Many Intrepids and CrossFitters in general sometimes struggle with deciding what type of footwear would be best for the WOD. I’ve posted before on how many running shoes are not the ideal option for running and Ruth touched on the subject of footwear before. I’m pleased to see many of you have heeded our advice and have transitioned away from the over cushioned, high heeled running shoes. Many have made the transition to the Vibram Fivefingers or to weightlifting shoes depending on the workout you’re performing. Sometimes though, we struggle with the decision of footwear, and when, and if, barefoot is a better option. Eric Cressey of Cressey Performance in Massachusetts wrote an interesting article on T-Nation.com entitled “What I Learned in 2010”. The very first thing he discusses is how many have taken the whole barefoot training idea a little too far. He is by no means advocating the large shoe companies but he makes some interesting points that the Tarahumara tribe in Mexico that Christopher McDougall discusses in the his book Born to Run differs greatly from the general American public and that just deciding to all of a sudden start doing everything barefoot or with minimal footwear is only setting ourselves up for injury trouble.
He does offer up some tips for when to enjoy the benefits of barefoot training without the overkill and increased risk of injury. He suggests:
- Go barefoot for posterior-chain emphasis exercises like deadlifts, good mornings, & box squats.
- Go barefoot for single-leg exercises other than lunges. In other words, step-ups and Bulgarian split squats (but not regular split squats) allow us to train the lower leg and foot in a “minimalist” context without destroying the big toe.
- Go barefoot for walking around, but be careful about sprinting full-tilt or doing extended periods of jogging. We go barefoot for all our dynamic flexibility warm-ups.
- Remember that going barefoot doesn’t instantly improve your ankle mobility; it’s a gradual process. So chances are that if you have locked-up ankles and try to squat barefoot, it could look pretty ugly (you’ll make up for a lack of dorsiflexion with lumbar flexion – or lower back rounding – instead).
- Remember that there are also lightweight sneakers that don’t exactly simulate being barefoot, and these options are better for most weight training activities (and you can do the rest in just socks).
If implemented correctly, going barefoot or wearing minimalist footwear can be very beneficial, but be selective in the activities you choose to go barefoot as it may not always be the best option, and for goodness sake just don’t over do it.
1 minute Stations of: