A bit of context
The human foot
- You activate all the sensors in your feet. Feet are the most sensory-rich part of your body. That’s why for example you will feel every single stuff happening under your feet from a grain of sand to a big rock. That goes “straight” to your brain. It can be overwhelming at the beginning I have to say.
- You use many muscles in your feet (the most obvious arteries near your toes, your arches and those in your lower leg (calf, …). For most of us we’ve been walking with shoes for a long time and they provide a lot of “support” i particular under the arches. That leads many people to have weak arches and weak muscles in your feet and supporting muscles.
- You put strain on your feet soles (and skins of your toes)
- You exercise your eye sight to scan what’s coming ahead of your feet (usually a consequence of point #1)
Building up momentum toward barefoot running
- Big toe mobility
- Smaller toes mobility
- Spreading your toes
- The rocks or marbles game
Think of your feet and supporting muscles as an entire part of your core muscles. Build their strength, keep maintaining them for a better walking and running experience. And that is wether you are walking or running… barefoot or not. All your exercises for core should be done barefoot.
Big toe mobility
Essentially you need to be able to do like seen on the picture but with without moving the other smaller toes. You can put your foot rested on the floor then try to move only your big toe upward. Do not move the other small toes if possible. The exercise can also be done with your foot in the air. If you can’t move your big toe at first, it’s quite normal I think and you can help yourself with your hand as seen on the picture. Once you are accustomed to it and have more mobility in your toes, you should be able to do it without the help of your hand.
Smaller toes mobility
This exercise aims at helping mobility in your smaller toes and improve your control over them independently from the big toe. Most of the people can move them but as a whole, there is always movement of the big toe along with the smaller ones. Improving mobility in the smaller toes will develop your control over them and build up muscles in your lower leg that are controlling them.
Spreading your toes
Spreading your toes will help develop mobility and ease of movement. That doesn’t mean you have to start walking like this… Spread as much as you can the toes and keep that position. Usually it works well when you are keeping to try the toes (all) more upward. In my personal case, my right foot has slightly more spreading than the left one. When I started, the left could barely spread compared to the right one. Repeat the exercises to build strength. I you look at your lower leg muscles, you can see that some muscles are activated when you do this.
Alternatively, another exercise is to have your feet on the hill or in the air, keep your big toe up, spread your small toes and bring them down while still being spread (imagine under each small toe you have a piano key and you are trying to hit each key with one toe). Do this then bring back to rest position. Repeat multiple times. This helps build up mobility in your smaller toes.
The rocks or marbles game
- The ballerina exercise
- Working out those arches
- The swipers
- Calves strengthening
- Walking on your toes
- One leg stand (more advanced)
- Rope skipping (more advanced)
- Ankle mobility: left and right side stretching
- Ankle mobility: left and right side walking
- Walking on your hills