Being barefoot can help you become healthier – and exercising barefoot has unique advantages. In particular, working out on beach sand can help strengthen your core muscles and legs.
Within this article is a video that shows examples of the types of exercises you can do barefoot.
There are hundreds of muscles, ligaments and tendons in the human foot. These “primate muscles” are there for a reason. Nature intended them to be supple and strong – to help us run, jump, climb, and balance.
Shoes are overrated.
Though shoes help protect the feet from glass and extreme weather – and create cushioning from modern asphalt – shoes can also weaken and cramp the feet which, in turn, impacts the health of the rest of the body.
It can be beneficial to sometimes move around outdoors without shoes:
- Our feet are designed to ground us and provide us with a base of postural support.
- Being barefoot in the sand gives us direct physical contact with a vast supply of electrons on the Earth’s surface.
- Direct access to these electrons helps create a helpful internal bioelectrical environment for the healthy functioning of our body’s systems – including immunity and anti-inflammatory responses.
Keep in mind that if you’re not in the habit of being barefoot, it’s wise to proceed with caution. You may not think that your athletic sneaker shoes have a high sole, but they probably do – and this can weaken foot muscles and shorten your achilles.
Take it easy the first few times you workout barefoot or at the beach. You want your feet to gradually acclimate (you don’t want to pull an achilles or roll an ankle).
Shoes that Are Almost Like Being Barefoot
Sometimes I wear shoes when exercising outdoors, but I usually choose shoes that are “low-rise,” meaning they do not have an elevated heel. These shoes mimic what it’s like to be barefoot, except they offer the added protection from scrapes, stubs, and cuts. Currently, two of my favorite brands are:
- Vibrams Five-Fingers
For those who are too shy to wear Vibrams (they are a bit odd-looking, though they feel amazing to wear), I recommend Altra as they have low-rise models that are attractive and more conventional in appearance.
How to Do A Barefoot Sand Beach Workout
The following exercises will engage multiple muscle groups in each drill – using your own bodyweight and strengthening your body to perform better movements (that can be adapted into the real world).
The idea is to feel fantastic after your beach workout. So wear sunscreen (including in your ears and on your scalp), and you might need sunglasses, too (especially if you have light-colored eyes). Check the weather report before you go – to see if it will be windy – and if it’s in the summer you might want to avoid going between 11:00am and 3:30pm, as the sand can get quite hot. Bring water with you.
These exercises are for both women and men, and can be modified to accommodate any fitness level.
As always, I encourage you to use common sense. If you feel sharp pain in your joints, stop. If you feel profoundly dizzy, stop. Consult with your medical doctor before trying this workout (or before making any significant changes to your exercise habits).
You have a choice of how you do these particular drills.
- Beginners can do their training in the traditional strength-training way – 3 sets of each exercise with a 2-minute rest in between.
- Intermediate and advanced-level athletes can instead do a circuit training variation, in which you do 3 or 4 exercises back-to-back with no rest period, and then take a 3-minute break before repeating. (Each circuit is repeated 3 times, before moving on to an entirely new circuit.)
If fat loss is a priority, it’s a good idea to use the timer on your phone to make sure your rest periods don’t run too long. This will keep your heart rate from plummeting and help you remain in a fat-burning zone. (It’s human nature to think your rest periods are shorter than they actually end up being, so a timer can prove very helpful).
You don’t need the equipment I use in the video (near end of article) – hurdles, cones, or a speed ladder. Though they’re fun to have, they’re completely optional and the exercises can be done easily without them.
Beach Warm-Up Circuit:
- Side-to-Side Jump with Oppositional Toe-Touch
- Barefoot Sand Mountain Climber
- Beach Toddler Jump
TIP: you’ll notice that when I’m supporting the weight of my body on my hands, sometimes I use flat palms and sometimes fists. This is a personal preference. Do whichever feels comfortable. The trick to keeping your wrists healthy is to never dump all your bodyweight into your hands. Instead, you use the power of your core and glute muscles to help lift the weight up toward the sky and off of your wrists.
- Beach Frog Jump
- Barefoot Sand Side Hurdle
- Knees-Up Run
TIP: when jumping, resist the temptation to dump all of your bodyweight into your knees and feet. Instead, imagine being light on your feet and direct the energy of your body upward away from your knees. The more you engage your abdominals and glutes, the less weight your knees and lower back will have to absorb.
Third Barefoot Sand Circuit:
- Barefoot Sand Hopscotch (2 forward, 1 back)
- Beach Bunny Hop
TIP: there are all sorts of circuit-training drills and sprints you can do at the beach while barefoot in the sand. It’s fun to invent your own exercises, and you’ll be surprised what you can think of – all you need is a little patience, creativity, and initiative.
- Barefoot Banded Side Shuffle
- Sand Sprint
- Zig-Zag Beach Cone Drill
TIP: if you have a workout buddy who can hold onto some sort of looped light-resistance band (around your lower waist) while you side shuffle, it makes the drill more challenging. However, it can be done without a band, too.
Be mindful of your alignment when doing sprints or drills:
- Keep your head up.
- Shoulders relaxed down and back.
- Chest floating forward and up.
- Pelvis centered (this happens when your lower abdominals and glutes stay slightly activated).
- The ball of your foot should land before your heel.
Drills are a type of fitness training that use a series of repeated practices, each focusing on a particular skill – such as footwork agility, changing directions, or sprinting.
A drill teaches you how to distribute your bodyweight and engage your muscles in specific situations.
The big benefit of drills is that they tend to burn a higher number of calories than most other exercises. They also teach you to work anaerobically for short bursts and – as an added bonus – they improve your performance in other sports.
Most people know somebody who has broken their ankle simply by stepping off a small curb. This is exactly the kind of injury that barefoot sand workouts at the beach are designed to help prevent. By gradually improving the mobility and strength of the ligaments, tendons, and muscles in your feet, you are helping to better prepare yourself for typical movements that occur in your real everyday life.
Additional Sources on Exercising Barefoot in Beach Sand:
Earthing: the Science Behind Grounding – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3265077/
Benefits of Barefoot Running and Walking – https://www.movnat.com/10-human-movements-that-are-going-extinct/
How We Know Humans Are Primates – https://humanorigins.si.edu/education/how-do-we-know/how-do-we-know-humans-are-primates