At The Iron Pit we do most of warmups, deadlifts, and squats without shoes on. Why is this the case?

Most people wear shoes with heels that are significantly elevated compared to their toes. Over time this results in the loss of ankle mobility, loss of the mind-body connection with the feet, and the weakening of the small muscles in the foot.

Training barefoot helps reverse these problems. Our feet are usually the only contact point we have with the ground. Our feet play a very similar role to the tires on a car. A car’s tires are the only contact point with the road and are therefore crucial for the safety and performance of the vehicle. We need to think of our feet with the same mindset.

Lifting barefoot also gives a posterior shift to the body’s center of gravity. This helps engage the posterior muscles (namely hamstrings and glutes), which is beneficial for lifting more weight. We have these big muscles so we should try to use them.

The barefoot movement has taken hold over the past few years. Naturally it’s been taken to the extreme, especially with runners. The thought process is that our ancestors ran without shoes so why shouldn’t we? The first counterpoint is that our ancestors weren’t running on pavement. The impact from pavement running is obviously much more significant than impact from running across the field. The second counterpoint is that they lived barefoot so their feet were acclimated to those conditions. Taking somebody who’s worn shoes for the past 20 years and telling them to run 5 miles barefoot is a recipe for disaster.

Like most things, there’s an appropriate time and place. Low impact warmups and deadlifts/squats are a great way to work back some ankle mobility and build up the small muscles in the feet while not creating undue stress on the joints.