December 5, 2017 at 10:54 pm #51459
Some very good reasons to train barefoot!
In modern times it has become commonplace for martial artists and everyday people to wear shoes, and in particular what are called ‘sports shoes’. The latter, feature the infamous ‘shock absorbers’ at the heels. These shoes are a modern invention, and in the long term can cause many problems for our body. Here is a scientific understanding of the reasons for why this happens.
During the 1970s, shoe companies such as Nike, Reebok and Adidas began to promote the design concept of the ‘shock absorber’ in shoes. They created this modern invention for the sake of better marketing. However, humans never required such things, for we have our own shock absorbers. These are the Gastrocnemius and Soleus muscles at the back of our shins and the tendons they attach to. Said muscles are used, in part, to absorb pressure from our feet hitting the floor, and transform it into kinetic energy that makes us move. They are some of the reasons humans can train themselves to run many miles without having to eat. Their energy-preserving mechanism guarantees that when we run long distances, we do not have to consume too many resources. Rather, with each step we rely on the recycled energy to do most of the work for us. This is very much like ‘using the opponent’s power against him’, which is something all martial artists seek to learn how to do. But our Gastrocnemius and Soleus muscles can already do this from a very young age, since we learned how to walk.
The Gastrocnemius and Soleus muscles:
What happens then, when we wear shoes with ‘shock absorbers’ and a high heel?
The Gastroncnemius and Soleus muscles become weaker and less functional, relative to our own bodies, as the shock absorbers take on much of their intended job.
As the heel is raised, the Hamstring muscles at the back of the thigh do not stretch all the way. This causes they to ‘shorten’ over time – become less flexible. This also negatively affects their ability to produce power.
The relatively weakened Hamstrings can cause other issues, as they have a balance with the Quadriceps at the other side of the thigh. When these muscle groups are unbalanced, the knee joint which they hold weakens, and become more prone to injury.
Because the shock absorbers are made of rubber and similar materials, they are actually less stable than our muscles and ligaments, and their movement is less predictable by the body. This further increases risk of injury.
Because of the raised heel, our gait changes, which affects all of out movement in martial arts and daily life alike, and not for the better.
The heel-first gait promoted by heel-raised shoes sends shockwaves directly from the floor to our knees and spine, encouraging their injury. Try it yourself – jump in the air and land on the balls of the feet. Pay attention to the knees and spine. Now jump again, and land on your heels. Feel the difference? When the heel strikes first, the shock travels directly to the knees and spine, even if you wear ‘sports shoes’. When the balls of the feet land first, the shock is mostly absorbed by the Gastrocnemius muscles.
In most modern ‘sports shoes’, the tip of the shoe is raised, which means that when standing with a neutral weight distribution, your toes are also slightly raised. This negatively affects both your balance and your ability to ‘root’ into the ground.
There are many more issues and intricate explanations for them, but these are of the main and most immediate concern to any of us.
Understand also, that a padded floor acts much like shoes with shock absorbers, and its affects are made worse when such shoes are worn when training on this type of floor!
The cure and solution for this is to gradually transition into barefoot training, over the course of several months or years, and maintain such mode of practice as much as possible. Our bodies are designed and well-equipped to do things barefoot, for many hours on end. Give the body what it is designed for, do this properly, and you shall be far less likely to suffer from illness or injuries.
The only exceptions to everything I have stated above would be a few martial arts designed for shoe-wearing practitioners, such as Baji Quan, but even these arts can be augmented for barefoot training to a great degree.
Other martial artists like to wear shoes because with them you can sometimes deliver more damage. While this is true, we ought to think deeply about striking a balance between our wishes to wreck havoc upon a potential opponent, and those of preserving our own health in the long-term. Especially for those who anyhow wear shoes in daily life and have no intention of taking them off, then at least while training that could be a good opportunity to do something different.
So-called ‘barefoot shoes’ are a happy medium between the extremes, and are very useful for transitioning to barefoot training over time. Still, there is no substitute for your natural instruments of beauty at the bottom of your being.
Shifu Jonathan Bluestein, December 2017 http://www.researchofmartialarts.com
You must be logged in to reply to this topic.