Unpredictable surfaces are smart for your feet an ankles; allowing movement through the foot and ankle joints.  Shown: Vibram FiveFingers® model: Women's Alitza.

Spring has sprung and for many minimal runners, with a sigh of relief, it’s time to get off the treadmill, breathe in the fresh air, and hit the streets (paths and trails)! Although thousands of minimal and barefoot runners around the world are somehow superhuman and raw-primal enough to run through the cold weather, most of us “regular folks” prefer warmth.  Now that mother nature is cooperating, let’s enjoy her bounty!

This season, as you bring your naked feet back to the earth, I implore you:  find a balance between flat, hard surfaces and bumpy, earthy, unpredictable terrain. Yep – just like most things, barefoot is all about balance. This rule applies to toe-shoe wearing athletes as well.  Basically, if you are smart enough to be exercising your feet, you need to engage in “cross training” your feet.

willPower & grace teaches students to land safely while barefoot.
willPower & grace teaches students to land safely while barefoot.

WHY SMOOTH, FLAT, HARD, SOLID SURFACES? (Examples: concrete, asphalt, hardwood)  The advantage here is the predictability factor.  Your body can expect to touch down on the same surface with each and every landing.  As a result, it’s easier to keep a steady running rhythm. If you’re engaged in dynamic barefoot workouts other than running (like willPower & grace®), a solid predictable surface allows for your brain to focus on the exercises and necessary body control. Mr. Pilates said: “Repetition produces results”. Dependable surfaces  allow your body to learn skills needed for safe deceleration.  Your mind and body can also practice forefoot and mid-foot landings (especially important for anyone transitioning from heel-striking; running).

However, the human body is an animal – wouldn’t you agree?  Underneath all of those fancy accessories you’re wearing, you’re a domesticated primate. If you strip off your jewelry, hat, designer fabric, and SHOES, you’ll find a body that was created to move on varied terrain.  From the rock-hard sun-baked clay of African deserts to woodland trails and grass and sand, the human animal was designed to negotiate terrain. Negotiation is key – but a skill set that must be addressed and practiced for safe barefoot activities. A solid foundation of foot fitness is paramount.

Foot fitness: agility, flexibility and strengthening exercises for the feet
Foot fitness: agility, flexibility and strengthening exercises for the feet

WHY UNEVEN, BUMPY, IRREGULAR SURFACES? (Examples: trails, fields, sand) Once your feet have mastered the basics of landings on a predictable surface, training your feet and legs on irregular surfaces allows your 33 foot/ ankle joints to bend and stretch in a very primal (functional) way. Intrusive stones and roots stimulate your skin and proprioceptors – sending messages to your central nervous system, allowing your feet and brain to communicate more openly and more often. Reflexology points are also stimulated, so as you wake up your feet – you make connections throughout your entire physical system.

The rock garden at the willPower FIT STUDIO, Denver CO is used as a foot fitness tool.
The rock garden at the willPower FIT STUDIO, Denver CO is used as a foot fitness tool.

The foot fitness journey may feel complex for those people stepping away from mass-marketed traditional athletic shoes, however – the message is simple.  Train your feet as you train the rest of your body. Incorporate repetition and variance. Mobilize and stabilize all of your joints. Stimulate your primal senses.  When it comes to your feet, this spring, get ROCKED. Stimulate your body from the ground up, and get back to primal.

Stacey Lei Krauss

Stacey Lei Krauss

Stacey Lei Krauss is the creator and developer of the globally recognized barefoot cardio fusion program, The willPower Method®. Specializing in foot-fitness since 2000, she helps people understand why and how to develop healthy, fit bodies, from the ground up. Reiki practitioner and student of transformational arts, she's a mover, writer, traveler, and general truth-seeker. Recipient of the 2014 ECA Best Female Presenter Award, she's the Mindful Music Advisor for Power Music® and has programmed educational courses and workouts for Nike , Vibram FiveFingers®, BOSU®, Schwinn® Cycling, and Peak Pilates® . www.staceylei.com

1 Comment

  1. Jennifer DeLuccia
    Jennifer DeLuccia
    Monday, April 8th, 2013 at 1:15 pm ·

    Cross training for the feet…I love it!