If your a gym owner or OH&S enforcer, the thought of shoeless gyms might make your toes curl … good … keep curling! I want to put forward the idea that what we are loosing by enclosing our feet in shoes (padded heels or minimalist) is much more than fungal foot diseases and sweaty floors.
Lets start with the foot and it’s role in our body’s biomechanics. The foot is the perfect ‘Tensegrity structure’ with it’s floating bones and viscose like movement, it supports the weight of our whole body as it connects to the ground. It is also (in the majority of exercises) the only part of our body which provides us with ‘closed chain’ feedback on our body’s position in space. Making it kind of like a feedback epicentre … now why would we want to enclose such a valuable structure in often over protective, sensitisation depleting, shoes!
The basic ‘Fan and Fold’ biomechanical explanation (Deb Treloar) of the foot, is a beautiful articulation of how the foot is meant to adapt and ‘suction’ to the floor. Think of a dancer warming up their feet, rolling up and down from the floor onto their toes and back again, this is a beautifully mobile foot, bones articulating over one another, like the vertebras of our spine. Joseph Pilates famously said “if your spine is inflexibly stiff at 30, you are old. If it’s completely flexible at 60 you are young” and I think this can be translated to our feet and I would like to consider if your feet are immobile or too mobile at any age, your not healthy!
From a biomechanical and problem solving point of view, I find it increasingly frustrating when I am assessing my patients functional movement and i can see the whole biomechanical chain except the foot. We don’t go to the gym, work with our trainer or rehab provider and wear jeans, so why do we inflict the same restriction on our feet! I know there are so many lower limb injuries coming from our feet, if only our rehab providers could see them!
So, if you would like to join the ‘shoe-free’ gym movement and free the epicentre of your connection to the ground let me know! The movement world will be a better place for shoeless feet and beautiful movement will begin to run free once more!