Is Barefoot Training For You?

Men's Health |

The Tester

30-year-old multi-sport office dweller with dodgy knees

The Goal

Upgrade balance, speed and leg strength. Training barefoot does that by activating all the muscles in your feet, which have atrophied since your mom swaddled them in your first pair of kicks, says certified strength and conditioning coach Martin Rooney.

The (Injury-free) prescription

(1) Remove all barriers. The less material between your foot and the ground, the better, Rooney says. If flashing your feet isn’t an option, get a barefoot-style shoe like the Vibram FiveFingers Komodosport (R1 599, or the New Balance Minimus Zero (R1 100,

(2) Ease out of your shoes gradually. “You’ve been wearing shoes for decades, so two or three workouts aren’t going to undo that,” Rooney says. Start by walking or pacing barefoot at home 30 minutes a day for four weeks.

(3) Keep it simple. Once your feet are broken in, add three sets of 10 jumping jacks to your normal workout routine. Skipping is also a good foot strengthener. Try eight to 10 sets of 30m.

(4) Add some weight. After eight weeks, start mixing in exercises like lunges, squats, and 40m sprints. If you feel any pain or discomfort, go back to barefoot calisthenics for another week or two.

The Verdict

“Rooney’s rules worked: the stabilisers in my legs and feet have become stronger and I have less injury niggles. Doing gym training without shoes is tricky though, as doing certain exercises without any shoes on is like taking a cheese grater to your feet (I did handstand push-ups against a face brick wall, and the brick wall won).”

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