Posted on 19 Jun 2016

Free your feet this summer at FitFarms

We are into our second week of our summer camping courses at FitFarms. So far we have enjoyed clear blue skies, warmth and sunshine, which has allowed us to hold a lot of our exercise classes outside on the grass.

For a lot of our more gentle classes like pilates, mobility, and stretching the warm weather and soft grass provide the perfect opportunity to kick off your shoes and enjoy some barefoot time. Not only does this feel great but it can increase the strength and mobility of your feet, improve balance and reduce the risk of injury. Yup, thats right, all from just taking off your shoes!

The foot is a pretty amazing structure. Each foot has 33 joints meaning that the feet have the potential for incredible dexterity and strength - almost as much as the hands. However, in our daily lives most of us confine our feet to structured, stiff-soled shoes and walk only on smooth, man-made surfaces which limit the foot’s natural abilities. Overtime the muscles of the foot become weaker.

This can have a significant effect on our whole-body health. Lets take knee pain as an example. One of the common causes of knee pain is over-pronation of the foot. This means that the arch of the foot collapses with each step and the ankle roles inwards. This creates a rotation in the leg that travels up to the knee, putting unnatural loads on the joint resulting in inflammation and pain. Ouch!

So how to prevent the arch from collapsing? The arch of the foot isn’t a rigid structure that somehow gets worn down over time like a bridge whose stones crumble - it is an active structure created by contraction of the muscles of the foot. Because it is made of muscles it can become weaker with disuse and stronger with use. This means that using the foot in the right way can maintain healthy arches and even help to “rebuild” a collapsed arch.

There are lots of strengthening and mobilising exercises for the foot, many of which we do here at Fit Farms (in a session that Becca, one of the trainers, likes to call “Toe Yoga”). But perhaps the simplest way to improve foot function is to walk (or do gentle exercise), without shoes, on slightly uneven surfaces such as sand or… a grassy field (something that we have an abundance of here at our Worcester camping site!)

Taking off your shoes might not seem like CrossFit, P90X or Zumba but you might be surprised by how tired your feet will feel when you ask them to do all that extra work. And whether you choose to take your shoes off or keep them on, a week here will leave you feeling fitter and healthier from head to toe!

(NB: If you want to try this at home and never or rarely walk barefoot, it is important to build up the strength in your feet slowly to give your feet time to adapt without injury. Start with walking around the house with no shoes, then progress to short periods outside on varying surfaces, taking care in case of sharp objects).


Special blog post editorial from one of our FitFarms Health and Fitness instructors.

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