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No Small Feat

Regaining your natural strength from the ground up, one day at a time

SUMMER 2018
 
We are a technological society, and so we seek solutions through invention; although, well-intentioned inventions sometimes have unintended consequences. Every action has a reaction.
 
Footwear as a technology is ubiquitous, and obviously plays an important role in protecting our feet, keeping us comfortable, and even serves a significant role in fashion. However, for all its good, footwear has also numbed us. Naturally, our feet are extremely sensitive and work to keep our entire body functioning properly – balance, stability, coordination, and mobility. Our feet have millions of nerve endings that spark our central nervous system, activating our glutes and core, making each of our bodies aware of itself so it can adapt to various conditions. Our feet affect the strength and reactions of our ankles, knees, hips, and back. Wearing shoes tricks the nerves and muscles in our feet to work less, and in so doing our muscles atrophy over time and our bodies compensate by making up for what our feet should be doing for us (e.g., balance, reactions, etc.), which can often lead to injuries and other problems throughout our bodies.
 
Training Barefoot
When you stop to think about it, it makes a lot of sense that wearing shoes may affect our training. Imagine if we all spent our days wearing protective gloves – where we don’t feel things with our hands. And imagine if those gloves were fashionable, and the fashion was to crunch the fingers together to make our hands look slimmer, or if the fashion was to stiffen our bound hands and put them at an awkward angle the way high-heeled shoes do to women’s’ feet. Of course, our hands over time would lose their fine abilities in terms of sense and movement.
 
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Think how swinging a kettlebell or performing a deadlift would feel if we wore padded mittens that took away our touch. Yes, perhaps our skin would be protected (no more callouses!), but we’d also lose so much of the feeling and adjustments our hands make by actually feeling the tools we lift.
 
Yet we think nothing of wearing shoes just about all the time. But more and more, the benefits of exercising barefoot are being appreciated by a larger audience. High-profile distance runners from remote regions in Africa and South America have successfully run urban marathons, and even the Olympics, barefoot. There are numerous studies demonstrating how these communities that wear no footwear or very flat, basic footwear tend to experience fewer of the knee, hip, ankle, back, etc., injuries Western runners experience, since their feet function as they’re supposed to, and so their bodies overall function as they should.
 
Take baby steps
So, you want to start training barefoot to get some of the benefit our feet can enable?  Sounds good – but let’s do so gradually.
 
Chances are, you’ve been wearing shoes most of the day for most of your life, and so your feet need to get re-acquainted with the ground below. In fact, the muscles in your feet are likely weakened by atrophy over the years. It is best to simply start by spending as much time as possible each day walking barefoot; at home, at work, outdoors – wherever you can. You may even experience a bit of discomfort at first as the muscles in your feet rebuild, your skin toughens, your ankles strengthen, etc. There are several soft, flexible, minimalist flat shoes on the market designed to be as close to barefoot as possible – you might want to experiment with those as well so you can be out and about more of the day in establishments where bare feet may not be allowed, or where you really do need some protection (e.g., hot blacktop). Over time, walking barefoot will yield greater body alignment and strength.
 
If you want to start working out at Punch barefoot, let us know and let’s start slow.  We’ll want to try some of the more basic moves with appropriate weight rather than just jumping into the routine you’ve built with footwear to date, but you’ll be amazed at how quickly things progress. Even working with non-slip socks can help you work your way up through the various moves and weights.
 
Of course, our feet are prone to such glamourous things as fungus, so please use your judgement when you do go barefoot. We certainly don’t want things “spreading” around the gym, and a fellow Peep may not want to lie down where your bare foot just rubbed against the floor, so please keep gym etiquette in mind – never hurts to have a towel handy to wipe things down wherever you may have just worked out, before the next person arrives.
 
It’s a perfect time to try barefootin’ – it’s summer, so go take a walk outside to start reclaiming the muscles in your feet. Your whole body will thank you.
 
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