Barefoot Training For Hockey?

I am not sure why, but I am getting a lot of questions about feet lately.  Flat feet, sore feet, stinky feet…you get the idea.

I cannot do much about the stinky feet other than this – – wash your damn feet, shoes and socks J

But I have a few ways to work on those flat feet and maybe help your sore feet while we are at it.  I know some of you are really keen to get into orthotics to ‘fix your feet’.  I also know some of you really need orthotics, but let’s try a few easy (and free) fixes for some common issues first.

If you had a sore back and someone suggested that they put you in a brace from your hips to your shoulders to ‘support’ your back and take away the pain – would that be your first choice or would you maybe want to try some exercises that could improve the function of your back first?

Some people swing to far the other way suggesting that you ‘train barefoot’ to strengthen your feet and fix these issues – I don’t thing that is the answer either.  Using our back pain analogy again, this would be like telling the guy with back pain to plank all the time and then carry heavy stuff to strengthen up the back.

Probably will not help at this stage.  So keep your shoes on for now J

Your feet are really complex components of your musculoskeletal system – there are bones (duh) but the bones are put together like a jigsaw puzzle.  Then there is the very thick plantar fascia – the fascial sheath on the bottom of your foot and finally, there are muscles.

You actually have muscles that should help you maintain your arch.  If these muscles get weak over time, more of the stress for supporting the length of your foot falls on the plantar fascia, enter altered foot mechanics, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonosus, foot pain or even knee, hip or back pain.

What I have for you today are three exercises to help improve the tissue quality of the plantar fascia, to activate the longitudinal muscles in the foot that help create your arch and the intrinsic muscles in your foot that help with balance and stability.

You can do these exercises daily…

Lacrosse Ball (or golf ball) on foot – do 60 seconds on each foot

Arch activation – work on it for 60 seconds per foot

Towel crunches – do 60 seconds

Now, in terms of doing your hockey training barefoot, here are my thoughts – I love footwear like the Vibram 5-Fingers.  In fact I spend a good portion of my days at Revolution Conditioning wearing them when I coach clients…BUT…I do not do plyometric training in them, I do not do agility training in them and I do not endorse that for my clients.

I am okay with my clients wearing them for the dynamic warm up and the strength portion of the workout (I trust them not to drop weights on their toes), but for speed, agility and plyometric training I want them at very least to wear something like the New Balance Minimus (those are the yellow and black shoes you see me wearing in the gym).

So my progression to barefoot is as follows:

  • Spend time around the house barefoot.  If you are prone to stubbing your toes, then get something like a Vibram to wear
  • Then go barefoot for stretching sessions
  • Then go barefoot for stretching and dynamic warm up
  • Then go barefoot for stretching, dynamic warm-up and strength training

I hope that helps give you some good ideas and progressions.

PS – I am doing some updates on this site over the next week or so – trying to make it easier for the goalies to find their info and the skaters to find theirs – so you might see the site looking a little crazy over the next while.