Walking around the gym with your shoes off sounds super weird and maybe a little unhygienic. But people are ditching their footwear in the weight room with good reason. For starters, weightlifting barefoot builds strength and helps you to find the optimal firing position.
According to San Francisco-based personal trainer Austin Lopez, CSCS, the main reason why lifters go barefoot is that it allows for a stronger connection. “When you’re barefoot, there’s little to nothing impeding your ability to feel your foot gripping the ground,” Lopez says. And that’s important. Direct contact with the ground means you’re able to fully utilize the tiny nerves on the bottom of your feet, which is crucial for control and stability, says podiatrist Emily Splichal, DPM.
Balance and control certainly come in handy when you’re lifting a few (or a few hundred) pounds off the ground. “Particularly with heavy leg exercises, if you’re properly gripping the ground, you’ll not only activate your glutes more effectively, but you’ll also create sufficient space for your femur to exit the hip socket,” says Lopez. “That combination stabilizes the movement and increases range of motion. It really helps build a neuromuscular connection.”
Increased awareness helps you tap into your full potential in addition to enhancing your overall experience at the gym: “You can enjoy truly feeling a lift you’re doing,” says Lopez. And if people look at you funny, just smile and remember you know something they don’t. It might feel a little off at first, but it won’t be long before you’re a stronger version of you.
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