Before we get into it, don’t actually go barefoot at the gym. For the sake of hygiene and safety, keep your socks on. Unless you have a really clean gym. Which I don’t think exists…
You might be wondering why there are so many different kinds of shoes available for weight training if I’m telling you to start squatting without shoes.
Let me just say that there are definitely times where squatting barefoot isn’t going to be an option.
Some gyms don’t allow it, and that hotel gym floor might be questionable. Plus, socks on slippery surfaces is just asking for an accident.
Unless you’re going into the gym to literally only do squats, deadlifts and a few other lower body exercises, you’re probably going to be wearing shoes at some point.
And I’ve got you covered with the best shoe for every type of workout.
But back to the benefits of barefoot training!
Here’s why you should kick those shoes off next time you squat:
The Benefits of Barefoot Training
TOTAL BODY AWARENESS + INCREASED MOBILITY
This is the obvious one.
When you have shoes on, the nerves in your feet are dulled. They’re surrounded by soft fabric and cushion. Mmmm. Cushion.
Once you start squatting without shoes, you can feel the floor underneath you and can work with it to increase form, balance, and stability.
Here’s what will happen:
- Your toes will spread and grip the floor
- You’ll have more muscle activation
- More power will come from the bottom up
All of a sudden, even if you just do a bodyweight squat, you’ll find your weight naturally shifts to your heels and your squat gets a whole lot DEEPER.
These are some of the most important things to remember when thinking about your squat form.
That means you’re firing up your glutes more than when you do the same move with shoes on, getting the most bang for your buck with each squat.
STRENGTHEN YOUR FEET
I’m not talking about muscle-y feet and showing off with toe curls. But improving your foot strength will benefit you in almost every workout you’ll ever do.
A lot of times when you wear shoes – especially general training shoes not designed for weight lifting – you’re actually putting your body more at risk of injury.
The NCSA guidelines for squat form say:
“Every effort should be made to maintain a consistent stable pattern of motion for each repetition, to load muscles in a consistent manner and help prevent injury.”
Well that’s almost impossible in your fancy running shoes, because all the cushioning and the ‘extra special’ features are causing instability in your ankle. You’ll compensate for it with your knees, hips, and back. NOT GOOD.
Shoes don’t require our toes or feet to do very much work. And when we’re not working them, we’re weakening them.
And weak toes, ankles, and arches can lead to ankle sprains, shin splints, and knee pain.
That is definitely NOT what we want when we’re training.
GAINS, GAINS, GAINS
This is the BEST benefit of barefoot training.
I know you’ve heard me say it before, but you’ve got to keep your body adapting in order to see change and improvement.
That means no amount of pure running or just weightlifting will ever give you the total-body results you’re probably looking for.
Think about the workouts I share on Insta or in 30 Days to Fit — I never repeat the same exercises week after week, year after year. I’d be bored out of my mind if I had to repeat the same thing over and over.
Your body feels the same way.
Every time you work out in shoes, your body is reacting to your movements in the same way. It’s used to it! And muscles that aren’t constantly challenged, stop adapting over time.
Take off your shoes and it’s a game changer, hunnneyyyyyy.
Your body is moving in new ways and activating new muscles. It isn’t bored. It’s alert. Like Winston, right at dinner time.
Do a squat without your shoes, and all of a sudden your body is guessing, adapting, and getting stronger.
You’ll see total-body results faster and even increase that PR.
See! So many benefits of barefoot training, hence why you never see me with shoes on at the gym.
Okay, okay, I know not everyone is going to start squatting barefoot, but hopefully you’re at least intrigued by the idea.
If you want to keep your shoes on when you squat, I suggest wearing shoes designed for weight training.
- A hard sole to increase stability and consistent movement patterns
- Traction so you don’t slip
- Ankle support
- Room in the toe box so you can spread your toes and mimic the feeling of gripping the floor
If you do want a pair of shoes, these are MY RIDE OR DIE when I can’t go barefoot.
Give me your thoughts below!