How to Prepare for Barefooting
Marks Daily Apple
by Mark Sisson: 7
Home Remedies to Relieve a Sunburn
"Just go barefoot."
How many times
have you heard that from the dude with big calves, wide feet, and
soles like supple calf skin? (Hmm, that came out weirder than I
imagined.) Or maybe you're that guy, and you've said it. Heck, I've
probably said something to that effect before. It's a casual recommendation
that we long-term barefooters toss around… but maybe we shouldn't.
(Heresy!) Okay bear with me, here. Everyone agrees that shoelessness
is the foot's natural state, and that getting to a place where you
can enjoy that natural state is ideal. Natural
isn't always synonymous with good, but in the case of the human
foot a sensitive, capable, highly mobile appendage packed with
innumerable nerve endings, muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, and
fascia that responds and reacts to the environment as you walk and/or
run natural is almost certainly desirable. The human foot is pretty
amazing, and sticking it inside a restrictive shoe obscures that
fact. I think we can agree on that.
you tell your friends to burn
their shoes, consider something: the shod foot has been living
in a cast most of its life. It occasionally enjoys a bit of freedom,
but it's a fleeting, temporary freedom that's usually only granted
when there's nothing to do but lounge and sleep. When the modern
foot is called into action, like at the gym, on a walk, or when
going about daily business, they are usually wearing shoes that
restrict muscle engagement and turn the feet into passive pieces
of leather and rubber that slap along the ground. The feet are merely
along for the ride; they do nothing, while the hips
must shoulder the load. Ever seen an arm that's just had a cast
removed? It's a skinny, withered shell of its former self. The muscles
have atrophied, so it's weaker. The connective tissue can't quite
handle the demands of regular use, so strains are a real possibility.
It'll even smell bad until you wash it (just like some feet), because
it's been cramped up for so long.
shod foot is in a very similar state. All that reactive organic
material (the bones, tendons, muscles, fascia) has either atrophied,
tightened up, or weakened from disuse, so you need to ease into
it. Eh, "ease into it" is another phrase that gets thrown around
with very little substantiation or elaboration. How, exactly, does
one ease into barefooting?
some concrete strategies.
Buy a Lacrosse
I'd like you
to purchase a lacrosse
ball and use it on your plantar fascia and your calves. Huh?
Allow me to explain. The fascia, that interconnected sheath of connective
tissue that surrounds our muscles, gets extremely tight and ornery
when the muscles aren't used, or when they're used incorrectly.
The plantar fascia, located on our feet, supports the arch and can
get notoriously tight and unresponsive after a lifetime of shoe
wearing. You've been wearing shoes for most of your life, and your
plantar fascia is likely tight. This will impede your abilities
to use your feet and develop natural arch support. Walking and running
barefoot loads the calf muscle far more than walking and running
in shoes. In fact, one of the most common complaints I hear from
new barefooters is the calf pain. They go from rarely using their
calves to absorbing the impact of a footfall with them and the
soreness can be excruciating. Reducing that tightness before it
gets worse can go a long way toward making the barefoot transition
a smooth one.
So, how does
one roll one's plantar fascia? Extremely intuitively. Place a lacrosse
ball on the floor, stand on it, and roll around. Just explore your
foot with the ball. It'll be really painful at first, but that's
how you know it's working. Roll each foot twice a day for about
five minutes. Be sure to flex your foot and move your toes around
as you roll over tight spots try to put your foot through every
possible range of motion it might see in the real world. You can
do it while sitting, too, while watching TV or messing around the
computer (at your standing
workstation). It's simple and can be done almost anywhere. There's
no excuse not to.
calf takes more dedication. You have to be on the floor for it to
work, and you have to focus. It's still really, really simple, though:
sit on the ground with your leg outstretched and the lacrosse ball
underneath your calf. Place as much weight on the ball as you can
handle, and roll up and down your calf. When you hit a tight spot,
flex and extend your ankle until it starts to feel less tight. Be
sure to hit every aspect of your calf. Roll each calf once a day
for about five minutes.
All said, this
won't take more than thirty minutes out of your day. Furthermore,
you don't have to keep this up forever. Just do it for the week
leading up to your barefoot transition, and thereafter on an as-needed
If you had
spent your entire life barefoot, you wouldn't need any specific
foot-strengthening exercises foot strength would have developed
naturally but you haven't, so now you need them. I discussed similar
exercises before in an old
post on strengthening flat feet.
the rest of the article
July 29, 2011
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