Unveiling the Benefits of Barefoot Training Shoes for Gym Workouts

Shoes come in all shapes and sizes depending on their purpose. The most common shoes seen in the gym are running shoes. However, this article is not about running shoes; it’s about training shoes, specifically barefoot training shoes. By understanding what makes a running shoe good for running, we can break that down and see what makes a shoe good for training.

Running shoes typically have thick cushioning, crash pads, and arch support, which can restrict natural foot movement. They also feature a heel and toe with a curve that causes the foot to rock or roll, stiff soles, and narrow toe boxes that keep the toes squished together.

Standard Running Shoe
Standard Running Shoe
Barefoot Training Shoe
Barefoot Training Shoe

My ideal footwear in the gym is my bare feet. I can feel the contact with the ground and the pressure distribution with my feet and toes. Going barefoot in public places is a social faux pas; however, if you know what to look for, you can find a shoe that mimics training barefoot.

Most running shoes have a high heel-to-toe drop. This is designed to provide more support in the heel when the foot touches down and less around the toe for better push-off. However, when we squat, deadlift, use dumbbells, or cables, we do not need this heel-to-toe drop. Wearing barefoot training shoe allows for improved proprioception. With these shoes, you’ll be able to feel the ground underneath your feet, including debris like pebbles, gaps, bumps in the floor, or even your own shoelaces. This heightened sensory input helps your body understand the position and movement of your feet, which is crucial for maintaining proper form during exercises. When performing balance drills, there will be an increase in stabilization muscle engagement, improved weight distribution, and eventually better ankle support once the muscles are strengthened.

Barefoot Training Shoe (left), Standard Running Shoe (right)
Notice the heel lift and toe curve on the running shoe (right).

When the foot encounters the ground, the bones need space to spread apart as the foot widens. The more contact with the ground, the more stability in the ankle. Many modern shoes have a narrow toe box, which keeps the toes squished together. With more space in the toe box and flexible soles, barefoot shoes can promote better mobility in your toes and ankles. This can be particularly beneficial for exercises that require flexibility and a wide range of motion.

Notice the foot on the right is spilling out over the insole. Inside a shoe this squishes your toes together.

It’s important to note that transitioning to barefoot training shoes can take time, as your feet and muscles need to adjust to the new footwear. It’s advisable to start gradually and consult with a healthcare or fitness professional if you have any preexisting foot conditions or concerns about using barefoot shoes. Additionally, not all gym activities may be suitable for barefoot shoes, so it’s a good idea to have other types of athletic footwear for specific workouts as needed.

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