Removing your shoes and going barefoot provides another layer of proprioceptive information for our brains to process and utilize. The foot is covered with nerve endings—thousands of them—which can learn about the foot’s place on the ground, the texture of the ground, the slope, the slipperiness, and the condition of our musculature in the foot.
Balancing. might feel harder at first because you have to activate the muscles in your feet and lower legs. Balancing on bare feet is different from balancing in a shoe. The shoe gives a little “shelf” on which to sit. And if you’ve been wearing shoes all your life, balancing in bare feet might feel weird. Many people find that balancing on bare feet makes your lower legs incredibly tired. This is training. It being hard is the entire point. Balancing becomes a whole-body exercise, and, like all other exercises, eventually, it stops feeling so hard and starts feeling much easier—which means you’re getting stronger. So just push through the discomfort and know that you’re progressing.
The foot contains dozens of muscles, most of which lie dormant inside shoes. They go slack, they get weak, they aren’t engaged, just like your arm atrophies when you wear a cast for a month. Lifting in a shoe is fine but you’re leaving a lot of potential on the table. Don’t expect visible “gains” down there. But you can expect a stronger, more resilient foot that can handle long walks or even runs with regular barefoot exercise.
A study found that barefoot athletes had the best ankle stability of all athletes. There’s simply no comparison.
Barefoot workouts are one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal. They make exercise feel more real. They make exercise safer and more effective. And they make exercise more of a way to connect with your surroundings, the world, the universe, and your place in it all.