• Andrew Petrulis

Your Shoes Are Inhibiting Your Fitness

Photo courtesy of @Vivobarefootswitzerland

Shoes are optional when you step through our doors. There is a reason and the picture above should show you why. Shoes are not made for the foot anymore. We cram our feet into shoes that cause our foot to feel comfortable but are building horrible gait patterns. If you are performing any exercise on your feet it is a foot exercise, period! If our connection to the ground isn't natural, what do you think is happening to your knees and hips? Your body will compensate to perform the movement and you may build a faulty pattern.

The body is stacked with a mobile joint (foot), stable joint (knee), mobile joint (hips), stable joint (low back), etc. If the foot is not mobile it will pull mobility from the next joint. We do not want a stable joint to be mobile. It will happen and then we focus on knee pain. You might go to the doctor for a cortisone shot in the knee because that's where the pain is and where most doctors will address. They are doctors so they know what's best for us, right? Maybe.

Take a look at the top x-ray of a "normal" fitness shoe. Notice how jacked up that foot is. Now look at the minimalist shoe. Easier on the eyes and foot, right? In general, we say it takes 300 repetitions to create a faulty pattern and 3000 to correct it.

When we have foot, knee or hip pain we go to the doctor and they prescribe some meds or orthotics to help relieve the pain. It will go away and come back in a couple months. The doctor will continue to prescribe thicker orthotics. This is not the answer. They may help temporarily but aren't meant for the long term fix.

If you get into a car accident and receive whiplash you will probably get a neck brace. It will help but you know it's temporary. The doc isn't going to keep prescribing a thicker neck brace so you can have that the rest of your life. Orthotics work the same way. Many doctors today are fixing the symptoms and not the problem.

"I have flat feet though" or "I have high arches".

Great, but that's not an excuse for pain in the foot. Your entire body weight is loaded on the arch of the foot. If it is weak it can cause plantar fascitis, plantar necrosis, and knee/hip/back pain. If we don't build the arch of the foot we will continue to feel this pain. We see this most in runners.

Runners shove their foot into shoes with a high cushion heel like the top picture. Now we don't need to use the arch because the shoe can take the brunt of the impact. This further weakens the foot. We need to feel the impact of the ground with our foot for many reasons.

The foot has 26 bones, 30 joints, and over 100 muscles!!!! Each toes aligns with muscles in the leg and thigh too. The impact with the ground on a minimalist shoes or barefoot sends a signal to the brain to fire the muscles of the body in the more efficient way. When it's crammed into a shoe not build to the shape of the foot we inhibit the signals to the brain. Repeat this day after day and year after years. Can you see where we are going with this?

The widest part of the foot should be the forefoot. Take a look at a baby's foot and then yours. Do they look the same? We hope so but probably not. That's due to countless years of poorly designed shoes. Have bunions? That's definitely caused by shoes and socks that are too tight in the toes.

Our goal is to teach people that most issues may be fixed with proper movement and nutrition. This is unfavorable in the big pharma world since there is no money to be made. That's an entirely different story though.

So How Do We Combat Weak Feet?

Step 1: Remove your shoes. Start walking barefoot. The natural uneven ground will manipulate the feet and help build the arch. We advice 10 minutes a day. Start with walking on the grass. I bet it will feel good. Try picking up rocks with your toes and throwing them.

Step 2: Try squatting with your shoes on for 5 reps and then with your shoes off for 5 reps. Does it feel the same? Are our feet in the same position with and without shoes, maybe. Walk around on your toes and feel your calves working. Add some jump rope into your routine...without shoes.

Step 3: Buy some toe spreaders. This will help widen the forefoot and build toe independence. We are big fans of The Foot Collective. You can find them here: They sell shoes designed around the foot.

Step 4: Workout without shoes. I know some might think it's weird but in our facility its normal to see our clients without shoes on- running, lunging, jumping, and lifting. This is not a fad, this is science backed data. It's amazing how natural your movements will feel when we kick our foot mittens off and let the feet do their job. This leads to more muscle activation in the foot, better performance in fitness, and improves our everyday joint and muscle health and recovery.

Give it a try and let us know what you think. Follow @crossfithighorder to see what we are doing in our facility and @projectprimative on IG for my personal journey through movement and flow and life.


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