TAKE OFF YOUR SHOES, NOW
So did you get the new Jordans this weekend? I also saw the $495 Big Baller Brand Shoes, what about those? Other than being expensive and out of my price range, shoes always made me smile when I got a new pair. I thought I could jump and run faster with some new shoes, just as most kids do. I saved up my lawnmower money in middle school and bought the Jordans, which pretty much took me half the summer. I even had a pretty sweet deal with Adidas for a while and got free shoes, which was a dream come true. The point is not to talk about what shoes are the best, or my stories, but to teach kids at young age that shoes can hurt our structure in the long run. The saying “less is more” is needed when training our youth, even from birth.
If you wore a brace around your lower back or shoulders and it restricted movement, wouldn’t that effect other things in your body? So, aren’t shoes with motion control, arch support, roll bars…just like a brace? Your child’s shoes, especially basketball shoes, are getting stiffer and stiffer and locking up toes and ankles both crucial for movement and power.
“What are you talking about? I need that support to play and cut.” you say. You may need, or feel you need, that support now but your muscles are shutting down, especially in your feet, by restricting movement. I hope this makes sense to you and I only want healthier and more productive people and athletes to start young and train often, without support.
If you’re older now, don’t go out and train 100 percent without your shoes but try to train 20-30 percent barefoot and increase that level every few weeks. We’ve all seen people run on the streets barefoot or even in marathons, but that might not be the smartest thing for the Average Joe, considering surface and adaptability. Your body can adapt, increase gradully and use common sense when it comes to your body and surroundings. (At my facility we have some very soft turf for starting out.)
Of course, be smart and watch the surface, but general movement training and strength work, plyometrics, and running form drills can and should be done barefoot if you don’t have a restrictions. Maybe you start with your warm up or some jogs and shuffles and then put your shoes back on for the rest of the workout. Its a start and a very good one. Progress at your pace and your body will adapt slowly.
Don’t just take my word for it, try these very simple tests (they can also be used as exercises) and see how well one foot does versus the other. I’m going to pick a few major movement screens so you can accomplish a lot in a short time if you choose to strengthen and work on your sleeping feet.
Test #1 BIG TOE LIFT OFF AND PRESS DOWN
Your big toes are extremely important for propulsion and any ground contact movement.
- Barefoot, relax all five toes and then attempt to lift up just your big toe, and big toe only. Can you do this?
- Barefoot, lift all five toes up and then attempt to just press down the big toe, and big toe only. Can you do this?
If these are not easy, you’re not alone. You can use your hands to help guide the toes and help get into your range. Try 2-3 sets for 1-2 minutes and then switch to the other foot and. If these are very very easy for you, skip to the second test.
Test #2 ONE-FIVE
We can’t ignore your other toes, as all those help the big toe for flexion and extension of your foot and ankle.
- Barefoot, relax all five toes and go big toe down then second toe and third continuing until all your toes are gripping the ground.
- Barefoot, now try and opposite direction as toe five, then four etc. go down and end with your big toe. I find this one easier for most athletes.
The one thing I have learned is the feet are often ignored and left unattended until we injure them. I know this may seem outside the norm of what most trainers are doing, but then again nobody wants to show people doing toe and ankle exercises in magazines or commercials, do they? I normally check hips first then ankles as most issues and lack of strength and power can be improved by working on these two areas first.