The benefits of walking barefoot
I have a confession to make.
I'm a no-good barefoot hippy fighting the man and sporting questionable bathing habits.
But the barefoot part is true.
For the majority of my early life, I wore shoes nearly every day, but now that I am older I choose to wear them less and less.
I didn't do it for any real reason at first, I maybe noticed that I didn't get athlete's foot as often when going barefoot and that my back didn't ache as much.
Over the years though, more and more research has come out about the benefits of going barefoot. Both from biomechanically, and the slightly more woo-woo grounding benefits.
If you are suffering from aches and pains have a look at some of the benefits below. Maybe going barefoot is for you too...
A study by the National Institutes of Health found that placing your bare feet on the ground can improve the quality of your sleep. It does this by changing the electrical activity in your brain, increasing feelings of relaxation and well-being.
A daily grounding ritual, every morning will have the added benefit of resetting your biological clock. Having a robust and healthy biological clock makes it easy to develop healthy sleeping patterns. You naturally wake up alert and ready in the morning and feel tired at the right time every night.
Making it a habit to spend a few minutes grounding each morning will maximize the benefit of the practice.
If you have been having issues sleeping, ditch the shoes and see the benefits yourself.
Helps Reduce Pain
Another surprising benefit of daily barefoot walking is less pain. This reduction in pain is caused by two main factors:
- A reduction in free radicals due to grounding.
- Changes in gait.
Most modern shoes are too narrow and have too much cushioning. This hinders the foot's ability to move correctly and leads to compensations elsewhere in the body.
Changing your shoes to more minimalist options or ditching them entirely will provide instant relief. Most hip, knee, back, and neck pain stems from poor biomechanical movement. Making changes at the base can benefit the whole system.
Changing your shoes can also help with a whole host of other problems. Bunions, hammertoe, corns, and calluses are all linked to poorly fitted and designed shoes.
Spending time barefoot and performing a few remedial exercises every day can slow down, stop or even reverse a lot of these conditions
Free foot reflexology
It blows my mind that people will pay hard-earned money to have someone massage their feet for them. 15minutes of intentional walking on uneven ground has the same effect. possibly even more!
All those small pebbles, branches, bigger stones, and cracks in the ground are equal to the best trigger point therapy.
Human feet have 26 bones and 33 joints each. That is about a third of all the bones in the whole body. Each joint was designed to move but modern shoes don't allow much movement at all. It isn't any surprise that so many people get benefits from a small massage.
Intentionally walking barefoot every day provides the following benefits:
- Improved blood circulation
- Improved foot health and function
- Better Sleep
- Pain Reduction
- Decreased swelling and inflammation in the feet
- Relaxes you
- Increases your mood and reduces feelings of depression
Take the time to walk outside barefoot and pay attention to the textures and feelings of walking on every surface. I guarantee any worries you may be holding will just melt away.
How to transition to barefoot
Most people can't just ditch their shoes and start walking around barefoot. Only if they want to get an injury or broken bone (trust me it isn't fun.) Years of cushy shoes and no movement have weakened the foot to the point people NEED the cushioning to walk.
All is not lost though.
A few simple steps and some patience can have anyone walking barefoot in no time.
Patience is key here. Start with short walks of 15 to 20 minutes barefoot. If you want to keep walking, bring your old cushioned shoes and put them on. Allow your feet time to adapt to the new stress being put on them. As they adapt, you can slowly increase the distance and time you spend barefoot. Eventually, you should be able to walk for 30 to 45 minutes without any pain or fatigue.
The point here is not to get perfection but to allow your feet to adapt in the safest way possible. A lot of people get discouraged quickly after getting an injury walking barefoot. Don't let your impatience cause the same mistake.
Assess any new pain or discomfort.
While walking barefoot will be fun and exciting the more you do it, you still need to be wary of any poor mechanics you may have developed over the years.
Take time to assess any aches and pains you may be feeling during and after any walk. If your feet feel particularly tired after a walk, or, you feel any pain. Take a day off or go for shorter walks. Learning to ease up and listen to your body will benefit you in the long run.
It may seem overkill but it may be best to start indoors first. So many people still choose to wear shoes while at home, robbing their feet of a perfect opportunity to move and spread out.
When home makes it a point to walk around barefoot without socks. This will help them move completely uninhibited and also allow them to get used to colder surfaces.
Use minimalist shoes.
Although barefoot is best, you can't go barefoot everywhere. Investing in a few pairs of minimalist shoes (shoes with a wide toe box and no heel raise or cushioning) will allow you to continue to develop your feet without alienating you from society. There are more and more brands making amazing shoes every day. Check them out!
Do daily foot exercises.
As mentioned above, your feet have a lot of joints and tendons that need strengthening. Doing 15 minutes of balance exercises and rolling your feet on a lacrosse ball, will help stretch and strengthen your feet. Speeding your progress and reducing your chances of injury.