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A Barefoot Workout: The P90X Answer To The Vibram FiveFinger

I do P90X and Insanity barefoot. Yeah, putting my toes within inches of hovering, weighted dumbbells makes the barefoot workout thing sound a little counterintuitive… but hear me out.

First, some set-up:

“The typical human foot is an anatomical marvel of evolution with 26 bones, 33 joints, 20 muscles and hundreds of sensory receptors, tendons and ligaments. Like the rest of the body, to keep our feet healthy, they need to be stimulated and exercised.” –Vibram FiveFinger Website

IE–  modern shoes are allowing your feet to kick back big time. If you’re not familiar with the whole FiveFinger shoe thing, it’s the “shoe” non-wearers make fun of and the “shoe” its wearers (elite, natural runners) swear by. Less a shoe than a foot glove with traction, the idea behind the FiveFinger is to give your foot natural strength and performance by allowing it to do its job of supporting you rather than being supported and weakened through the “cushion” and “support” pampering found in most traditional shoes. By using your foot without the coddling technology of a traditional athletic shoe, the idea is to reduce injury, enhance coordination and balance and build strength.

From those I’ve known who’ve adopted the FiveFinger, there was definitely an adjustment period of breaking the foot in (you don’t go bench-pressing 300 lbs. right off the bat either) and getting it used to “working” but in the end their feet became 26-boned, 33-jointed instruments of performance awesome.

So what does this have to do with p90X?In working out barefoot, the same principle applies.

I used to do P90X in shoes on my living room carpet but after finding my feet and soles heating up in plyometrics and my feet gripping the floor as I turned and pivoted in Kenpo, I went barefoot… and found it made my workouts a whole lot more comfortable. My feet pivoted smoothly instead of catching carpet and I never felt the uncomfortable heat or rub of the blister-preceding “hot foot”.

I know the no-shoe thing laughs in the face of danger when it comes to resistance days (and it might not be a bad idea to wear shoes when lifting weights anyway) but when it comes to jumping and hopping there’s a method to the madness– the same method that’s given rise to the whole FiveFinger phenomenon: strengthening, stimulating and exercising the muscles and tendons in your feet and ankles.

And while arguments abound on both sides for the mechanics of shoe-wearing vs. non, one thing is for sure as far as I’m concerned: the barefoot workout is far more comfortable. Exercise caution (be very carefully on resistance days) and see how you take to it… you might just like it. 

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