Shoes Make You a Lesser Man
Through years of wearing shoes, our feet lose their tactile capacity, which is bad enough. But they also fail to develop to their proper size and shape. Tendons and ligaments shorten, muscles weaken, and the risk for foot and ankle injuries increases.
If it sounds like the ancient Chinese tradition of binding the feet, it kinda is. "It's identical, but to a lesser degree," Rooney says. "Shoes crush the foot into abnormal positions and you don't get the movement the foot is designed for."
And while that might be a puppy upper to the foot fetishists among us, it's a doggie downer when it affects your results in the gym.
Because your feet are the only point of contact between your body and the floor on most lifts, your lifting success depends, in part, on their proprioception — the sense of where they are in space. The more precisely they work to grip the floor, the better they'll help you activate the muscles farther up the movement chain.
Rooney believes that if you free your feet up, allowing them to move and react to the surface beneath them, your lifts will show commensurate improvement. "Just like strengthening the rotator cuff can improve your bench press, strengthening the lower limbs is going to let you run faster, jump higher, and lift more weight," he says. "Your numbers will go up."