FIX IT! 11 Oct 2012
We barefoot train at Lithe. Because we don't have shoes providing protection and structure for the feet, we tend to hold a bit more tension in the intrinsic muscles of our feet when new to Lithing. Your body is looking for a sense of stability in this shoeless mode, so your natural tendency is to get your feet to create that stability you're used to feeling in shoes by curling the toes under, OR over-flexing/over-pointing the toes rather than pointing or flexing from the ankle joint. Like our shoulders creep up to compensate (and cheat) for our abs, this incorrect foot position is a cheat for the core!
If you can feel the tension in your feet while you're doing ab, barre work or band work, you can train yourself to relax your lower legs and resist a tendency to hold tension in your feet and toes. Think about using your core, as your power should come from within. As you can see in the incorrect image above, the smallest muscles and bones of the feet are acting to support the weight of the body. The support should fall to the largest bones (the femurs, pelvis and spine) and if you're standing, the job of propulsion and movement should fall to the strongest muscles (the core muscles) assisted by the pull of gravity, and not to the metatarsals.
Image of Lithe Instructor, Shannon Graham, in Hot Legs via Dom