Here is a list of floor texture 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 of time (work, boo), 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!
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
Floor Texture (aka Uneven Terrain) does a few key things for your body.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 in my house.
1. Xero Shoes Rox Mat
The Xero Shoes Rox Mat is only $15 and the most useful hunk of plastic I own. I received mine as a 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 below.
2. Naboso Mat
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.
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3. Kone-X Mat
The Kone-X mat is also meant to be a nerve stimulator, but it is softer and compresses under foot. This is another great option for working at a standing desk, and is best for people whose feet are still sensitive to lots of texture. One fun thing about the Kone X Mat is it has many uses. You can cut it up and put it anywhere you like, or even roll it around a foam roller to get extra stimulation while you work on your fascia. It was invented by barefoot podiatrist and surgeon Dr Stephen Bui.
4. 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.
5. Muffik Floor Mats
These Muffik floor mats from Barefoot Kids UK 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.
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6. 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!
7. 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.
- 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 rocks – 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.
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?