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  • Writer's pictureDana Verbytska

BARE FEET - They way nature intended

There is a point in our life when we all hear a well known phrase: 'you’ve got to stand on your own two feet' and as it turns out it has a deeply rooted history.

In the beginning....

The adoption of an erect posture was an important step in human evolution. Formation of the sole provided a three-point support and better support of the front of the body which in turn made the front limbs available for gripping and carrying which formally was performed by the jaws.

A work of art.

The human foot - a masterpiece of engineering, as Leonardo da Vinci called it. Structurally, the foot contains 26 bones, 114 ligaments and 20 muscles, and with these it has to maintain our balance and enable us to walk, run, leap, dance and kick.

When we are moving about, each foot-action consists of three elements. The first is shock-absorbing, as the foot touches the ground; the second is body-supporting, as it takes our weight; and the third is propulsion, as it helps to push us forward. This sequence is carried out every time we take a step.

Spiritual meaning.

According to chakra theory, the feet are an aspect of muladhara, the root chakra. The chakra itself is located at the perineum and pelvic floor, but it connects down through the legs and especially to the bottoms of our feet. The feet represent our first contact with the earth, and this is the element of home, security, safety, and any concerns about money.

So... how do we keep our feet strong and functional?

Barefoot training.

The answer is barefoot training, which is not a modern invention.

Throughout most of human history, running was performed barefoot and his practice continues today in Kenya and among Tarahumara people of Mexico, there is also rumours the Jamaican sprint teams utilise a lot of barefoot training, and you can't argue with their results.

March 1996, Odessa (Ukraine), 7.30 am...

My coach Tatiana Petrovna instructs us to take our shoes off and run barefoot on the pebble beach. It was an integral part of the training program in preparation for the nationals in track and field.

I was born flat-footed and the prospect of becoming a sprinter was very slim. But back then we had amazing doctors who knew the importance of barefoot training and within a couple of years of consistent training and insole support not only had I developed quite a decent arch, but I also became a junior national champion in 100 m hurdles.

Benefits and problems.

There are various training protocols for the feet from corrective exercises for flat feet to intrinsic foot strength for sports performance and of course things like barefoot running and sprinting.

Barefoot training strengthens the foot and ankle’s tendons, this strengthening occurs because the foot has to actively stabilise when it lands, in a way that just isn’t necessary in shoes.

In fact shoes could be causing so many different problems from the fit to the design, examples of this are a too narrow shoe messing up your foots ability to spread the toes or something as simple as a raised heel tilting the foot artificially forward (this also has a large knock on effect further up the body).

The correct gait is when the foot lands on the lateral aspect of the heel and rolls onto metatarsal of the big toe on the push off phase.

Everything in the body is connected to each other, which means that problems in one area of the body can be caused by a problem in another area.

Problems with the foot can very easily cause a domino effect that extends all the way up the spine. The feet are the foundation of the body and when there is a problem with the way they function it can cause the entire body to shift out of alignment. If the joints are not able to move how they are intended, the body has to work harder and improperly.

Disfunction of the foot can lead to my

structural problems from shin splints to knee or hip pain, from plantar fasciitis to low back pain, from herniated discs to shoulder problems.

Barefoot training allows you to be more in tune with your body, developing higher sense interoception, ability to feel and experience the ground in a way that shoes make impossible. It’s no surprise that with 150,000+ nerve endings in the soles of the feet, that occurs.

Some Useful Links

Analog Coach Jessica

Some simple exercises you can do at home

The Foot Collective

These guys have some great videos on simple up to really complex training methods for the foot, from no, to a little equipment.

Editors Note: I actually built one of the balance beams for almost 25% of the price by ordering the right metals from a local supplier here in the UK, and building it myself it took longer to put the order through than to build it, it's that easy - Jason

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