Want better control of your body? Exercise barefoot

Passionate about cars and motorsports, Cheryl Tay is a familiar face in prominent local, regional as well as international automotive titles. She is equally enthusiastic about health and fitness and is always on the lookout for the latest workout trends. More of her at CherylTay.sg and on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram (cheryltay11).

It’s true – the feet are among the most ignored body parts when it comes to working out.

Which is why, according to global fitness guru Stacey Lei Krauss, we need to ditch those shoes and start exercising barefoot.

The 44-year-old is the founder of the 14-year-old willPower Method: a feet fitness programme done without footwear, of course, to develop strong and flexible feet while strengthening the core and correcting imbalances.

“We have lost the connection between the brain and the feet,” Krauss declared. “Our feet are our basic support and our foundation of movement; they shouldn’t be forgotten or neglected. When you train your whole body, it should be from the brain right down to the feet.

“You have 33 joints in your feet and you should be able to have good command of your feet, including the toes,” he said.

The American was in Singapore for a few days in February to train instructors for the “willPower & Grace” class.  The latter is one of many workouts under the willPower Method, which will be held at exclusive partner centre Momentum Lab, a Pilates-based studio, from April onwards.

Co-founder and programme director at Momentum Lab, Lynn Ong, also chimed in with her advocacy of feet fitness. “It’s actually good core control. If you can’t stabilise your feet, how do you balance your body?” said the 37-year-old.

Trying my feet at it

I’m not new to working out barefoot. While it’s perfectly natural during Pilates, yoga and Muay Thai, I’ve also been doing high-intensity interval training at Ritual without wearing any shoes.

"We get a lot of sensory information from our feet. With thick shoes that act like casts on our feet all the time, we lose out on a lot of this information,” explained Ian Tan, co-founder and fitness director at Ritual.

“The lower body also tends to get really tight and restricted, which affects movement patterns. Personally, when I switched to barefoot training, I found that my balance, coordination, joint resilience, and overall control improved. It just feels better, too," he added.

I had a chance to attempt a one-hour willPower & Grace class conducted by Krauss herself. The workout contains the essence of full-body Pilates, yoga, calisthenics and strengthening exercises, all without the use of any equipment.

Once familiar with the moves, said Krauss, it is possible to shed about 450 to 500 calories per session.

The willPower Method classes are suitable for people with all kinds of feet, whether high-arched or flat feet, and have been attended by athletes from disciplines as diverse as running, skiing, volleyball, football, snowboarding and lacrosse.

Nonetheless, Krauss shared that she met with a lot of resistance when she first created the programme, with most critics declaring barefoot training to be dangerous.

“Initially, when we were doing this in gyms, (people) expected to be wearing shoes and they didn’t understand why,” she recalled.

But we just need to constantly  remember, said Krauss, that “all movement starts from the ground up… and the fault of our movements begin from the feet.”

“Just like the arms or butt, your feet are a part of your body and they can tone and shape up, as well as get strong and flexible.”

Classes for The willPower Method are available only at exclusive partner Momentum Lab from April onwards. Prices of the willPower & Grace group class range from $30 to $55 depending on package. Walk-in classes are $55 each.