The benefits of training barefoot
How to reduce falls and maintain balance with age

 

Stuart Wakefield

Stuart Wakefield

Registered Kinesiologist

Stuart is a Registered Kinesiologist. He is the Director of Education in Canada for EBFA Global. Stuart focuses on movement longevity through sensory stimulation, fascial health, and foot stability.  

How to reduce falls and maintain balance with age

The saying “use it or lose it” is something we’ve all heard, mostly associated with fitness and weight lifting.

 

Have you ever thought of how this applies to your nervous system?

Both static and dynamic balance are very complex processes that take in information from our sensory systems (proprioceptive, visual, vestibular). Proprioception is our body’s ability to sense its movement, location, and actions. An example of this is being able to walk without looking at your feet. But what happens if you don’t practice proper balance and proprioception exercises?

Maintaining balance with age is absolutely critical in order to age well!

Our longevity is very closely linked to our speed, stride speed when walking. When our balance begins to decrease, our walking speed will slow, our stride length will decrease and we often start to look down at our feet and not where we’re going. This can lead to falls as we age. However, it doesn’t mean that falls have to be a part of the aging process. Firstly, we must focus on our feet and think about a fall prevention strategy. Every single step we take requires stability and balance from our feet up and this is very much dependent on our ability to feel the ground.

So how can we improve balance?  Let’s take a look…

Our focus is on the proprioceptive system and more specifically, 4 types of mechanoreceptors that are found in the skin on the bottom of the foot. Mechanoreceptors detect stimuli such as touch, pressure, and vibration from the external environment.

As mentioned in a previous educational piece by Dr. Emily Splichal, the stimulus of the receptors can be referred to as essential noise.

Unfortunately, it’s commonplace in our society to be in socks and shoes more than not. Having these things on our feet, while often a necessity, blocks this essential noise. This is the stimulus that keeps these receptors active and accurately relays information to our brain. This information consists of the amount of impact coming into our body with each step and the texture or “feel” of the ground we’re on.  When this information is blocked constantly over a period of years, we start to lose the accuracy of the information that’s sent to our brains.

This is on top of the fact that the peak sensitivity of these receptors is around age 40 and then starts to decline. By the time we reach age 70, we need 2x the stimulus for our brain to create the same motor response. Add being in shoes and socks constantly and you’re aiding in the decline in these receptors.

    We must focus on improving our balance as early as we can: 

    • By simply being barefoot daily
    • Performing exercises like toe yoga, and short foot
    • Simply standing barefoot on a Naboso mat

    By focusing on these techniques and integrating them into your daily routine, you’re using these receptors, keeping them active, and allowing your brain to create more optimal movement control. 

    This is the recipe for better balance with age. WillKin’s Bare to Move program is delivered by an accredited Kinesiologist and a certified Barefoot Training Specialist. This program is for those who have experienced a long period of deconditioning, lower body pain, a lower body or foot-related injury. The program focuses on working from the ground up. Keep your feet strong and healthy, with the consistent sensory stimulus of being barefoot. 

    #barefootstrong

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