So: here’s a wierd thng about me. My high school yearbook Ambition was: “To walk barefoot in the sand, with the world at my feet.” I wasn’t a beach girl – my high school was in Connecticut. I literally have no idea where that came from.
Now, my feet are center if my world.
Ok, I do have dozens of controversial and memorable moments while barefoot: Mom shouting at me as I ran around the house in socks: “Damn it, Stacey, put your slippers on!!”. Then, in University modern classes: my pure exhilaration while leaping like a puma, and trying to stick the quietest landing in the room. Fitness classes in NYC: PowerStrike with creator / warrior IIaria Montagnani: I was hiding in the back barefoot and she would scowl at me, although Ilaria’s fierce eyes were glimmering too – because as a martial artist she aligned with what my body understood.
your feet should be as strong and agile as your hamstring muscles
I’ve been a “barefoot mover” for my entire life. It just feels right. But, I’m also a New Yorker at heart, I love my shoes – just not when I’m exercising. When I exercise, honestly, I’m practically naked – or at least wearing fabric that allows me to bend and stretch in all directions. Why would I confine my feet?
I began teaching barefoot fitness 1999, it was controversial – but Equinox was cutting edge even then, and they let me go for it. The barefoot component plagued our success – being so polarizing: people are freaked about taking their shoes off. The willPower Method® developed into an internationally recognized fitness brand, yet – it wasn’t until research was introduced to the fitness community by podiatrist (and friend) Dr. Emily Splichal, that The willPower Method® received its barefoot validation. (Thanks, Doc!)
My knowledge of barefoot movement is based on decades of visceral, intrinsic understanding. My ability is a primal memory of infancy or possibly earlier incarnations as an athlete or warrior. In 1999 I knew that movement “from the ground up” was the truth, and years later I’m celebrated as an innovator. Yet, with our heads plugged into this Google-Authorized world, most human drones require absolute left-brain authentication. Experiencing and practicing foot fitness is not belief – we’re not talking about God here. It’s your feet, folks; wiggle your toes often and your feet will have better circulation. Respectfully, you don’t need a doctorate to understand this, do you?
My Purpose has been to help people gain a deeper understanding and command in developing fit feet, so that they can integrate simple methods into their greater athletic endeavors – or at least live with less pain in their lives. I help clients and students, trainers and instructors to have that “ah-ha” moment. Here is it: your feet should be as strong and agile as your hamstring muscles, and supported and flexible as your shoulder joints. Athletes should train sans-shoes (sometimes) to understand barefoot acceleration and deceleration, toe mobility and coordination. Mr. Smith (non-athlete) needs a conscious awareness of control, mobility, and general foot health. Listen up: Stinky feet are unacceptable and typical foot pain can often be managed with a little TLC. Good lord, I’d love to banish the phrase “Bad Feet”.
shoes are where your feet go… to die.
Technology has destroyed our feet; we’ve spent decades in motion-controlling caskets fashioned with comfortable, thick cushioning. Supportive athletic shoes have allowed muscles to atrophy, joints to become stiff and distort. Shoes are essentially where your feet go to die. Calculated marketing has brainwashed western society to believe that orthotics, meds and surgeries are the only options to ease painful symptoms (exorbitant band-aids) as opposed to using holistic, natural strategies to heal ourselves. We’ve got to flip this distorted mindset, folks: fit feet are critical to healthy full-body function.
Have you been told that you’ve got flat feet? Bunions? Hammer toes? Honey, it’s ok – you can still exercise your feet. Similar to all full-body exercise, you’ll need to begin with coordination (get your body smart enough to understand what your brain is asking it to do) and then progress to endurance and strength. Yep – just begin a conditioning program for those overworked little pegs of yours.
Reflex Therapies depend upon pressure points to relieve stress and promote the body’s ability to heal. Specific points in the feet correspond to internal organs, tissue and various systems of the body. Stimulating these regions allow you to experience a beneficial reflex of the nervous system. Self-massage of muscle and fascia relieves trigger points of pain and restores natural motion. Taking time out to care for your feet can unblock foot chakras, so that earth-based energy can pass through your system, taking most of the built-up negativity with it, before manifests as illness.
Commit to a regular foot care regime: clean between your toes, pumice off hardened calluses, and trim your toenails. Indulge your skin: (the largest organ of the body) where thousands of neuro-receptors communicate with your central nervous system. Keeping your skin healthy; pliable, hydrated and conditioned can actually enhance your balance and movement skills.
How do you prepare yourself for running, dance, basketball, skiing, swimming, gymnastics? I’d bet a few mobility stretches: twisting, bending – priming your circulation. Do you warm-up your feet? This would be a great start.
At the end of the day, these little guys are your ultimate connection to the earth. They take you where you need to go. They hold you up, and they’re typically one of the last areas of your body allowed to rest each day. So, I urge you to re-think the way you see your feet. Consider a spring in your step, and a more gentle footprint on our planet. Imagine being committed to yourself, from the ground up – dignity starts right there, with that first step.