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Bare feet and a kettlebell

Fawn Friday, a Minnesota-based trainer, likes the idea, though she says she lets her clients decide. “Most of the people who train with me train barefoot.”

Though some experts suggest that exercising while barefoot on the gym floor helps you expend more energy than you would from the cushiony base of an athletic shoe, making your workout more productive, Friday emphasizes stability.

“Typically, you get more of that stability being barefoot,” she notes. “That goes for any kind of strength training — barbell training, kettlebell lifting, or anything else. You want to have a firm foundation.”

The problem with most athletic shoes is that their squishy soles can make it hard to stay balanced. “Swinging a kettlebell, you don’t want to have a cushiony-soled shoe propelling you forward. But if you have no shoes on, pretty much nothing gets firmer than that.”

Not everyone can go barefoot. “There are people who simply need to wear shoes; my husband is one of them. It hurts his feet to be barefoot for a long time. So he’ll wear stable, flat-soled shoes,” Friday says. The best option is shoes designed for weightlifting.

The other barrier to barefooting is a “yuck” factor. “Some people are just uncomfortable with the idea of walking around barefoot with other people walking around barefoot,” Friday says. “But when they look around and see most people training that way, they’re usually willing to give it a shot.”

This originally appeared as “My trainer suggests swinging kettlebells barefoot instead of wearing shoes. Is this a good idea?” in the October 2019 print issue of Experience Life.

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