Barefoot training finally hit its stride in 2010. Many people began wearing footwear that offered little to no support so that ground reaction forces would have a better chance of making it up the kinetic chain. Others simply took their shoes off, went outside and started running. However, as the barefoot training trend has grown in popularity, so has the need for foot and ankle conditioning. Proper progression from lace-up shoes to naked feet requires patience and attention to detail.

The following 30-minute workout prepares the lower legs and feet to develop the coordination they’ll need to “relearn” landing patterns. Participants will find that bouts of exercise will become more intense once the feet and lower legs become smarter, stronger and more stable.

Always abide by this golden rule: Teach the person in front of you. Some clients may require a slower progression than others. Consider the following when helping participants decide which level to begin with:

  1. Person Has Never Trained Barefoot. Practice the routine outlined in this column with customary shoes until basic muscle patterns are established.
  2. Person Has Minimal Foot Strength Flexibility. Use a very flexible, lightly cushioned and barely supported shoe. One example is the Nike® Free.
  3. Person Has Acclimated Feet and Ankles. “Shoes” like Vibram FiveFingers® footwear provide protection for the forefoot (the mound that spans from under the big toe across to the pinkie toe). Rubber “plating” and grip (on sole) further protect, but without offering support or cushioning.
  4. Person Has Strong Feet and Neuroawareness. Go barefoot. Bare feet should be clean with well-cared-for skin and nails.

Barefoot Bootcamp Details

FORMAT: interval class, moderate to high intensity

TOTAL TIME: about 30 minutes (can be used as part of larger class)

EQUIPMENT NEEDED: (per person) BOSU® Balance Trainer and towel (to keep BOSU trainer dry under sweaty feet); agility ladder

MUSIC: The steady work is done at approximately 128 beats per minute. Sprints will be faster.

PURPOSE: This class develops functional strength, endurance, flexibility and neuromuscular coordination in foot, ankle and lower-leg muscles in preparation for safe deceleration and powerful push-off.

Warm-Up (6 minutes)

Perform the following with low intensity for 1 minute each:

Heels Up, Toes Up (from floor or BOSU trainer). Stand with feet at shoulder distance, lift heels high and alternate rocking back onto heels with lifting forefeet high. Repeat rhythmically.

Rock & Roll (from floor or BOSU trainer). Roll both feet inward onto proximal long edges of feet. Rock out to distal long edges of feet. Alternate and repeat rhythmically.

Toe-Up Walk-Arounds. Stand on BOSU trainer, heels close to base, toes angled toward apex. Step laterally around BOSU trainer, switching directions after each full circle.

Toe-Down Walk-Arounds. Stand on BOSU trainer, toes pointed toward base, heels angled up toward apex. Step laterally around BOSU trainer, switching directions after each full circle.

Two-Legged Balance. Bring feet and ankles closely together and engage inner thighs to draw in knees. Practice standing on apex of BOSU trainer, then on slope toward front (toes down), on slope toward back (toes up) and on sides.

One-Legged Balance. Place one foot on apex, using big toe of opposite foot to gently assist with balance. Practice standing on apex, then front slope, back slope and either side.

Foot and Ankle Preparation (5 minutes)

Perform the following with moderate intensity:

BOSU Compressions (1 minute). Pedal feet into dome. Push into forefoot and feel weight sink into each foot. Eliminate impact. Step forward as close to edge as you can; then move backward, first to right side and then to left. Repeat rhythmically. Progression: Close eyes.

BOSU Jogging (1 minute). Engage core, pump arms and jog on apex. Control “slaps” on impact. Jog should feel like an aggressive compression. Repeat rhythmically. Progression: Add directional changes.

BOSU High Knees (1 minute). Engage core, pump arms and jog with very high knees on BOSU trainer. Notice increased ankle and lower-leg challenge. Focus on precision (keep heels up) and balance while landing quietly. Repeat rhythmically. Progression: Add directional changes.

BOSU Sprint (2 minutes). Engage core, pump arms and run quickly on BOSU trainer. Notice the need to keep core engaged and arms pumping, challenging entire body. If there is any sound when landing, slow down and recompose. Otherwise, increase speed every 30 seconds to potentially reach anaerobic work. Progression: Increase speed.

Running Drills (4 minutes)

Perform the following with moderate to high intensity. Be mindful that floor is solid and less forgiving than BOSU trainer. Cue core integration and remind students to land without making sound.

In-Place Jogging (1 minute). Engage core, pump arms and jog lightly (in place) with intention of controlling impact. Land on forefoot; heels stay lifted. Repeat rhythmically. Progression: Add directional changes.

High Knees (1 minute). Jog on floor with very high knees. Notice increased ankle and lower-leg challenge and focus on quiet, precise landings. Keep heels up; land on forefoot. Repeat rhythmically. Progression: Add directional changes.

In-Place Sprint (2 minutes). Run in place on floor at fast pace, landing silently. Keep core engaged and pump arms, challenging entire body. Increase speed every 30 seconds. If there are impact noises, slow down. Progression: Increase speed.

Jump Drills (4 minutes)

Perform the following with moderate to high intensity.

BOSU Jump Up (1 minute). Jump with two feet onto BOSU trainer. Jump height will vary according to student needs. Cue participants to jump as high as they’d like, with as much power as they’d like, but stick the landing—forefoot first, then heel. Repeat rhythmically. Progression: Add directional changes.

Floor/BOSU Jump Down (1 minute). Begin on BOSU trainer. Hop down to ground with both feet, landing lightly on forefoot. Step up and repeat. Practice off front and back of dome. Repeat rhythmically. Progression: Close eyes.

Floor/BOSU Jump Sprint (2 minutes). Begin on floor. Hop with both feet forward onto BOSU trainer and stick the landing on forefoot. Increase speed each 30 seconds. Progression: Jump up backward onto BOSU trainer for 1 minute.

Bootcamp Drills, Barefoot Style (8 minutes)

Perform the following with high intensity for1 minute each. Feet land without making sound. Repeat.

Plank. Hold plank position—either from hands and feet or from forearms and feet. Weight rests on forefoot.

Ladder. Run through agility ladder, quietly landing on forefoot. Pump arms and lift knees high. Progression: Add speed.

Burpees. Perform proper form of burpee for fitness level, landing on forefoot. Progression: Add push-ups.

Mountain Climbers. Flip BOSU trainer platform-side up and prop body in prone position. Pull alternating knees in. Land gently on forefoot. Progression: Add speed.

Note: Be sure to offer a 5- to 10-minute cool-down using the BOSU trainer to assist with stretching the muscles of the feet, ankles and lower legs.

Stacey Lei Krauss

Stacey Lei Krauss (SLK) is the creator of CARDIO YOGA®, a willPower Method® program. An industry visionary, she pioneered the foot fitness category and considers moving meditation to be the next dimension of fitness. Drawing from studies in shamanism and Reiki, SLK explores self-awareness through meditation, somatics and empowering postural feedback. She earned her 500 RYT in Mysore, India, but considers herself a “fitness-chick”, having represented prominent brands as a program developer, including Schwinn®, BOSU®, Peak Pilates®, Nike and Vibram® FiveFingers. SLK now explores exercise with responsible cannabis consumption, designed for students seeking alternative physical and emotional healing.

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