Balance 101 on Boats – Free Your Feet

Your balance is key to walking and climbing around on unstable docks, dinghies, and boats in motion. Master yoga instructor Charlotte Clews gives us a few foot exercises that will instantly help your balance, as well as your health.

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27 Responses So Far to “Balance 101 on Boats – Free Your Feet

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    Brad Babcock says:

    Once on my little Cape Cod Bullseye, I frequently go barefoot. That said, I can see where foot protection is a good idea on bigger boats with bigger stuff to hurt your feet, especially offshore sailing where an infection from a surprisingly small injury can get out of hand. Working with my father after he had an injury at his 5th cervical vertebra, I came to realize that even our little toes act like cat whisker feelers to help us make micro-adjustments to our balance. Go barefoot wherever it is practical and safe to do so.

    • David and Margaret Tew

      David and Margaret Tew says:

      Unless you have neuropathy! Wear shoes to avoid unnoticed injury and possible subsequent infection.

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    Doug Hennessy says:

    Charlotte Clews is my Foot Muse!!
    I have worked with my feet over the years, but never “shook hands’ with them. What an initially uncomfortable, but amazing way to wake up the facia. Thank you so much.
    Morning routine now is coffee….and feet. Thank you Charlotte.

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    Chris Stask says:

    Great foot workout Charlotte, I have had both knees replaced and still sailing in my 70’s. Thanks for the demonstrations.

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    Dale Niemann says:

    I learned a lot about my feet I did not know and came away with them feeling much better. I am going to try to incorporate my feet into my future workouts.
    Thank you so much for this video.

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    casey robinson says:

    So we start.
    Life is full of adventures and experiences.
    Even as close as going barefoot as often as we want or possible.
    I’ve done this all my life growing up on west coast and Hawaii.
    I wear shoes sailing only when it is too cold or in some cases too hot, as those who I’ve crewed for in PT will attest to with some surprise.
    It also helps with “spacial orientation” knowing what’s on the deck without looking and the ability to find foot holds that shoes might miss.
    Great message and something fun for us all to enjoy that is a gift of being human… :)

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    Frank Kieliszek says:

    I kept the rule to always have foot gear on when on deck. One night I wandered above deck barefoot to check the sky. A small wave upset my balance and I stepped down onto a jib sheet block. Boy, a gash in the base of your foot sure can bleed. That was a good way to shorten a vacation. Took a while to get back to port, then to the ER for sutures. Took weeks on crutches to let it heel.

    Bad things on boats seem to happen when they are least expected.

    For me it’s good foot gear when on the dock and on the boat.

    I bet these exercises are good for balance. Still protect your feet.

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    Nancy Davis says:

    Great video and such good tips. Never thought about ‘meeting the feet’. Also, vision is very important for balance, and anything we can do to help is most welcome!

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    Pierre DARDEL says:

    Thank you for this refreshing science for a better balance. Meeting your feet 🦶 is a key to find one’s own balance : it is as relevant for martial arts, aging and boating altogether ! 🤙😊

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    William Fanning says:

    Thanks again Charlotte! Another great yoga for boating post. And I’m taking this to my men’s yoga class too!

  • Antonio (Tony) Osse

    Antonio (Tony) Osse says:

    Always fun and informative videos guys!! Please find a way to help us, boatsanders, I mean, boatbuilders, to avoid shoulder tendinitis from sandind 12 hours a day!! :)

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    Paul Bould says:

    Wonerfull! Getting younger by the day, an I´m over 70.

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    Geoffrey Genther says:

    Spent most of my summers barefoot as a kid. Lots of slivers and cuts. But had a great time on the beaches and mud flats and running in the woods. By the end of summer the bottom of my feet were like shoe leather. No regrets and no damage to my feet.

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    Mal Botterill says:

    How many times did Steve do a backflip during this shoot? Seriously though great info hope it works with my arithicit and vintage back.

  • Steve Stone

    Steve Stone says:

    I totally understand and respect the sage advice of professionals in the Coast Guard and medical fields on the value of wearing shoes for protection, and as I get further afield from communication and self-rescue I get more conservative in my safety habits.

    But I’m going to put a voice in here for the benefits of bare feet. It’s something I’ve changed my thinking on. Here’s why:

    For me, one of life’s great pleasures is feeling the warm grass, beach sand, rough granite, and cushy moss beneath my feet. It’s one of the great treats of being on Maine’s islands, and feeling what’s around me more fully. Happiness is so UNmeasurable, but going barefoot on Maine’s islands actually made me happier, as if it was measurable.

