the premise behind saying an overhead squat will strengthen you for barefoot running has nothing to do with the feet. the movement puts a lot of stress on the quads as well as the lower back. both of these muscle groups get a lot of attention in a barefoot running form. The quads get a lot of use and need to be strong because a barefoot runner will typically not have an extended leg when they make contact with the ground. that bend in the knee will make the quads contract and an over head squat will do more strengthening in the quads than other leg exercises.
Gotcha. I'm not a coach or trainer, so I don't have their broad perspective. My own experience, based on my original transition from structured shoes to sandals/VFFs/bare feet a few years ago (and on my seasonal shifts in exercise and activity) has been different. The weakest links for me have never been quads or lower back, but feet, ankles and calves.
I've been doing a lot of mountain biking lately, so my feet and legs are not as trail-toughened as they have been at other times. But recently I busted out and did an 8+ mile trail run in VFFs (blame Born to Run
) and experienced only a little calf tightness thanks (I believe) to having TGUs in my regular exercise rotation. Quads were loafing throughout the run, and I didn't register any lower-back issues.
Anyhow, I didn't mean to criticize the choice of overhead squats for barefoot runners looking to correct a deficiency or improve performance by getting their quads and back in shape. Just seems to me that the priority for the majority of runners transitioning to barefoot ought to be areas with the most serious deficiencies. By my experience and many of the 'ouch' threads on the board, those are feet/ankles/calves.
Besides, enthusiasm for overhead barbell squats is usually dampened first by that minor shoulder tweak that starts as just an annoyance and then...