Barefoot Training and Athletic Performance – A Coach’s Perspective: Part 1

Barefoot Training and Athletic Performance – A Coach’s Perspective: Part 1

Imagine a training technique so diverse that it can benefit everyone from participants in a group exercise class and patients in a rehab setting to athletes looking to improve their speed and agility.

Barefoot training is one of the best examples of a training technique where the benefits cross all aspects of health, fitness and performance.

As EBFA paves the way in barefoot education and barefoot programming it is our mission to not only education fitness professionals but also cross over into the medical and sports performance industries.

This year EBFA had the opportunity to present on barefoot science at the 46th Annual NSCA National Convention and the Okanagan Strength & Conditioning Conference.  It was very encouraging to hear the coach’s perspectives and excitement in the application of barefoot science with their athletes.

As EBFA continues to spread education to the strength and conditioning industry, we wanted to get catch up with two of our favorite coaches and fan of barefoot training with their athletes – Coaches Chris Floand Michael Torres.

Hi Coach Flo and Torres. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk barefoot with EBFA! As we explore the benefit of barefoot training as a form of neuromuscular training for athletes, it seems almost natural for the technique to creep it’s way into the training floors.

Do either of you currently apply barefoot training techniquees with your athletes?

Coach Flo: All our athletes train without shoes on.

The reason we do this is because the absence of shoes allows us to see any compensations within the ankle and foot. Many of our athletes will preset collapsing arches or flat feet during our assessment. We will notice that due to the dropping arch they will increase the valgus stress on the knee causing pain along the medial patella and or mcl.

This is just one of many biomechanical deviations we find by having them train without shoes. True story, many of my athletes now come to sessions in just flip flops because they know they won’t be needing shoes.

Coach Torres: I have been integrated barefoot training with athletes for some time now, the reason being first and foremost the simplicity of their ability to feel how their own body responds to various stress.

As I learned more through research and education such as the courses provided by the Evidence Based Fitness Academy, I found it more and more critical to engage training in this way.

In the performance world coaches often talk about training from the ground up and understanding force production, however they place a layer of preverbal noise between the athlete and the ground so I don’t feel they can truly appreciate the relationships between the body and ground.

That’s awesome that you both apply barefoot training with your athletes. I knew I liked you both for a reason! Just kidding.

So as you both begin to integrate barefoot training with your athletes – how have they been responding? Do they embrace this change?

Coach Torres: Athletes in general often start with many questions on why I have them take off their socks and shoes, but usually the questions are answered by their own awareness just in completing basic balance exercises or the first time they add a significant load through the body.

I have seen some dramatic changes with having barefoot training as a foundation to working with athletes – specifically over the course of two years as a Head Coach for a High School Track and Field team. We reduced non-compete injuries by over 60% and produced back-to-back seasons with 100% personal records set, numerous state qualifying appearances, and other areas of achievement.

I personally attribute the success to not only having a well-balanced training program, but demanding awareness of foot health and barefoot training. 

Coach FloOne of the number 1 things my athletes say is that they feel their feet gripping the inside of their shoes when they play sports now. They also say that they feel more balanced when cutting or running.

I don’t know if this is because of the training without shoes, the balance work we do at Flo, or a combo of both. I’d say its the combo but their is no way to test it really.

The same holds true with feeling stronger and faster, I feel it’s a combo of the barefoot training and good programming on our part.

These are exactly the benefits we are promoting to coaches – that there is a benefit to being more aware from the ground up.

Do you see barefoot training concepts becoming more prevalent in the sports performance and strength conditioning industry?

Coach Flo: I can see barefoot training becoming big but only in small studios. Unfortunately many of the big facilities will see it as a hazard. If an athlete drops a weight on their foot it can be an insurance nightmare.

With the proper education I believe we can make athletes understand the importance of using their feet to add to their performance. If I can be totally honest, I think if someone like LeBron James or some big time sports star said that barefoot training was their key to success it would create boost in the amount of people doing it.

Coach Torres: In the future I hope that others like my self, my company Integrated Performance, and my colleagues that are currently utilizing barefoot training as part of a high performance program will lead the change in  the concept of barefoot science and performance training.

There is no question that barefoot training is not just beneficial to sport performance but a critical element that should be integrated into programming for optimal results.

I feel a lack of barefoot training sets the athlete up for a higher injury risk, so no matter how great your program is, if the athlete gets hurt (especially in a non- contact movement) then what good is the program really?

Great thank you both so much for your time and sharing with EBFA your perspective on barefoot training and sports conditioning.

 

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