    After growing up in the suburbs, so well-protected from the natural elements that I rarely felt them, I’m trying to transition to a life where I can feel those elements more. I find most kids, including mine, are growing up in too-protective bubbles these days, and so I find myself needing to fight my temptation to overprotect them while out in boats as well. Last summer my son asked if he could walk down a stream in the North Woods. I looked up and saw a mine-field of jagged rocks and slippery footing. “No”, I jumped to say… but I paused, and said: “Sure.” And watched closely. Five minutes later he’d jammed a broken-off branch stub two inches into his leg. Stupid dad? Smart dad? I don’t know. But it healed fine and he’s more cautious now. Had he slipped and hit his head, it would have been a different story.

    While shooting this video, I watched Eric’s great surprise as he felt his feet become active/alive and grab the dock. I felt this too when I did these exercises, it felt like it broke loose years of rigidity, and it was a big mindset transition in 15 minutes. I felt that I’d been missing a lot by having shoes on all the time. Here’s a little post I wrote — Barefoot August — on the less tangible benefits I found in going barefoot for a month. For island-hopping, I like to be barefoot, but I have a great pair of reef shoes always within reach in my ditty bag and I almost always grab them when landing on beaches unless it’s easy conditions and I’ve landed there before and know the bottom. This may well land me in the doctor’s office with who knows what jammed deep in my foot, but the enjoyment I have feeling the water and land more intimately in the meantime will be worth the trade-off.

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      Bill Hayward says:

      So glad I ran across this old post. I’m totally with you on this Steve. I’m just starting to learn that part of what feels so good about going barefoot is that we are electrically grounding, or earthing, our bodies when we do this. It brings a lot of tangible health benefits. There have been a lot of good medical studies done in the last decade or so on the benefits of grounding. Several good books out there and lots of information on youtube, etc. Clint Ober is a pioneer in this area and a good person to start with to learn more.

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    Robert hatcher says:

    There are lots of reasons not to go barefoot. Among them is the significant increase in foreign body wounds. As a foot surgeon for the last 38 years, I’ve taken out a bucket load of stuff from peoples feet. You name it, if it has a sharp point, I’ve removed it. I’ve even removed a knitting needle. My question to the patients is always the same. “If you had been wearing shoes, would you be here today?” You might be able to guess their answer.
    More concerning to me is the neuropathy issue which provides another layer of complexity to a foreign body puncture. Because of the lack of feeling these patients have, they are frequently unaware that they have stepped on something. By the time we see these patients they often have infections which require surgery or ,at best, long term antibiotics and disability.
    The best treatment for these problems is really prevention – just wear shoes except when you are in the shower!
    Bob Hatcher

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    John Wujack says:

    With all due respect, I concur with the Coast Guard’s recommendation and do not allow active passengers to go bare foot on my boat and more importantly, around wooden docks and remote, unknown beaches.. The need for quick, surefooted movement is better promised with a well engineered, “slip-proof” boat shoe/water shoe. A compromise might be those silly-looking shoes with toes, but who wants to take the time to sort their toes getting dressed? I certainly wouldn’t go barefoot in a foundry, workshop. Drop an anchor or chain on bare feet? Sunburn? Broken glass? No thanks. The marginal benefit doesn’t outweigh the risk.

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    Arthur Maroney says:

    U S Coast Guard, as I understand it, is anti bare feet on a boat due to the high risk of injury from the many obstacles aboard. Not a bad idea to ask their opinion at their academy in Connecticut where they have given Safety At Sea seminars.

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    William Lavender says:

    Thank you Charlotte! My feet feel great now!

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    Jon Gibney says:

    I have neuropathy in both feet, a side effect of chemotherapy. Will yoga help with this or just cause further nerve degeneration? I’m 71 years old and a cancer survivor.

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      Richard Williamson says:

      Jon, I just saw your post. I too am a cancer survivor. Had chemo in 1997. Among other side effects – neuropathy in both feet. it affected my balance everywhere, boat, basketball court (when I could still play in old farts league- 60 in a couple of months). The loss of balance due to chemo neuropathy was quite shocking. However, the answer is – YES yoga and other repetitive exercises will help. From my experience, you can relearn balance – to a point. Also, the neuropathy may lessen over time as some nerve pathways seem to regenerate (or you get used to it). Chemo neuropathy is not well understood by Docs and a VERY frustrating side effect of chemo treatment

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    Stephen Burne says:

    I feel like a new bulb has just been lit. Having Parkinson’s disease has kept me from being at ease on our floating docks and boats. Yoga has helped, but these foot exercises will make a huge difference… Thank you!

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    Warren A. Wheaton says:

    Who’da thunk it! Great info, Ms. Clews. Thanks!

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    Tom Morris says:

    I’m glad that no one else had arrived at the office this morning when I watched this video – how can you poison this site with those knuckleheads in a plastic dinghy?

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      Steve Stone says:

      Members, let us introduce you to Tom. He’s a friend with a plastic dinghy and a twisted sense of humor. Look for it/him throughout the site. Beware, slightly…

Charlotte Clews & Wild Open Heart


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