squat barefoot

Should You be Squatting Barefoot?

Many fitness enthusiasts believe squatting barefoot can improve your exercise performance. There is an ongoing debate on whether performing a squat with no shoes can actually improve your performance. As usually, the opinions are divided and you need to decide for yourself what approach to take.

Squatting benefits

Squatting has been regarded as one of the best exercises for improving fitness levels and building muscle. Only if performed correctly, squatting can have a positive effect on muscle building and strength increase.

Here are the top benefits of squatting:

  1. Improving muscles mass in the whole body
  2. Mimicking functional movements from real life
  3. Improving joint mobility
  4. Helping burn more fat by working multiple muscle groups
  5. Helping injury prevention by improving flexibility

One of the biggest benefits of squatting is that it manages to work multiple muscle groups. This comes with some considerable benefits as it manages to glucose and insulin sensitivity. It has been shown that these factors can influence obesity or diabetes.

The benefits of squatting barefoot

The history of training barefoot goes hand in hand with human civilization. Although as the times evolved, so have the sports shoes. Still, there is a certain charm about training barefoot that most people understand only when they actually try it. Furthermore, when it improves their performance like Jorrell’s from youtube:

Improving the natural movement of the feet


Barefoot squats are largely impacted by the position of your feet. Unlike most other exercises, squatting requires a lot of coordination which starts from the bottom. If the stability, balance and strength of the feet are not optimal, the rest of the movement will suffer as a consequence. 

This is where many shoes manufacturers try to help or support the feet with shoes that can include arch support or that offer different levels of cushioning for the sole.

The fitness of the shoes can pose a huge problem especially with higher weights. This is why you need to understand that even if you have healthy joints and a good, natural, position of the foot, you may still suffer with your squats if you don`t get the right shoes.

A good way to test the balance of your feet is to train barefoot. If you notice you can`t perform exercises correctly without any shoes you might be suffering from deficiencies in the biomechanics of the ankles.

Involving the toes in the correct squatting position

Historically speaking, this may be down to evolution as modern humans lose more and more of the foot`s natural ability to absorb shock and also hold the body in place for exercises like squatting.

This is why we might think we need the latest type of shoes to have the best movement of the feet when we actually need to regain some of the natural balance and strength.

There are some areas of the feet which are very withdrawn from natural movements. For example the toes are basically limited to what the shoe manufacturer wants them to perform. This is why we see an increasing trend of toe shoes in the fitness industry.

So how does this translate to squatting?

weight plates under heels

Source: D’Vaughn Bell youtube video

The quick answer is to try squatting with no shoes. Most people say they find a new connection and an improved feel in the bottom of the feet while training with no shoes.

Many bodybuilders also use smaller weights like disks for the heel to isolate the muscles further. However, this may not be the best option while performing barefoot.

Improving elasticity in the Achilles tendon


The back of the heel is dominated by the Achilles tendon which continues into the calf. This is the thickest tendon in the human body and it plays a crucial role in squatting. This is why so many squatters tend to believe they have a short tendon which prohibits them to perform a full squat.

In reality they might actually be suffering from low flexibility in the tendon and need to start performing stretching exercises to improve the mobility in the back of the feet.

The only real option to improve this mobility is to train barefoot. Even if you decide to train with shoes again, you still need to make sure you improve your natural biomechanics of your feet.

Watch this video to see how the squat should be done!

Some old-school techniques are still used today by professional athletes who train in a combination of barefoot and together with sports shoes. This serves them in a couple of ways.

Firstly, they get to improve their natural movements and tendon mobility. Secondly they get to practice with shoes, which is how they will compete. For the regular gym-goer this is not the case as most people stay away from competitions.

The drawbacks of barefoot training

When it comes to training barefoot most specialists recommend you start with caution. This is not necessarily due to any potential angers but it might be due to the fact that you need time to accommodate to walking barefoot around the gym.

Accidents


It may not seem obvious at first, but accidents can happen when you are squatting barefoot. You cannot stay in a fixed position and eventually you will need to walk around the gym and if you don`t have an even surface you might find yourself stepping on edges, machines or weights, which might be painful.

A good rule to follow is to realize you are not wearing any shoes and to always look at the floor to avoid stepping on any objects.

Strain


Although squatting itself can have an impact on your feet and you might feel some strain even the second day after training, it might be the case that your feet are not accustomed yet.

It will take some time to build resistance in the feet, especially with heavy weights.

Make sure you start barefoot squatting gradually to allow the feet to accommodate to the surface.

Toe mobility

Many people fail to get the full benefit of barefoot training as they train in socks. This should not be a huge problem but you need to make sure you use some socks with high flexibility which allow your toes to move freely.

The whole purpose of this type of training is to free the feet not to restrain them in a different way.

In the end there are three things to remember with barefoot squatting: natural mobility, preventing accidents and using shoes only when needed. The natural mobility and stability of a squat can only be really improved while training barefoot first.


floor for squattingThis takes us to the second main conclusion of discussion which is preventing injuries. You need to remember to stay away from any potential obstacles. Even stepping on a smartphone is not that uncommon in the gym but can be painful if you decide to leave the shoes in the locker room.

And the final goal is to approach barefoot squatting from a complex perspective which can find you training with shoes for other exercises. Even professional athletes use a combination of both styles of training and there is no reason to abandon your shoes for all exercises.

About the Author Dumbbellsgeek

Hey! My name is Paul Sheldon. I live in Nashville, TN and I love all things related to sports. Naturally I love workking out and I do it every day. If you want to talk feel freee to hit me a message or if you happen to be in Nashville we can get a coffee, I know a great place. Peace!