Barefoot Training for Teams
There has been a lot of great research and improvement from barefoot training but just recently within the last few years there has been a much bigger focus on performance through athletics. It makes a ton of sense to those of us that are in the field of performance. Athletic development starts in the feet. Moving starts in the feet. If our feet don’t have the ability to change and adapt to the physical demands of the sport it will hinder an athlete’s performance and increase chance of injury. According to barefootr.com your foot has over 200,000 nerve endings in it. Our nerve endings are the physiological center of change and adaptation. If we, as athletes, want to jump higher and run faster then it must have more to do with the neuromuscular system than JUST our muscles.
Think of the nerves in our body as a highly adaptable and complex system of fiber optic cables. If we wear shoes (some say “Shads”) this dulls the feedback and the signals that we get through our feet which make the adaptations slower and less effective. That is why barefoot training is important to developing athletes and improving function. If you can enhance the signal of that fiber optic system to improve performance just by taking your shoes off would you? Most would answer yes. And the others would have a question of “how can I do this in a team setting?”
Dr Mike Martino is one of the leading experts in barefoot training and its benefits to performance. There is also some great information that we can gather from his research at Georgia College. One of the studies that sums the benefits of barefoot training is a study he did with 3 groups. Group one- shoes for warm up and vertical jump. Group two- shoes for warm up and with out shoes for vertical jump. And group three- without shoes for warm up and without shoes for vertical. Group three was significantly better than all other groups.
Minimal Effective Dose (MED) of Barefoot Training with Teams
Am I saying that we should all take our shoes off, put them in the locker, and train without shoes? NO. But I have seen this done effectively without waisting any time with some very smart coaches that knew the benefits of Barefoot Training. To be effective start slow (5-10 minutes 3 times a week). And just allow the athletes to be barefoot in their movement prep before workout. This will help elevate some stress for the coaches and the appearance of waisted time. So here are a couple of ways to implement this without changing the behavior of your entire team.
- Apply Barefoot Training in the Transition from Weight Room to Conditioning. As the athletes are headed out to change their shoes to cleats spend 5-10 minutes without shoes to do for the warm up and dynamic movement. You will see that most athletes enjoy being barefoot. And this will not take any extra time because they have to change shoes anyway.
- Apply Barefoot Training to the Move Prep before the Weight Room Time. Just do a few barefoot drills that can be done as the athletes arrive in the weight room. Teach them 2-3 drills to do independently before training actually starts.
Drills for Barefoot Training with Teams
In order to get the most out of the barefoot training doing movement that “turns on” or activates the nerves in the feet will be very helpful. So we do a few drills with athletes that get to our facility early and you can do the same drills with the athletes that arrive to workout a few minutes early. This drills take 2-3 minutes total and can have a direct impact to performance.
- Rock the Boat
- Single Leg RDL
- Single Leg Speed Mechanics
- Dynamic Warm Up
Coaching Cues and Movements to Look For
- “Dig the Big Toe In”- Keep eyes on the big toe. Our big toe is very important to balance and performance. It is also the laziest in our shoes so it will be the weakest and tightest. This has to be coached. Most athletes big toe will remain off the ground until you make them aware of its importance.
- Stacked Toes- Again the big toe is important. You will notice that most athlete’s have an outside angle. This is not normal to strong feet. The stronger an athlete’s feet the more “stacked” or aligned they are.
- Everted Ankles- Look for the feet that are fallen inward that appears the ankles are dropped on the inside of the arch. Don’t confuse this with flat feet. The ankles must appear to be misaligned and not stacked directly on top of the foot.
- Flat Feet are not good.- Not true. In my experience, flat feet doesn’t have anything to do with fallen arches. It is just the way God made their feet. Look at the alignment of the ankle and the foot.
- The shape of the foot will tell you a lot about what type of athlete they are. Not true. The shape of the foot has nothing to do with what kind of athlete they are. But their are some characteristics of a foot (as described above) that can tell us if the foot is healthy and strong.