Now that it’s nice outside, I’ve been enjoying completing my workouts outdoors rather than in my gym.
There’s something about feeling my bare feet land into the grass, hearing the birds chirp, and having the sun dance across the sky and hit my sweaty face. I started thinking as I was doing my workout the other day…why does it feel so GOOD to workout outside, with no sneakers on? It turns out that there’s actually science behind this whole phenomenon.
I recently listened to a fascinating podcast episode on Ben Greenfield’s show called Barefoot Strong: Unlock the Secrets to Movement Longevity. This podcast featured Emily Splichal on the show, who is an expert in the science of barefoot training. Dr. Splichal discusses how your feet is your body’s foundation, and if this foundation is not stable, bio mechanically, the rest of your body cannot be stable. Interestingly, the skin on the bottom of the foot has small nerves that are sensitive to different stimulation. This area is the contact point between the body and the ground, so it plays a critical role in how the body controls posture, balance and coordination. When your foot hits the ground, impact forces are perceived by your feet and nervous system as vibrations. Being able to perceive that vibration properly, is critical to maintaining balance when walking or doing dynamic movement.
How does footwear play a role in all of this?
Shoes block all that vibration and information coming into the nervous system through your feet. This blocked vibration contributes to delayed reaction time, a loss of stability, inaccurate perception of the joints. When we put cushion into shoes, the cushion is going to absorb or dampen the vibration so your nervous system does not receive any information. So, you are going to strike the ground harder, which means there will be even more impact forces coming in that you will have to absorb through the nervous system. Once you switch to minimalist footwear, you realize that you don’t need to be hitting the ground as hard.
Basically, the whole idea here is that we want to return to older times where our ancestors would walk around with no shoes on. Shoes didn’t exist back then. Our natural ancestral development does not involve wearing padded sneakers, high heels, or any kind of fancy shoes for that matter. Think about how prevalent food injuries and pain in the feet region are nowadays.
All too often we do not connect with the earth in this way, we do not feel the vibration energy coming from the ground, and this energy happens to be quite powerful and transformative. As a bonus, working out outside can improve your mood, boost immune system, alleviate allergies, anxieties and symptoms of depression. I’m not suggesting you should walk around barefoot on the streets. I’m saying every opportunity you have to avoid wearing sneakers and allow your feet to soak up energy from the earth, take it. Consider investing in minimalist footwear for when you do workout or go to the gym. It is much better to train with less shock absorbents, cushioning, foam, padding etc. It sounds weird, but these fancy shoes are actually not providing you with any benefit, comfort, or support…they actually cause damage long term. What kind of damage? They alter your natural foot shape and arch, can cause plantar fasciitis, injury and inflammation.
What shoes do I recommend?
Rebook Cross Fit Sneakers: These are the shoes that I personally wear during workouts. They have very minimal padding, and are made for exercises like squats and deadlifts.
ANI Vegan minimalist shoes: The brand stands for “As Nature Intended”, and these shoes are cruelty free, and good for workouts or walking around as well. Unfortunately, I do not find them as comfortable or fashionable as the above shoes, but they are still a good option, particuarly for my hippie friends out there.
Vibram Five Fingers: I’m not going to lie; I haven’t invested in a pair of these simply because I think they look kind of ridiculous. If I’m working out in my backyard, I’d rather wear nothing on my feet. But maybe someday in the future I’ll look into getting these. They are basically as “minimal” as you can go, while still having something on your feet protecting them from the ground.
Adidas Powerlifting Shoes: These are kind of flashy, but I really like them for compound movements.
YOUR OWN BAREFEET: Very underrated. When is the last time you sunk your feet in the grass, got some dirt in your toes and reconnected with mother earth? Probably too lung. It actually feels really great, liberating, and freeing to do this and I highly recommend it to all of you. I incorporate shoe free workouts at least twice a week in the summer, and when I’m on the beach I never wear flip flops-because it’s the best feeling in the whole wide world to let the soft sand sink between your toes!
Here is an OUTDOOR WORKOUT FOR FAT LOSS. Please note it can (and should) be done wearing no shoes at all.
This workout consists of 6 different strength toning moves combined with sprints for four total sets. It is very effective for burning fat, carving lean muscle and boosting metabolism.
After you complete a 15-20 second sprint (go as HARD and FAST as you possibly can during that sprint), you move into the following circuit, 45 seconds per exercise:
The first move is a roll up jump lunge. Perform a jump lunge on each leg, and then roll back on to the ground and pop back up, repeating the jump lunge motion once again. Try to make this a continuous, seamless motion.
Second is a sumo squat jump tap. Perform a jump squat, except keep your legs in a sumo position, wide apart with your toes facing outwards. Tap the ground as you come down. Make the move explosive, and be sure to drive through your heels not your toes.
Stay in a sumo squat and do some alternating touches. Remain in the sumo position, and tap your hand down to the ground, staying low and turning to other side entirely. Keep your core tight as you alternate sides.
Next is a push up arm raise. Perform a normal push up, and when you come up turn to the side and lift your hand up. Alternate sides.
The following move in this circuit is a side hop burpee. Hop to one side, staying low, perform a regular burpee.
Lastly, perform a forearm stand leg split. For this, I came into a forearm stand and split my legs apart, and then in again for the full 45 second interval. If you can’t come into a forearm stand yet, come into dolphin pose and practice kicking each leg upwards.
After that, repeat the whole set with the sprints and circuit three more times. And you’re done! The workout in action can be found on my Instagram page.