Many people wonder what the absolute best footwear for kettlebell training is.
Runners wear running shoes.
Weightlifters wear weightlifting shoes.
What do kettlebell-ers wear for shoes?
Well…nothing. Studies have shown a myriad of benefits from training barefoot. I know, it sounds like a crazy concept, especially while swinging around a cast-iron ball.
I was afraid for a very long time, until everyone was forced to stay at home. I decided maybe it was time to give barefoot living a try. Unless I needed to go to the store or something, I left the shoes off. Inside, outside, sunny days or during rainstorms, I did not put a shoe on.
Trust me, it’s worth it.
The science-y stuff:
Barefoot training activates small nerve proprioceptive spots located on the skin on the bottom of the foot.
The sole of your feet contains thousands of (small nerve) proprioceptors, which are sensitive to different stimuli including:
-Texture. -Vibration. -Skin stretch. -Deep pressure. -Light touch.
When stimulated these proprioceptors play an important role in how we maintain upright stance, activate our postural muscles and dynamically control impact forces.
Several studies including a 2011 study by Hatton et al, demonstrated that specific textures will actually improve balance and stability by reducing medial-lateral sway.
Training barefoot is not poor hygiene, using your feet to ensure that we get the most accurate stimulation of the nervous system is not dirty. It’s practical.
Again based on research, studies have supported that harder surfaces more effectively stimulate the nervous system and provide increased proprioceptive input from the ground up.
A 2012 study by Iglesias et al, demonstrated that the harder the insole studied the greater the reduction in medial-lateral sway.
Ok, enough of that.
Basically, when you train barefoot, you experience a far better sense of “groundedness”. Your balance improves due and you have a heightened sense of your body. The body will be constantly making micro-adjustments with the data it’s receiving from your feet. When you’re wearing shoes, your foot is cushioned and all the minor muscles in your foot are not activated. So, yet another benefit: You’re actually using more energy during your workouts by going barefoot.
Another thing to note is that most shoes have some kind of heel. When your heel is raised, even slightly, the angle of your swing is affected which can throw off your swing. Personally, there was a noticeable improvement in my form when I started regularly swinging sans shoes.
If you’re nervous, ease into it. Go barefoot in the house at all times. Do you your workouts on carpet first before you move to a hard floor. When you transition outside start working out in the grass. Finally, move to harder surfaces like your garage floor or driveway.
Let’s get to work!