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Barefoot Training for Basketball and Sport Athletes

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  • Barefoot Training for Basketball and Sport Athletes

    I guess this falls under a training question. Working with basketball athletes, one of the big topics I keep hearing about is the ankle and foot complex for basketball players and basically for most major sport athletes. The trend of bare foot training has become a big topic of conversation. Many coaches who have influence in the field of sport strength and conditioning are on board with barefoot training and promote its benefits routinely. They are not asking people to jump right into every activity barefoot but they do swear by it in terms of foot and ankle health to benefit their athletes.

    The argument is the feet and ankles are meant to withstand high forces and provide more in terms of shock absorption than perhaps any other body part. When we start to wear shoes/sneakers we gradually lose that ability and over time our feet, ankles and toes become inhibited and what is suppose to be absorbed in terms of force by the foot is now reliant on our footwear instead. Along with minimizing intense ground reaction forces, the body starts to send fewer signals to the foot which leads to distortion in proprioception and loss of innervation up the kinetic chain. The overall outcome form this is that it causes foot and ankle dysfunction which can affect movement patterns and or result in pain etc.

    While the foot and ankle seem to take on a lot of collision during basketball, I am still having trouble grasping the idea that training barefoot in any regard can somehow benefit the athlete in their performance or health. Yes, basketball players wear very supportive sneakers, on top of ankle bracing and so on, and those sneakers are only becoming more awesome to wear. Do sneakers really have that much of an impact? Or is this just another case of let’s create a problem and then make a solution for it? I am wondering what your experience is with this subject and if you can shed any light on it.

    Looking forward to your response. Thank you.

    Brian

  • #2
    Brian,

    Thanks for the thoughtful question. I agree that it doesn't really make sense to me that training barefoot (in part or in whole) would provide unique benefits from an injury risk reduction or performance standpoint to athletes who are competing wearing shoes. Rather, the specificity argument would suggest that if you're competing in shoes....the specific adaptations necessary for that sport would likely require similar foot wear.

    As far as actual data on minimalist footwear and barefoot training, the injury risk reduction is non existent and some athletes may see some benefit in running economy whereas others see a detriment. To be fair, this has been best studied in runners and not team-sport athletes.

    The neural adaptations proposed don't really make sense. You don't get less adapted to the specific stimulus when exposed to it....you know?

    Just my 0.02.

    -Jordan
    Barbell Medicine "With you from bench to bedside"
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