Mind, Body and Sole
Footwear is there to protect our feet, but when it comes to exercise, what is best for our feet and in fact the rest of our muscles and joints?
It’s no secret to a lot of us that our being barefoot does have some health benefits, particularly regarding posture and balance. Just being barefoot improves proprioception, which is the awareness of position, strength, balance and applied force. Like any exercise progression or adaption, this becomes more difficult when you apply it to exercise, but the benefits also become amplified. Muscles in the feet that have become atrophied (worn away or shrunk) from lack of use are re-awakened and strengthened, whilst nerve endings and reflexology points on the bottom of the feet are stimulated to create more efficient muscular and neurological chains through the lower limbs.
An example of this is yoga, traditionally performed barefoot, this adds to the proprioceptive, balance and strength benefits that yoga already presents. Musculature in the foot strengthens and works to balance through poses and movements, tuning the neurological system. The disadvantages in this case are very few, as there is weight but very little impact through the joints, much like when walking. So, what about activities where there is more impact applied to our bodies?
Almost all martial art forms are also practiced barefoot to perfect foot posture and kicking techniques, as well as having more contact with the floor to sense changes in the surface. In contrast to yoga, there are a lot of explosive movements performed in some martial art forms, including changes of direction (sometimes in mid air!), jumping and landing. Due to this, balance and co-ordination are tested and improved on a different level, however there is also an increased risk of injury. Added pressure on the bones in the feet and ankle joints can sometimes lead to inflammation following an awkwardly performed technique. But over time, increased proprioceptive qualities and improved muscular strength and endurance in these areas allow the joints and bones to be far more resistant to injuries in the long-term.
With barefoot exercising, practice makes progress. The long-term benefits largely outweigh any risks and in most circumstances actually reverse them over time.
Active Potential Therapy are able to help people from all walks of life, and can treat based on a breadth of knowledge of injuries sustained from many types of activities, including martial arts.