Is it bad to workout without shoes? Here’s what you should know.

Fitness enthusiasts embark on all sorts of health journeys in order to achieve their lofty goals. One of the questions people often ask is whether it is bad to workout without shoes. This issue is ubiquitous to those in fitness circles or people who exercise regularly. It’s a valid question that comes from a place of concern over health and sustainability. Should you be worried about not wearing shoes when training? This article aims to shed light on this sensitive matter and give you a comprehensive overview of what you need to know.

The Benefits of Working Out Barefoot

Many people have a preference for working out without shoes. This is because there are several benefits that come with this method. Below are some of the reasons why you may consider stripping your footwear and engaging in your workouts:

Improved Balance and Stability

Training without shoes enables the feet to come into contact with the ground directly. This makes it easier to control body movements and maintain proper balance while exercising. A study by the National Institutes of Health revealed that going barefoot during balance training gives improved outcomes for individuals who need help with body posture.

Increased Foot and Ankle Muscle Strength

Exercising without shoes engages the muscles from the feet up to the ankles, and even throughout the core muscles. This, in turn, strengthens them and creates a solid foundation for the body during physical activity. Without shoes, the feet can breathe and stabilize the rest of the body.

Reduced Risk of Injury

Wearing shoes that don’t fit properly can lead to injuries during exercise. This is because they don’t provide the necessary support and end up warping the natural movement of your feet and legs which cause unnecessary strain in your ankles and feet. Opting to workout without shoes can, therefore, reduce the likelihood of suffering from injuries.

Drawbacks of Barefoot Training

While there are benefits to doing your workouts without shoes, there are some potential drawbacks as well.

Risk of Infection and Disease

The majority of fitness centers are communal spaces shared by people of all ages, shapes, and sizes. Training barefoot in these spaces can expose you to fungi and bacterial infections. The surfaces on which you exercise are often touched by unsanitary people or have come into contact with germs from shoes of gym-goers. As a result, keeping your shoes on could save you from catching undesirable infections.

Lack of Support and Protection for Feet

When you workout without shoes, your feet are denied the cushioning and protection they would ordinarily have. This might cause pain, discomfort and leave trainers exposed to getting grazes or blisters. In addition, if you’re lifting weights, your toes may get squished if the weight accidentally falls on your feet.

Unfavourable Workouts

Sometimes, it may seem more comfortable to prop up the legs while working out barefoot, however, certain exercises could be more challenging without shoes. Hence, it’s always important to assess whether or not training without shoes is the best option to suit the specific type of workout you plan on doing.

The Bottom Line

Deciding whether or not to wear shoes while working out depends on several different factors. You must consider the types of exercises you plan on engaging in, your level, and your workout space.

Working out without shoes, known as barefoot training or exercising, can offer an alternative approach to fitness that can have additional benefits as the ones listed above. However, despite these benefits, it’s essential to note that exercising without protective shoes comes with its own limitations.


  • Is it okay to work out without shoes if you’re in a gym?
  • Most gyms require patrons to wear shoes or gym-appropriate footwear for safety and hygienic reasons. It’s recommended that you follow gym policy and work out with shoes on.

  • Can you do any kind of exercise without shoes?
  • You can do most exercises or routines at home without shoes, such as Yoga or Pilates. However, some exercises require shoes with a proper fit and cushioning to help provide support, especially when exercising outdoors or performing high-impact workouts like running.

  • Are there any diseases one can catch from working out without shoes?
  • When you work out without shoes, your feet are exposed to bacteria and fungi that can cause diseases like Athlete’s Foot, Plantar Warts, and Ringworm. Therefore, it’s essential to keep your shoes on when working out in public or communal spaces.

  • Can working out barefoot be beneficial for people with foot or joint problems?
  • Exercising without shoes can help improve foot and ankle muscle strength, but people with chronic foot, ankle or joint pain should consult a medical professional to assess whether barefoot training is suitable.

  • What are the best kinds of shoes for working out?
  • The best shoes for working out are ones that provide support, cushioning, and are comfortable to wear. Personal preference varies, so it’s essential to find shoes that cater to your needs based on the activity you plan on engaging in.


  • Barefoot vs. Common Footwear: A Systematic Review of the Kinematic, Kinetic and Muscle Activation Adaptations, Johnson, Andrew Wakefield et al. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2016.
  • Barefoot Running Compared to Shod Running: A Systematic Review, Altman, A. et al. Sports Health, 2015.
  • Effect of wearing two types of athletic shoes on proprioception in a simulated athletic task. Nameoka, Hironori et al. Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 2010.

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