I’ve noticed something today: I walk around a lot with bare feet. I never really thought about it but I do. Maybe it’s just me being lazy putting on shoes but as soon as the temperatures allow it, I take my shoes off. Upon realising this I did some research and there are some surprising benefits to walking barefoot.
What scientists say about the benefits of walking barefoot
As part of a study in environmental medicine, researchers from the University of California found that walking barefoot can have numerous positive effects. It can help to reduce pain, contribute to better sleep, reduce stress levels, and it can even have a blood-thinning effect. These are results of a reconnection with our physical environment because a “(r)econnection with the Earth’s electrons has been found to promote intriguing physiological changes and subjective reports of well-being.”
The trick behind it is called Earthing. Maybe it’s easier to speak of grounding or just a physical reconnection with the earth. Walking barefoot is only one possibility to achieve Earthing and it’s the simplest. For example can any layer of material such as in shoes interrupt a reconnection.
There is a (for me) surprisingly large body of research which looks at grounding or Earthing. These studies look at the health benefits of physical contact with our natural environment. Most speak of our earth’s surface electrons which can even act as antioxidants. In light of this research, claims other bloggers raise which talk about walking barefoot as an energy booster and that it can help to balance our biological rhythms don’t seem so impossible anymore.
Applications of walking barefoot
Well, all recent research seems a little less surprising if you know of a therapist called Sebastian Kneipp. His main philosophy can be summed up as “Nature is the best pharmacy” and although Kneipp has become an international brand, the main ideas still stick. And one of those ideas is to walk around with bare feet, often in association with water.
Kneipp might not have called the act of walking barefoot an exercise in grounding or Earthing but the principle is the same. And Kneipp treatments of walking through water, over stones, grass, wood and other natural surfaces have been around in my life, although always in the background
Why I walk with bare feet
Truth be told, I didn’t know of the positive effects of walking barefoot on my body. I have played in our local Kneipp pools as a teenager because it was fun. I’ve never done it seriously and for any health reasons.
The reason I walk barefoot is simply that I enjoy it. I love the feel of warm wood, cold stone, and moist soil on my feet. At the beach, the first thing I do is to take off my shoes. I usually walk around the house in bare feet.
I also walk barefoot because it strengthens my feet. A few years ago I got pain in my middle foot from wearing the wrong shoes. I had to do some strengthening exercise to cure that (and wear different shoes). Since then I take care that it doesn’t happen again.
And one way to do so is to walk barefoot. Walking with bare feet strengthens the small muscles in our feet, the ones responsible for our posture and overall foot health.
Of course, walking barefoot has had its drawbacks. I still have a splinter of glass in my foot which I got when my daughter broke a glass on our kitchen floor. I routinely step onto lego or other small toys lying around. And I tend to get very dirty feet after a day of walking barefoot.
But all that can’t outweigh the benefits of walking with bare feet. It gives me a stronger sense of standing in the room, a more secure stand, and a better understanding of where I stand in life.