Humans need shoes. Well in this day and age we do anyhow. But our feet contact the Earth more than any other part of our body.
To understand why lifting with no shoes can be beneficial, we must first understand feet, the roll they play in movement + how they SHOULD be functioning.
Your feet are magnificent. I mean you might need a pedicure but from an anatomical standpoint, they are beauty, grace and grit.
Let’s talk about that anatomy for a moment.
Your toes should spread, or have the ability to. They are literally the fingers of your feet. But when we stuff them in shoes all the live long day, we remove the practice of mobility.
It’s like shoving your hands in mittens everyday…how well would your finger dexterity be if you did that? It would suck.
Now obviously your fingers have a much higher demand in carrying out daily tasks, BUT that does not take away from the fact that shoes 100% limit your toes’ natural mobility.
Take your shoes off, put your foot on the ground.
You should be able to do all of that with ease in full range of motion.
Before we move on…
Feet should be both mobile and stable.
Your big toe is your central point of balance, therefore you should be keeping in on the ground during big lifts (and most exercise for that matter)
Your foot as a whole should be stable. And then your ankle should be mobile.
When your foot is mobile (not acting like a foundation of a tall building), then it screws everything up the chain. Ankle has to be stable when it should be mobile, knees have to be mobile when they should be stable and so on. It’s just a big shit show if we can’t keep the feetsies locked in.
So let’s see if you’re feet are stable.
Shoes still off?
When standing at rest, your weight should be centered on your foot, across all toes. I have SUUUUPER high arches and supinate HARD (roll to the outside), so it can be difficult for me to keep my big toe planted. Which is an issue considering it is the balancing point of my entire body…
So, when lifting, the same rules apply.
Your foot should be “gripping” the floor.
This not mean scrunching up into a foot fist making the highest arch you possibly can. It means your foot should act like a suction cup.
Watch the bonus video from Movement 101 below for a better understanding.
Your points of contact should be:
And they should be GRIPPING the floor – spread + suction.
Oh, and why do you care about all of this? I probably should have started with that. TRANSFER OF FORCE. When lifting or moving, you transfer force from the ground. Your feet are the first contact with the ground, typically. That means that our feet initiate that force transfer. And if they have a weak, shitty interaction with the ground, it will 100% show up in your movement patterns and the weight you are moving.
So, kick off your shoes next time you’re at the gym or in your garage or wherever you lift. Socks are fine, straight up bare feet work too. Pay attention to your feet, how they are interacting and what you need to hone on. Did you feel more grounded? More solid? Smoother movement? PROBS WILL. I know because it happens to every client I tell to remove their shoes.
We covered this topic along with three other coaching cues and technique hacks inside Built By Annie. If you’d like to learn while you train and never be left in the dark, BBA is for you. Learn more here.
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I'm an adventurous introvert from Vancouver, Washington who lives on sleep + "me time." I'm a lover of lifting weights, dinosaurs, real talk and traveling with my husband. I am here to help you move better, lift more, bust the myths of the fitness industry, and inspire you to love the process.
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