The foot is made up of 26 bones, 33 joints, and more than 100 ligaments, tendons and muscles, so it is understandable that a person could not move the foot with the desired articulation and precision of movement if wearing a shoe. Barefoot activities, such as Pilates, Yoga, and martial arts help us improve our balance and posture as well as prevent common injuries, such as plantar fasciitis and shin splints. In many Pilates exercises, improper foot alignment can create postural abnormalities that can lead to musculoskeletal compensation in our body. By being shoeless, the instructor has an unobstructed view of foot alignment and range of motion.
When a toddler is learning how to walk, parents are encouraged to let this process happen naturally, without shoes. Shoes can affect how a child uses the muscles and bones in their feet. There is a neuromuscular connection or 'feedback' that happens when we walk barefoot, improving our proprioception - awareness of the position and movement of our body in space.
By working barefoot we can:
maintain appropriate range of motion in our foot and ankle joint
gain strength and stability using the intrinsic and extrinsic muscles of the feet
have a chance to feel free and unencumbered by shoes and let our feet provide our body with support
Next time you have the opportunity to walk or run in sand, consider it a gift to the health of your feet.