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Barefoot Training to Improve Flexibility

written by: Fitnessmom • edited by: Cheryl Gabbert • updated: 6/29/2011

Do you wonder why some forms of exercise are done without shoes? Discover the many benefits gained in barefoot training to improve flexibility overall, and increase range of motion. Develop more strength and better posture without the need for shoes.

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    Forms of Barefoot Training

    There are so many forms of barefoot exercise out there that are being practiced today that improves a person's strength and flexibility. While the popularity of training barefoot is on the rise, the reason is often unseen or even overlooked by some, as to what makes going without shoes the best option.

    Take for example yoga, its purpose is designed to create inner and outer balance of the body and release of lactic acid buildup back into the bloodstream. A build up of lactic acid is known to create stiff, tight, and sore muscles. Similarly, there is pilates, where strength and flexibility are increased together by fluid, and controlled postures. It focuses primarily on the use of abdominal muscles, lower back, and buttocks for stability.

    Other examples of barefoot trainings are kettlebell, belly or tribal dancing, and tai chi, all which are well known for their ability to improve flexibility and posture. What all these types of exercises have in common is that they use the body's core muscles to increase full body strength.

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    Why Flexibility Train Without Shoes?

    Many exercises that involve being barefoot are done to improve flexibility by simply having the ability to get a better grip, avoiding slippage on surfaces during movement, whether indoor or outdoor, as well as to work the muscles of the foot.

    When we position our body to increase our range of motion, we use our feet to guide us in the right movement. Being barefoot enables us to feel what the rest of the body is doing. Several stretches done for the legs are dependent on the positioning of the feet. To properly extend the calves and ankles, where the more intrinsic muscles are located in the legs, the foot has to be able to have full range of motion throughout the arch.

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    Best Foot Forward

    Good examples of foot flexion are found in tai chi, where the feet guide a steady stream of slow and controlled stances. These stances vary from balancing on the ball of the foot to sitting back into a "cat stance", which puts weight on the back foot and strengthens the lower back and gluteus muscles. One stance in particular, referred to as a "bow stance", can dramatically increase flexibility in the hamstrings and hip flexors, but is dependent on proper foot placement.

    Another primary example of barefoot training to improve flexibility is seen in kettlebell, using the Turkish Get-Up. This exercise maintains a specific foot placement throughout to execute this drill of flexibility.

    With yoga and pilates, several poses require driving weight down through the heel, something difficult to accomplish with shoes. Shoes were originally designed with the purpose of protecting our feet from the harsh outdoor elements, such as rocky or sharp surfaces, while traveling on foot. Barefoot training to improve flexibility is simple, easy and more fun, not to mention more cost effective.

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    Barefoot Running and Foot

    Developing Foot Strength, Jennifer Brewer-Dance Teacher Magazine