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I'd Rather be Barefoot

April 28, 2017

 Who doesn't love a new pair of shoes?! The smell of never worn kicks, the non-scuffed beauty of fresh leather, soles so clean you can wear them around the house! A pair of new shoes can create a sense of euphoria, confidence, and happiness.


Some people collect shoes and never wear them. Some people buy a pair of shoes and wear them until they're falling apart. Some people buy shoes for a special occasion and never wear them again.


There are shoes for everyday activity, indoor shoes, outdoor shoes, fashion shoes, sandals and flip flops, high heels, boots, handmade shoes made from high quality Italian leather, shoes made from recycled material, and shoes made from new-age polymers that feel lighter than air.


Of course let's not forget the almost unlimited options of shoes for different sports! Running, Football, Baseball, Basketball, Golf, Rock Climbing, Equestrian boots, ice skates, dance slippers, lifting shoes, the list goes on and on.


Within each category of shoe there's high end shoes, low end shoes, different colors, materials, laces vs zippers vs slip-ons.


The point is, whatever activity you're trying to do, whatever kind of persona you're trying to portray, whatever your need, there's probably a special shoe designed specifically to give you an advantage.


Today's footwear has the latest and greatest in materials, design, technology, and comfort all designed to allow you to perform at your best, conform to the latest fashion trends, support your orthotic needs, hike through mountainous terrain,  or keep you dry in the rain. And with price ranges for every budgetary need, shoes have become one of the most common and desirable purchases worldwide. Whether you're in a first world country and want a new pair of shoes for that hot date or in a third world country and need to protect your feet from the harsh conditions of daily life, shoes are an essential part of human culture.


According to Global Industry Analytics, Inc. the shoe industry is projected to grow to $371.8 Billion by 2020! This astounds me because for the majority of human existence, we didn't wear shoes!


Some of the earliest known shoes date back approximately 40,000 years, which don't get me wrong, is a very long time. However, the earliest homosapians date back approximately 2.8 million years! So for the better part of 2.5 million years, our species developed and evolved into what we are right now without shoes!


Over this period of evolution we developed eyes that can see the world around us, dexterous thumbs that help us build tools and shape the world around us, and of course, feet that helped us to stand upright, run, lift, jump, kick and so much more!


Our feet are complex and full of features that today we take for granted and often abuse. We have toes that splay and allow us to balance. We have arches that give us support and stability while also acting like springs when walking, running, and jumping. We have ankles that allow a great range of motion and allow us to bend, squat, run, jump, kick, and more.


Shoes were originally developed as a means of protection for our feet, allowing us to walk over rocks, sticks, hot, and cold, all while reducing the risk of injury. Today however, shoes have developed into something completely different. Like we stated earlier, shoes can be highly fashionable but completely nonfunctional and even abusive to our feet. 


Now don't get me wrong, I love shoes, probably more than I should. I too have shoes for Golf, CrossFit, Running, Hiking, and everyday comfort shoes and I do believe that shoes can enhance human performance, but I'd rather be barefoot.


If you've worn shoes for a long time, especially high heels, boots, or pointed toe shoes, you've slowly ,over time deformed your feet. You may not realize this because it happens so gradually but it's true that excessive shoe wearing will actually wreak havoc on your body. 


All it takes is one look at a normal foot compared with a foot that's gone through the process of foot binding to see there's blatant damage and deformity done.



Now this is obviously a drastic example but the effects of today's modern footwear does the same thing, just on a lesser scale. Our heel cords become shortened, our ankle range of motion is restricted, our toes are deformed, and our arches become collapsed.


So how do you determine if your feet are healthy? Often you won't know you have a problem until you try to test yourself and your range of motion.




First, stand up barefoot and look at your feet. Do your toes splay naturally? or are they compressed together?


Next, preferably while barefoot, stand with both feet together and see if you can squat down below parallel. Do your heels come off the ground?


If you're able to keep your feet on the ground we're going to go one step further. Lift one foot off the ground into what's known as a Pistol Squat. Can you still keep your foot flat?


A pistol squat demands full range of motion in the ankle and heel cord to be performed properly and is a great litmus test for ankle and heel cord range of motion.


These 3 quick tests shouldn't take more than a minute and will tell you pretty quickly that your feet probably aren't as healthy as you thought they were.


So how do you fix the issue? Is it too late? Has permanent damage been done?


There is a wide variety of ankle and foot mobility techniques you can do, a lot of which I cover in my Mobilitas Rehab program during "Session 7" which happens to be coming up tomorrow! 


I understand you may not be able to make it depending on your schedule or where you live so I'll give you my favorite foot mobility that I do 5 days per week, every week. All I use is a lacrosse ball and a golf ball but you can use anything similar you have (baseball, softball, tennis ball, racquetball, etc)




While standing at my desk at work all day, I put my foot (no shoes please) on top of the ball. I like to start this mobility with a lacrosse ball until I make some significant change then switch to a golf ball later for more acute pressure.


With my foot on the ball I apply downward pressure on a single spot until it's as deep as I can get it without experiencing pain or catch myself holding my breath. The pressure you're able to apply is going to depend on the condition of your feet and especially your arches. 


Once I've applied my downward pressure I'll slowly oscilate in small circles and waves and expand outward from the point I started. Go slow and don't try to do too much at once. Chances are your feet have been badly abused and this is something you'll need to do often. You didn't destroy your feet overnight and you're not going to fix them in a day either.


Another technique with the ball is to apply pressure in one spot and then lift and lower your toes effectively stretching your arches around the ball, helping them to normalize and gain back their proper mechanics.


Don't get discouraged by the tenderness of your feet. Instead, use them as a guide to how healthy your feet are. The tissues of your body shouldn't be painful when compressed. I can support my bodyweight on a lacrosse ball and so should you. The difference is, I've been doing this consistently for a while and chances are you haven't.


The best part about these two techniques is they don't take any extra time to perform. You're already at a desk, you might as well roll your foot on a ball!




If you want to learn more about how to fix your broken feet, stop by tomorrow for Mobilitas Rehab at CrossFit ReVamped in Columbia, Maryland or contact me through my website and we can talk about hosting a mobility seminar at your facility!


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