What Are the Dangers of Barefoot Workouts?
It’s important to protect your feet before, during and after exercise
By Laura Carson Miller
Barefoot workouts such as barre, yoga, and Pilates continue to soar in popularity, but many people don’t take into account that these low-impact fitness practices can cause unexpected foot pain. With the dangers of barefoot workouts in mind, I wanted to offer you insight from podiatrist Dr. Jackie Sutera, a Vionic Innovation Lab expert and American Podiatric Medical Association spokesperson.
As a yoga enthusiast who does experience occasional foot pain during and post session, I was excited to speak with Dr. Sutera about the dangers associated with barefoot workouts, how to mitigate the risks and her prevention and recovery tips.
Why does foot pain occur during barefoot workouts?
“Pain in feet can come from overuse and doing a new exercise,” says Dr. Sutera. “Lots of people get foot pain during barefoot workouts, such as barre, yoga, Pilates, or dance because when you are barefoot, you rely on the intrinsic or small muscles in the foot for balance. The fat on the bottom your foot is the only cushion between your foot bones and the floor. Feet have to work harder to rise onto the balls of your feet, point your toes, or extend your leg. All these small muscles are contracted and you’re exerting force with all your bodyweight on your feet. “
If you do get foot pain in the middle of class, what should you do?
– Stop your activity.
– Sit down, stretch, and massage the area.
– Wait until the pain subsides and really be honest about whether you should jump back into class — don’t try to just work through it.
How can you prevent and recover from this type of foot pain?
– It can be helpful to stretch the arches of your feet before working out, and warm up by practicing some of the movements that you know you’ll be doing during the class.
– Don’t forget to stay hydrated.
– Wait a day or so before trying class again. If the pain returns, becomes worse or persists – see your podiatrist.
– Wear cozy, supportive shoes for the next day and limit your activity to assure you don’t re-aggravate your foot and encourage recovery.
I was particularly encouraged by this news: “After a few classes and slowly over time, your feet should get used to some of the motions as your foot muscles get stronger,” Dr. Sutera offered.
It’s good to know that we experience foot conditioning both immediately and over time as we train. If we do experience some uncomfortable foot moments during barefoot workouts, all is not lost and we can revisit that particular type of exercise again to see if it’s right for us. Just be aware of what your feet might be telling you and always act accordingly.