Minimalist Shoes by Bruce Langdon, canfitpro PTS
Perhaps you have seen me or others wearing “funky shoes with toes” while running or working out at the gym. The Vibram Five Finger shoes may have made this movement popular, but the concept has been around for ages. Whether it is called “barefoot” or “minimalist” footwear, the idea is to allow the foot to perform in its natural position. The minimalist idea has received a lot of negative publicity ever since Vibram (Manufacturer of five fingered running shoes) settled a class action lawsuit in 2014.
Minimalist training, whether in the gym or on the road, is not for everyone. There are several precautions that must be considered. Minimalist shoes must be introduced gradually (Span of 6-12 months) and consideration of surface plays a part. I would suggest walking around the house barefoot as often as you can, before stepping outside. If your terrain is full of roots or pebbles, then you are in for some serious foot pain. In the gym, they are great for deadlifts or the treadmill, but I personally do not use them for any of the Olympic lifts (Clean, Jerk, Snatch) as the sole does not slide well. Running is a skill that must be acquired over time and not forced or injuries could occur. I have an outdoor pair I wear throughout the week, so my feet are well prepared for when I use my indoor pair at the gym. I would also recommend starting with light weights for the first few weeks before I attempting anything heavy.
Traditional sneakers have been proven to narrow the width of the foot overtime and spread out the forefront. This makes sense because the foot is constrained in the structure of the shoe while the heel is elevated. A weight distribution problem may occur over the surface of the foot if you are wearing improper footwear (i.e., running shoes) when weightlifting. Traditional shoes also contribute to a longer stride and increased dorsiflexion at the “foot-ground” contact. If you think of the foot as a tripod, the bare foot has each “leg” spread out from the others providing more stability. For the athlete, the foot is the foundation for most movement as the neural signal to the brain begins here and moves up the kinetic chain. Dysfunctional feet and ankles can impact power, explosiveness, agility, speed, and mobility. Minimalist shoes allow for more flexibility in the ankle and helps to prevent the weakening of the muscles that occur when using traditional footwear. If you were to try your workouts without shoes on, you would quickly discover how your feet and ankles have not been functioning properly. Some of the other benefits are dramatically increased proprioception (ability to feel the ground), increased power (nothing is lost through a thick heel), enhanced muscle alignment and a stronger base (wider tripod).
If you ever have any questions about this subject or anything gym related, feel free to reach out when I’m at the gym. Also, I am now taking new clients for those interested in personal training.