Written by: Tomas Morgan
When it comes to foot health, many people are unknowingly doing themselves a disservice by not paying enough attention to what's good and bad for their feet. In the hustle and bustle of modern life, most of us never really take the time to let our feet breathe. We cram them into shoes that are often too narrow and overly cushioned, inadvertently hindering the natural function of our feet. This is where Stuart Wakefield, a passionate advocate for barefoot training and rehabilitation, comes into the picture.
According to Wakefield, conventional footwear can cause a multitude of problems. They often stop the natural splaying and opening of toes when we push off the ground. This not only hampers the normal function of our feet but also increases impact forces while walking or running, potentially leading to various foot-related issues. One common culprit is the thick soles of running shoes, which encourage landing on the heels rather than the mid or forefoot. This change in function can result in back pain and other discomforts, as we weren't designed to absorb such force through our heels.
So, what's the remedy? Wakefield suggests incorporating barefoot training into your fitness routine, particularly when rehabilitating from injuries like Achilles injuries, shin splints, etc. Going barefoot allows your brain to better control the impact, making it easier to retrain your body to move correctly.
Wakefield's journey into barefoot training and rehabilitation started when he was just 18. He had a habit of standing on the outer part of his foot, which, if left untreated, could have led to knee, back, and hip pain. After surgery and recovery, he realized that the rehabilitation process was not as comprehensive as it could be. This experience ignited his passion to delve deeper into foot health and to help others do the same.
His interest was heavily influenced by Dr Emily Splichal, the founder of EBFA Global, whose work and research have made significant contributions to the field of barefoot science.
Wakefield is now beginning to make an appearance on social media, with the intention of sharing his knowledge with a wider audience. He believes that Canada, where he practices, lags behind the United States in terms of social media engagement in the healthcare and fitness industry. Nevertheless, he is determined to bridge that gap and spread the message about the benefits of barefoot training.
When he works out at home, Wakefield prefers to do it barefoot. He finds that it allows him to feel and grip the ground better, improving his overall workout experience. Squats, running, bench presses – he does them all barefoot to ensure that his feet are activated to their full potential.
According to Wakefield, the rule of thumb is to wear shoes only when necessary. If you work with young athletes, he recommends incorporating a barefoot warm-up into their routines to enhance proprioception and foot strength. When shoes are a must, using toe spacers or special insoles like Naboso can help recreate the feeling of being barefoot, aiding in improved ground awareness.
Orthotics, often seen as a quick fix for foot pain, are not inherently wrong. They can offer short-term relief for those who stand for extended periods. However, Wakefield emphasizes that they should not be a permanent solution. Instead, he believes that intrinsic foot muscle activation through barefoot training is the key to long-term foot health.
It's often considered a societal norm that as people age, they experience more pain. Wakefield challenges this assumption and believes that, with proper foot care, it doesn't have to be the case. His advice for the next generation is simple: take off your shoes, engage in barefoot workouts, and follow his social media channels for foot-specific exercises to improve your overall health.
Stuart Wakefield is leading a barefoot revolution, and his passion for educating the world about the importance of foot health is bound to make a significant impact. As we embrace the lessons he shares and adapt our habits to incorporate barefoot training, we might just be on our way to a future where foot pain is the exception, not the rule.