Train Barefoot to Increase Your Lifts and Avoid Injury
Barefoot Weightlifting Shoes: What Are They?
The term “barefoot” refers to the fact that your feet are not covered with any sort of footwear. While some would argue that wearing sneakers or other types of shoes will increase your strength, speed, agility, and overall athleticism. However, there is no evidence supporting these claims.
If you have been reading this site for a long time, then you probably already know that I am against using any type of footwear whatsoever when lifting weights. You might think that this is just because I’m a big fan of bare feet. But the truth is, it’s much deeper than that.
I believe that wearing shoes increases your risk of injury in several ways:
It reduces your range of motion (ROM) which decreases your ability to lift heavy objects properly.
It causes you to lose proprioception which makes it harder to feel where your body parts are located in space.
It causes you to develop blisters and calluses around your toes, making them less effective at gripping and pulling on heavy objects.
And lastly, it prevents proper foot alignment which leads to improper mechanics and poor form. All of these factors lead to increased risk of injury.
I’ll talk more about the need for proper foot alignment later in this post, but first I want to talk more about barefoot training.
Why Would I Want to Wear Barefoot Training Shoes?
Just because you may not be able to train with shoes on, doesn’t mean that you have to go completely barefoot. That would just be silly. Instead, there is a hybrid approach which involves training with what are called barefoot training shoes.
Barefoot training shoes are a relatively new concept which was developed by Vibram. They look just like regular running shoes, except that they have five separate rubber toe-caps on the front of the shoe (hence the name V-Five). These rubber caps make it easier to grip weight bars and prevent you from slipping and falling while performing certain exercises.
Since I started using these shoes, I’ve noticed a slight improvement in my lifting performance. This is probably due to the fact that I’m now able to grip weight bars better.
You can purchase barefoot training shoes at just about any fitness store such as but not limited to:
24 Hour Fitness
Now I already mentioned how I am a fan of bare foot training. However, I do recognize that it can be dangerous to perform certain exercises without any protection for your feet. For this reason, barefoot training shoes can be a good compromise.
Now let’s talk about where you should and should not use them.
Where You Should Use Barefoot Training Shoes
Most of the time you should still perform all of your exercises without any footwear at all.
However, there are some situations where it would be in your best interest to wear barefoot training shoes:
When gripping the weight bar becomes a problem. Some people have problems with gripping the bar when performing exercises such as the deadlift or bent over rows. If this is a problem for you, then you should definitely consider using barefoot training shoes when doing these exercises. When performing exercises on slick surfaces. If you train in a gym that has a lot of wax on the floor (like most 24 Hour Fitness locations), then you should consider using barefoot training shoes.
This is because wax decreases your ability to grip the floor. When performing calf raises or any other exercise that requires you to pull yourself forward with your toes. Performing exercises like this without anything on your feet can cause blisters and soreness in your soft tissue.
And of course, there are certain exercises that are just not going to be possible without some sort of foot protection. For these situations, we have…
Where You Shouldn’t Use Barefoot Training Shoes
There are quite a few exercises where using barefoot training shoes would be less than ideal or even downright stupid. Here are some of those situations…
When it increases your risk of injury. You shouldn’t wear barefoot training shoes when performing exercises that require you to stand on your toes. This is because the raised heels of the shoe will throw off your center of gravity and possibly cause you to injure a muscle or even your back. When performing lunges, step-ups, and any other exercise where your heel should be leaving the ground. Using barefoot training shoes for these exercises would prevent you from using proper form.
When doing any kind of jumping or explosive movement. The raised heels of the barefoot training shoe will decrease the amount of force you can exert backwards while pushing off. This could cause you to injure your muscles and tendons. When performing calf raises or rope climbing. The raised heels of the barefoot training shoe will throw off your balance and make these exercises more difficult than they need to be.
So there you have it, when and where to use your barefoot training shoes. I recommend you wear them any time you would wear regular sneakers. As for those other situations, just be aware of the potential drawbacks before wearing them.
In closing, I believe barefoot training shoes are a good idea for most people and most situations. Just make sure you know the right times and places to wear them.
If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please post them in the LiveChat tab near the bottom of the screen. Thank you for reading!
All the best,
Sources & references used in this article:
Foot and ankle injuries in the barefoot sports by K Vormittag, R Calonje, WW Briner – Current sports medicine …, 2009 – journals.lww.com
Athletic training with minimal footwear strengthens toe flexor muscles by JP Goldmann, W Potthast, GP Brüggemann – Footwear Science, 2013 – Taylor & Francis
Wiggling their toes at the shoe giants by A Cortese – New York Times, August, 2009 – dartblog.com
Lower extremity biomechanical relationships with different speeds in traditional, minimalist, and barefoot footwear by W Fredericks, S Swank, M Teisberg… – Journal of Sports …, 2015 – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov