I’ve started walking every day without any shoes on. It was a little experiment at first, but now it’s like a little hobby. I just like the feeling of my feet on the ground. Whatever the surface.. Grass, Tarmac, Soil or sand.
It feels really nice, but there are actually a lot of surprising health benefits to walking barefoot. These benefits come from the position of your feet when they’re not guided by shoes, and the connection between your feet and the earth. Here are some of the main benefits of walking barefoot..
1 – Being free and enjoying the experience of walking
When you walk without shoes, you’re not really experiencing the surface. It’s pretty obvious, but you’re not connecting with the ground, and you’re less aware of the amazing textures of the ground.
I know some of you will be thinking this is some sort of hippie ‘new age’ nonsense, but think about it in this way, if life is a one time thing, this is all we’ve got, wouldn’t you want to enjoy it to the best of your ability? Exactly. And I’m telling you, the feeling of your bare feet walking through warm sand or soft grass is amazing.
It feels so sensual and relaxing, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start walking barefoot years ago. There are of course some dangers to walking barefoot, and these will be discussed a bit later on.
2 – Grounding yourself, or ‘Earthing’
So this is probably the most attractive benefit to walking barefoot. Grounding.
Consider that in your body, there are a certain number of ‘free radicals’ which are the leftover particles associated with inflammation. These particles create lots of stress and discord within your body when there are too many of them, and if untreated usually leads to chronic problems and ailments. These free radicals have a positive charge.
The earth meanwhile, has a NEGATIVE charge. (the free radicals have a positive charge). This means when you come into contact with the earth, with your bare feet, you’re discharging yourself, and this means you’re allowing all the excess energy to go into the ground.
Doing this for about 30-60 minutes a day will allow you a vast improvement in your energy and overall well being. You’ll feel less lethargic and more able to go and do things. You’ll have a much lower level of inflammation and you’ll even sleep better.
3 – Your posture and the movement of your feet
I’ve read in a number of places that walking barefoot improves your posture and your natural gait.
Your gait is the natural distance or movement of your stride when you walk or run. It affects your susceptibility to injury, and also your other joints connected to your feet, such as your knees and hips. Having a natural gait allows you to walk naturally and with a lower rate of injury, in general.
By walking barefoot, you experience a more natural gait, because you aren’t able to take large bounding strides, as you’d hurt your feet. This means you are forced to take a smaller stride, and think more carefully about your foot placement. Because your feet are exposed to the elements and the objects on the ground, you’re made to take a natural, safe step.
From what I’ve experienced in my few weeks of walking barefoot, and from when I used to walk barefoot as a kid, it works. Just after one or two days of walking in this way you’ll see that you take much more natural, safe strides when you walk. I haven’t tried barefoot running, but that’s for other reasons. I’m told that it is very good for your joints to run barefoot, as you experience less impact.
Possible dangers of walking barefoot
There are some inherent dangers associated with walking shoeless. Of course, you’re more susceptible to sharp objects like thorns or flint cutting your feet.
Now, this is a difficult thing to discuss, as everyone has a sightly different opinion, but I’m going to share some of my experiences with this, and you can make your own mind up regarding whether or not walking without shoes is dangerous. So, when you first start walking barefoot, you’ll find that your feet are not strong enough or tough enough to walk on most surfaces for longer than about 5 minutes.
This is because you’ve spent your whole life waking within the sweaty confines of a shoe and socks. Your feet have grown weak as a result of you wearing shoes. If you didn’t wear shoes, your feet would be much stronger. So when you first start walking, you need to build it up slowly, or you’ll get blisters and all sorts of nasty things. Take it a day at a time, and try to increase the distance you walk gradually.
Walking barefoot in winter?
If you walk barefoot, your feet will be relatively safe. You won’t get ‘cut up’ or whatever you’re worried about, because you’ll develop a natural armoring on your feet. HOWEVER, it’s different in winter.
In winter, when it’s raining, cold, and wet almost all the time (depending on where you are) your feet are more exposed and vulnerable. You shouldn’t really walk barefoot in winter, because as you know, when your feet get wet, they soften. Think back to when you stayed in the bath for too long, your feet shrivel and become soft, right?
Exactly. You wouldn’t then want to walk across some sharp gravel, would you? your feet would get damaged.
Use common sense with this, your feet DO develop a strength and a natural coating of tough skin if you walk barefoot, BUT in winter, this is broken down by the moisture. Also, if it’s particularly cold you could get frostbite as a result of the blood in your feet freezing or becoming clogged. This is BAD. don’t walk barefoot in winter.
Sharp objects hurting your feet?
A common concern is that sharp objects will cut into your feet without shoes. So what did we do before shoes were invented?
Just sit around and not walk anywhere? Of course not. We walked barefoot, in fact many cultures still do. In countries where shoes are available some entire communities just choose not to wear them. After all, we don’t NEED them, it’s only because society has deemed them the norm that everyone wears them.
Walking barefoot for 3 months will give you a type of ‘armor’ in the form of tough skin on your soles of your feet. Now don’t worry, this isn’t some sort of sandpaper dragon skin type thing, it’s much like leather. Your skin only on the soles of your feet becomes like leather, soft to touch, but very touch if you try to pierce it.
I used to walk barefoot every day as a young adult, and after a few months I accidentally stepped on an upturned drawing pin in my room. Ironic right?! The one thing I step on is not on the ground outside, but in my own room. The pin pierced the skin about 1cm or so, (of course it did, it’s a pin, and I put all my weight onto it) BUT, this is the interesting thing.
It didn’t hurt. There was no blood, and after pulling it out, it was like it never happened. The skin and muscles etc around the foot were so tough that it was like it didn’t happen. Now, based on simple physics, if you step on a metal pin, it normally is going to pierce your skin. That’s common sense, BUT you’d be surprised how much your foot can resist in nature.
I used to frequently walk through country foot paths, sometimes with conker shells littering the ground. It didn’t even phase me, as my feet had become immune to the sharp objects found on the floor. Despite what you may think, most objects on the ground aren’t that sharp when you have tough feet. Nettles, thorns, conker shells, gravel, and even glass doesn’t tend to affect you AT ALL when you’ve built up your foot armor.
The start my barefoot journey
So, after reliving the experience of freedom that I had as a child, I’ve decided to go barefoot again this summer. In winter, it’s slightly harder to do, as the moisture and cold make your feet MUCH more vulnerable to damage. For the summer, and the dry parts of winter however, I’ll be barefoot.
I invite you to try it as well, if not for a lifetime, for one summer. Start slowly like I said, but build it up! It’s a great experience and you’ll enjoy the benefits such as being grounded and feeling less inflammation. I’ll keep you updates with my experiences of going barefoot on here, but until then, try it out!