How to Strengthen Your Feet With Floor Texture

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Here is a list of floor texture acupressure devices you can use to strengthen your feet while inside the house!

We spend a lot of time on surfaces that are smooth, hard, and sterile. If you are on uniform surfaces while inside and then in restrictive footwear outside, you have effectively eliminated all chance of using the tiny, intrinsic muscles in your feet – the muscles that support you. In other words, you end up with weak and underused feet, the surest way to foot pain and injury.

The best way to counteract this is by being barefoot or in barefoot shoes regularly on a variety of surfaces. But since modern life requires many of us to be indoors for long stretches (work, weather, being a caretaker, etc), it can be very helpful to bring the texture in with you! Like right now, – I am standing on a texture mat from Naboso as I type this. I am working, but I’m also using my standing muscles AND getting my feet stimulated from the mat!

Actual photo of me writing this very post! Don’t mind the mess.

If you are on the same un-stimulating surface all day every day, adding bumpy, gritty, and uneven texture to your home can help a surprising amount with foot pain. And it doesn’t take much to switch up for your environment. See the list below of ways you can add variety to your house, including some completely free ways!

Why Floor Texture Matters

a close up town down shot of two bare feet standing on loose gravel with toes spread and muscles showing.

Floor Texture (aka Uneven Terrain) does a few key things for your body.

  1. It Activates Intrinsic Muscles – these tiny muscles simply don’t get used on flat and level ground, but they play a huge role in stabilizing your body. In this research article, scientists discovered that many, many more muscles are involved when you walk on uneven terrain.
  2. It Stimulates Nerves – this has been shown to immediately improve posture and gait, and has the secondary benefit of calming the nervous system. This research review discusses how nerves in the soles of the feet impact gait and posture – it’s extremely jargon-y but makes some excellent points about the importance of functioning nerves in the feet.
  3. It Builds the Natural Fat Pad on Your Feet – pressure on the bottom of the foot send signals to your cells to lay down more tissue, resulting in a natural cushion that is full of oxygen and nerves. In this article, Biomechanist Katy Bowman discusses the benefits of calluses and how they develop – they’re not dead skin!

But there’s one other benefit to stepping on bumpy things – mechanotransduction. Mechanotransduction is the process by which cells respond to mechanical stimuli (external pressure from outside the cell). Essentially, when cells in your body get squished and pressed on during movement they respond by sending out signals – good signals. For example, when your bones are compressed, like during running, the beneficial hormone osteocalcin is created and sent out to make you feel better and think more clearly. To condense it even further – exposing your body to texture and uneven terrain benefits the very cells inside you, making them healthier and more productive. Truly, movement is life.

For more information I highly recommend reading Whole Body Barefoot, by Katy Bowman.

Simply walking outside barefoot does all of this for your feet and more (just make sure you veer off the path sometimes). But since I can’t be outside all the time, here are my favorite ways to get the benefits of uneven terrain, or acupressure) in my house.

Muffik Floor Mats

Use code ANYASREVIEWS for 10% off a Barefoot Kids Purchase

These Muffik floor mats from Barefoot Kids can be mixed and matched and moved about the house to provide texture wherever you want it. They are fun and colorful for kids, but also practical for adults! Some of them are soft and others hard, so make sure to read the product description on each of the sets. The nice thing about these is that they cover a lot of ground and are so portable. Keep in mind that soft surfaces require more energy to walk on and target small muscles. Hard surfaces are better for sensory stimulation and nervous system feedback.


Real Rock Mat

A reflexology acupressure rock mat for foot health and sensory stimulation in your house, in front of a couch

This real rock mat is exactly what I was looking for, but didn’t want to make myself. It is made of real smooth stones and is long and thin – perfect for a hallway or in front of the couch. It comes with some glue and a few replacement rocks in case any fall off, and I think it’s pretty.

It can feel hard on your feet if you’re not used to it, but I love it. It also is heavy, but they’re real rocks! So it kind of comes with the territory. We found that the bottom was a little slippery on our hard floor so we got a non-slip liner to put underneath and it has worked perfectly. I roll it up when I clean the floor, and then roll it back out again.

If you love this idea but want to save a little money you can DIY your own! Check out this excellent DIY Rock Mat tutorial from Wellness Mama for a how to. You’ll need a doormat, smooth stones, and epoxy glue.


Naboso Mat

Use code ANYAREVIEWS10for 10% off the international Naboso store

Naboso Technology products are some of my favorite for foot stimulation. I move better when the nerves on the bottom of my feet are activated, and the small bumps on this Naboso Standing Desk mat do exactly that. I also use Naboso Insoles in my shoes to bring that sensation with me – especially in the winter when I’m not able to be barefoot outside. This technology is all about getting the nerves firing in your feet, which improves your posture and increases blood flow. Naboso was founded by Dr Emily Splichal, barefoot podiatrist.


Rooty Rug

This unique rug has “roots” flowing through it which are stimulating but not overwhelming to the feet. It’s been easier to keep out in the middle of my living room floor than some of the other texture mats here because it doesn’t slip, and I love seeing my family intentionally walk right along the bumps (we intuitively love sensory stimulation!). It really does feel good on my feet.

Rooty Rug is on the pricey side for the size it is, but I was able to have VAT removed after I emailed in. My total was about $125 shipped, and it came quickly from the Czech Republic. I’ve searched for similar rugs closer to home, but this is all I could find! And I love to support small businesses who are trying to make the world a better place anyways.


Foam Rock Mat

Use code ANYA10 for 10% off your Toe Spacer purchase.

