Justin Sandherr, 30, a private wealth manager from Atlanta, uses barefoot exercises like spreading the toes wide and lifting and lowering the big toe and pinky independently and simultaneously to eliminate knee pain from a 6-year-old injury. “Regular weights don’t stabilize my knee joint like the barefoot methodology does. There’s a direct correlation: Work the feet, no more knee pain. I won’t play basketball or snowboard unless I’ve been working my feet.”

Retired teacher Susi Erwin, 66, an active skier, runner and two-time cancer survivor from Denver, says she used to fall a lot and once shattered a hip bone. For seven years she has been taking barefoot aerobics classes that start with six minutes of foot and ankle drills.

“It’s not an age thing. I’m fit, but I’m a klutz,” Erwin says. “Now I don’t trip anymore. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I fell.”

Sandherr and Erwin both take classes designed by Stacey Lei Krauss, the founder of the Willpower Method, which has 1,000 certified instructors across the country. The functional-fitness classes often begin with foot strengthening and flexibility exercises, such as toe-tapping or spreading the toes.

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