please keep your undies ON.
i'm talking about your feet.
during a recent skype session, i was going over some resistance band moves with a client who asked if she should should be wearing shoes while doing the exercises.
my response: no way.
i love being barefoot.
i joke (but not really a joke at all) that i never want a job where i can't be barefoot and in stretchy clothes. turns out dreams do come true, as i was a nanny for almost 6 years and now teach yoga.
the uniform for both is ideal.
turns out, there is a lot of credible information out there supporting being barefoot over wearing shoes.
think about it this way:
if you are wearing the most supportive, expensive shoes contoured to fit your feet perfectly, you aren't letting your feet MOVE. at all.
equate this to putting your feet in a cast.
the bones in the feet (and there are a LOT of them, 1/4 of the bones in the human body are located in the feet, 26 to be exact) the muscles, the tendons and ligaments, they don't get a chance to move, stretch, strengthen, shed the "fuzz", and so on if they are in shoe-casts all day everyday.
to take this information a step further, functionality and mobility of the feet is directly related to functionality and mobility of the ankles, knees and hips, and so it is directly related to balance.
if you're anything like my boyfriend, you wake up in the morning, almost immediately get dressed, shoes included, go do all the work things in said shoes, come home, take said shoes off to shower, then relax on the couch, and go to bed.
if that sounds familiar, consider this: the amount of time you're spending without shoes AND weight-bearing is minimal. it's the time between waking up and getting dressed, and the time between getting undressed and sitting/lying down for the night.
this is important:
being barefoot, but sitting or lying down is not doing as much to open up the feet as being barefoot and moving around.
put some weight on the feet, walk around, jump, skip, do yoga, do pushups and planks, stand on your toes.
be barefoot, but also be barefoot and move.
i teach all of my clients, even my non-yogi training clients -- when weightlifting isn't involved -- to exercise barefoot.
when the danger of dropping a heavy weight on the feet and toes is not present, i encourage my clients to ditch the shoes and perform
their band work,
their jump squats,
their walking and skipping and everything else sans shoes and socks.
i believe this leads to greater foot flexibility and mobility, and better overall balance.
i do practice barefoot weightlifting when working out at home, as it is a personal choice and risk, and i enjoy it very much. there is a major difference between, say, squatting with a 45lb. kettlebell with shoes on versus the exact same movement barefoot.
i have heard criticism regarding shoe-less exercise in the form of comments like
"i don't feel as stable without shoes"
sure, and that makes total sense because i'd venture to guess most of your previous workouts have been shoe'd. that means you find stability by having two things on your feet that give you a buffer and traction and memory foam and bounce. and you spent $150 on them so they must be helping, right?
i wonder, could you be open to the idea of letting your feet do what they are made to do for the human body, which is to
hold you upright
keep you grounded as you bend
land as you jump.
don't put your feet in boxes made to hold them stiff.
let them wiggle and bend and fold and stretch and spread, and by doing so, let them move you.
yoga is a great example of a form of exercise you are highly encouraged, if not required, to perform barefoot. i have yet to see a studio setting that allows shoes in the yoga room. it's no wonder yogis stereotypically have excellent balance.
of course balance is a practice in and of itself, and is gained over time. don't stifle your own practice toward mobility and balance by casting you feet away in a shoe, even an athletic sneaker.
many yogis believe that the feet are the buffers between the body and the earth, and this can be felt powerfully in standing asanas, such as
mountain pose, tree pose, and warrior poses.
instead of wearing socks or shoes, you can feel directly grounded to the surface supporting you, be it grass, a yoga mat, or whatever else, and use your whole mobile foot to ground through the standing leg(s).
a foot free from shoes can lift and spread the toes, can energetically pull to different points during the practice, and can experience full use and mobility in the freedom that comes when there is no restriction.
aside from exercising, also consider that a lot of the shoes we wear everyday are fashionable, but not foot friendly.
we wear heels that keep the ankle and toes in a weird angle for extended periods of time, and squish the toes together in the front.
we wear sandals and slides that force the toes to constantly contract to hold the shoe on the foot.
love these shoes, i love my cute sandals and slides and heels.
they are trendy and lovely and beautiful and fun, but at the end of the day kick them off and stretch out your feet just like you stretch out the rest of your body!
there are many steps you can take right now to start opening up those feet.
whenever possible, take of your socks and shoes and be barefoot. walk around your apartment, house, your yard, etc. without those shoes and socks!
do some simple foot and toe movements throughout the day. it can be simple, anything from circling the ankles to one side and then the other, or even squeezing the toes and then spreading them out wide.
for even more of a challenge, and more foot opening, try finding movement on non-flat surfaces.
try walking forwards and backwards on a bar or rolled up yoga mat, or even try some standing poses on non-flat surfaces (@thefootcollective on instagram has some great inspiration for this!).
have fun with it, don't take yourself too seriously, and for feet's sake, DITCH YOUR SHOES.