This “rock” mat from The Toe Spacer is made of a dense foam which means it’s not so hard and unforgiving on your feet as actual rocks. It also rolls up nicely and is a smallish size – so it’s good for small indoor spaces and for taking with you traveling or to the gym.

I wonder if the rocks will compress over time (haven’t noticed it happening yet), but overall I like it for some delicious foot texture without being too aggressive.


Pranamat Acupressure Mat

Coupon code ANYASREVIEWS gets you 10% off (automatically applied w/ a free gift at the link above)

The Pranamat is unlike anything else on this list. It mimics the “bed of nails” experience and can be quite intense, but I’ve been using it on my feet and back for a few months now and find it very intriguing. It’s currently most comfortable for me when I’m sitting (and not putting my full body weight on my feet). The little spikes bring loads of blood to the area and after using my feet feel totally alive. If I use it while standing, I wear socks and only tolerate it for a few minutes at a time.

Pranamat has a lot of literature explaining how to use their mats and the research that’s been done on them. They are quite an investment, but seem to be worth their salt. Besides being an effective product, they’re also sustainably made in the EU with non-toxic materials.


Xero Shoes Rox Mat

The Xero Shoes Rox Mat is only $15 and the most useful hunk of plastic I own. My BFF got it for me as a birthday gift years ago and have kept it at my bathroom sink ever since. I get a foot massage every time I brush my teeth or wash my hands! The hard bumps and grooves press on the tissue in your feet, moving and squishing all your tiny parts. It is hard and the bumps are big, so if your feet are still sensitive you might consider one of the softer options in this article.


Barefu Floor Dots

Barefu floor dots add uneven texture to your floor, and can be placed in the hallway, living room, or in front of a sink. They have a sticky back and become a permanent part of your home. Barefu sells a variety of products that serve to make your floor more foot friendly, all of which are made in a sustainable and beautiful wood. They are subtle and feel soft under foot, making them easy to adapt to if you’re new to the barefoot lifestyle.


Balance Beam

Another great tool to have in your house is a balance beam. Place it in your living room and get in the habit of walking across it whenever you pass! Balance beams challenge not only your foot strength, but your entire posterior chain (lower back down to your toes). And you can be creative with it to get continued benefit over time – try doing a dead lift, squat, or arm circles while you’re on it. Here are three options for ready made and high quality balance beams – all ship internationally:

Check out the Foot Collective on Instagram for inspiration on how to use balance beams! And, if you’re so inspired you can make yourself a cheap one with PVC pipe!


Balance Board

Another fun device I like to have in my house to inspire movement is a balance board. These can be technical and somewhat pricey, or really basic and affordable. I have both a Mobo board and a cheap wobble board – The Mobo I use for training, the wobble board is a fun way to get my family using their balance muscles without thinking too hard. Here are a few balance board options:


DIY Floor Texture

Making your home more foot-friendly does not require investing in new products. Oftentimes it’s just as simple as standing on something other than your floor! Here is a list of ideas that involve things you might already have in your house.

I have a few foam rollers around that I use for mobility training. They double as a balance beam for the whole family!
  • Throw all your couch cushions on the ground and walk over it
  • Scatter blocks, toys, and beads on the floor – Then pick it all up with your feet!
  • Fill a tub or tray with sand – You can stand in it while you wash your dishes!
  • If you use rugs in your house, get something with natural texture to it like a jute rug.
  • DIY your own rock mat

You don’t need to overthink it, but the simple act of walking on something besides your flat and level floor can yield many benefits to your body! What other fun indoor ideas do you have to add floor texture?

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Comments

11 thoughts on “How to Strengthen Your Feet With Floor Texture”

  1. Yay!! Thank you for this post — I was just looking for some of these types of things to add to my new office.

  2. Thank you for these product reviews! Some of these products are new to me and I’m very excited to try them. My son is disabled and the effects of his disability make it harder to get outside and be outside. At the same time, many of his difficulties are reduced and he benefits immensely when he gets high texture input on the bottoms of his feet (especially during activity, not just lying still). I have had a difficult time getting him what he needs. Before my son was born, my attitude was “just go outside to get ‘vitamin texture’ — nature has provided it perfectly” which is what was easy for me then, because of my body. I have learned a lot since then about barriers to outdoor access that millions of other bodies experience. I really really appreciate you thinking INSIDE the box, and/or rethinking the box.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing this! I need these reminders as well, that we all have unique circumstances and need to find ways to thrive within them. I am glad to hear you’ve found some ways to help your son with sensory input, even if it needs to be inside.

  3. A friend of a friend used to use cat litter in box (clean, of course). I have a shoe box of pea gravel under my desk that I use to massage my feet. And outside at the grill, I have a plastic door mat that is used to get the mud out of your shoes. It used to tickle, but now it feels so goooood!

  4. I got my Moboboard recently and love the addition so much! Need to add a balance beam for some vitamin movement during the long winter! Seems like the Woodumove Russian referral code isn’t working, FYI. Still appreciate the recommendation!

    1. Thank you for the heads up! I accidentally linked to the wrong website. It works on woodumove.com (i’ve changed the link out now for the correct one).

  5. Im loving all these ideas, and many are going on my Christmas list this year 😉
    I did notice however that the link for the Kone-X mat doesn’t take me to a website that sells this product. Thought you might want to know.

    1. Thank you! I checked in on it, and apparently there were a lot of production issues and that exact product has been pulled. Bummer! But there are some other good floor mat options available.

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Hi. I'm Anya.

Hi. I'm Anya.

I first discovered barefoot shoes after a long history of foot issues. By changing my footwear and strengthening my body I was able to completely transform my life. Anya’s Reviews is my way of sharing with the world that healthy feet are happy feet!

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