The Benefits of Barefoot Lifting: How and Why

The Benefits of Barefoot Lifting: How and Why

benefits of barefoot weightliftingBefore the complex tools, before the projectile weapons and the wheels and the civilization, hominids stood upright and walked—and it made all the difference. Bipedalism freed up their hands to carry objects and manipulate the world around them and see for miles and miles across the horizon. They did all this atop bare feet that closely resembled our own; millions-year old hominid footprints from East Africa look almost identical to ones you’d see today at the beach. Not much has changed down there.

That’s the entire basis for the barefoot running movement. We were born barefoot, we spent the vast majority of our prehistory barefoot and history wearing the scantest of minimalist footwear. It’s only in the last hundred years or so that we began entombing our feet in restrictive leather and rubber carapaces that deform our foot structure and alter our gait and tissue loading. Running in bare feet or in shoes that mimic the barefoot experience can help us move and land the way nature intended, thereby increasing running efficiency and reducing injury risk. The science is sound.

I’ve spoken at length of the terrible effect all that sitting we do has on our body. By taking gravity out of the equation, chairs weaken glutes, slacken hamstrings, tighten calves, and deactivate our overall lower body. That’s not even mentioning the poor posture, reduced cognitive function, and impaired fat-burning capacity. Shoes are even worse. They’re like chairs for our feet, only we wear them all day.

That’s why I’ve always advocated breaking free of the shoe monopoly to go barefoot as much as possible.

Barefoot walking. Barefoot hiking. Barefoot running. Barefoot sprints. Barefoot gardening, trash-taking-outing, dancing, cleaning. All good, all beneficial.

And now I want you to try barefoot lifting. But first, I’m going to tell you why.

Are there benefits to barefoot lifting? Absolutely.

Are there things to watch out for? Yes.

First, let’s explore the potential benefits of lifting weights barefoot.

Better Connection to the Ground

The sole of a shoe is a barrier between you and the ground. A middleman, an interface. This isn’t a deal-breaker. Obviously, people lift in shoes all the time. Most people lift in shoes, so it’s definitely doable and effective enough. But if you’re in bare feet, you are directly connected to the ground, giving you a solid base from which to defy gravity. The soles of your feet have better “cling” than the soles of your shoes.

This effect becomes more apparent on natural, uneven surfaces to which the bare foot can “mold” itself much better than a shoe. Ultimately, the barefoot lifter is closer to the ground with a more stable base than the shod lifter.

And the more solid the foundation, the stronger the house. The same is true for a barefooted person lifting heavy things—once you’re acclimated, you’ll be more powerful and grounded than ever before. Preliminary research suggests this to be the case: