walking barefoot on a grass or another soft surface like on the beach. It’s summer so you can really enjoy a little walk through the park without wearing your shoes.
The soft and uneven surface of the grass will help to activate the muscles in your feet and increase the range of motion in all the joints. Almost 30% of the joints in your body are in your feet. So improving their stability and articulation is very important, but that’s why you should also start slowly.
Using foam rollers is also a great way to strengthen your feet. Start by massaging your feet gently and then gradually apply more pressure. In order to create change, you should always feel a medium discomfort.
Here are the different stages of progress with a foam roller:
1. Massage your feet in a seated position. Always start from the outside of your foot and emphasize on massaging from the ball of your foot towards the heel.
2. Massage your feet one at a time, gently, without putting all the weight into it.
3. Step on the foam roller and try to balance. Step off once you start feeling medium discomfort. Practice and try to increase the time on the foam roller up to one minute.
4. Once you have the balance and strength in your feet to stand on the foam roller, try doing squats. Remember the proper form for a squat: Push your hips back, try to maintain the natural curve in your lower back, keep your chest up.
5. Once you’re confident doing squats you’ll be able to challenge yourself with a medium size weight. By then you should notice some great changes happening to your overall athleticism.
Doing heel raises and walking or doing squats on the balls of your feet is also a great way to strengthen your feet and improve your balance, not to mention you’ll be shaping up your calves and your thighs. I can swear on this from my own experience that my legs have never looked better since I started training my feet this way.
The balance will be an issue at the beginning so using a chair or a wall for light support is a great way to practice. I had to start this way as well and now I’m able to do Ballerina Plie Squats without a support and with weights. Just keep in mind that it’s a process and it will take time.
You can also do simple heel raises anytime during the day especially if you’re at home and barefoot. Another great way to improve your joint mobility and strengthen your feet and ankles is using balance equipment such as Bosu Ball, Terra-Core and balance boards such as the Pono-Ola.
The Pono-Ola is very gentle and great for beginners. It gives you the foundation for more challenging feet position and exercises. The Terra-Core and Bosu are more advanced and I suggest you start with the basics – position your feet above your heels and do some simple bodyweight exercises such as squats, lunges, weight shifts. And focus on dorsiflexion rather than everting your feet by standing at the edge of the balance trainer. An untrained foot and ankle is more prone to injury so you want to strengthen them first before you start exploring different directions. If you start jumping right away, you might twist your ankle so let your feet and ankles get stronger and used to the balance trainer before you start doing any advanced exercises.
It won’t take too long but you have to be patient and listen to your body. It’s not worth to risk an injury and then not be able to exercise for weeks.
So I hope you’ll start practicing and if you want more guidance, make sure to join ZGYM and start working out with me on a daily basis. I’ve been doing a lot of barefoot workouts lately for beginners and advanced so you’ll have plenty training for your feet and the rest of your body.