Barefoot Training: A Secret Element to Injury Prevention

Presented by Spartan Training®

In today’s society, we’re all used to living in the chronic aches and pains of life. Back pain. Knee pain. Shoulder pain. Its never ending. But why? Is this how our life is supposed to go?

Quite simply: No. Living in pain is not normal. We should not fall into complacency.

When I transitioned from the once a year Spartan to a member of the Trifecta Tribe and beyond, I found my body was beaten and breaking down. Injury management and prevention is my specialty. Why am I having pains and compensations arising every other day? I was visiting a massage therapist weekly and I spent far too much time on foam rollers and on rehab exercises that weren’t working. I knew I needed to make a change.

One day, I signed up for a brief seminar on foot mechanics. The first statement to the group was this: “Core stability comes from the ground up.” Your feet are the predominant source of contact to a stable surface, your foot’s functionality is what determines your body’s biomechanics.

Now when we begin talking about biomechanics and the role our feet play in them, we must first talk about the thing we most frequently wear, our shoes. We have a pair of shoes for every occasion and for every foot type. Overpronators, heel strikers, steel toe boots, stiletto heels. The variety of shoes we have is overwhelming. But have you listened to your feet once they get the opportunity to kick off the shoes and relax? Most often, you’ll find your foot exhausted and aching.

Our feet are not designed to wear shoes 24/7. Yes, a shoe is a protective device, but what the shoe is realistically doing is cutting off the benefits of your feet.

“Core stability comes from the ground up.” Let’s break this statement down a little more. The bottom of our feet contains nerve endings. When these nerve endings come into contact with a solid ground, your balance receptors can fire more rapidly, improving your balance and initiating the kinetic chain throughout your lower body and up through to our core stability.

Try this for a second. Sit in a chair, feet flat on the ground, shoes on. Press both of your great toes into the floor for a 5-second hold. Release. Now repeat that process again, but this time, try standing up while holding your big toes into the ground. What are you feeling? What you’re most likely feeling is an initiation in your lower leg muscles, through the knees, and into your glutes. Once you are standing though, your feet begin to wobble slightly in your shoes. The same happens every time you try to exercise with shoes on. Your shoes are an overpriced foam pad cutting off the nerve receptors from the stable ground. Your feet are fighting all day, every day to stabilize this unstable surface, your shoes, thus exhausting your foot and ankle muscles.

Now let’s go back and try our big toe holds one more time, but this time with your shoes off. Do you feel a difference in your muscle recruitment and your stability as you stand? This task just became much more simple and your body is now rock solid. This is the beginning to barefoot training.

Not only will barefoot training help you to build better muscle recruitment throughout the lower body, and up to the core stability, it will also present much greater benefit in your mobility. Whether you have flat feet, tight calves, hip pain, or knee pain, it is all directly related to your foot mobility. Taking your shoes off for training will work every problem out in the most natural form. Your body is designed to lift in minimal footwear and it is designed to problem solve itself. You’re going to begin seeing an increased range of motion from your toes and your arches, through your calves and your knees, and into the hips. Training in socks or with a strict barefoot will give your body the biofeedback it needs to work out the compensations of life that have you left in pain day in and day out.


Yes, I did just recommend that every single person should experiment with barefoot training, BUT there is a time and a place for it.

  1. Before implementing barefoot training in your gym setting, check with the staff to find out in what areas, if at all, that you can train.
  2. NEVER walk around a gym barefoot, only kick your shoes off once you have your equipment set up and make sure that your space is safe without the potential of weights falling.
  3. Don’t drop your weights. You don’t want to see {or feel!} the outcome.
  4. Lift barefoot at your own risk. If for any reason you are lifting barefoot and something happens to you/ your body, it is nobody’s fault but your own.
  5. Do not jump straight into barefoot training. Begin in a very safe, stable environment. Start with stability exercises and, in time, progress to higher impact activities such as olympic lifting, plyometrics, running, etc.
  6. If running barefoot, be mindful of your terrain.

Barefoot training is one of the best (and cheapest!) forms of training. It will single-handedly change your posture and your gait. Overuse aches and pains will continue to dissipate and you’ll find yourself stronger and healthier overall. Give it a try (but heed the disclaimer). Kick your shoes off and start training.