I have spoken about the dangers of going barefoot in ‘Barefooting – The Dangers’, I now want to have a look at the benefits of going barefoot. I discussed the dangers first as this seems to be the most commonly asked questions when strangers approach me.
The dangers of going barefoot are factual, sharp stones, glass, cold etc. the benefits or reasons why people go barefoot however are far more subjective. There are probably as many reasons why people go barefoot as there are people without shoes (discounting third world countries).
Lower Back and Leg Pain
I know many people wander into barefooting for medical reasons. The most common conditions or irritations are back and lower limb joint pain of one sort or another; these people are normally but not exclusively runners.
We are all unique individuals with a unique make-up and design, we all walk differently, distribute our weight differently and move differently and there is no shoe designer that can accommodate every possible configuration and shape of the human body. This means that any shoe (unless you are extremely lucky) will cause you to alter your natural gait slightly, this can be seen in the way different people wear down the soles of their shoes differently. Going barefoot allows you to move naturally the way you were designed to, with altering your gait, this means that there is no unnatural pressure on the lower body, result no pain!
One benefit that is often reported is improved balance.
Here’s a little experiment for shoe wearers (it will need two people); With shoes on stand on one foot, without any support get a (trusted) friend to gently sway you side to side or back to front and notice how difficult or easy it is to maintain your balance. Now take your shoes (and socks off) and try again. This time you’ll find that with bare feet you’ll be able to keep your balance far better.
Walking barefoot increases both the flexibility and strength of the muscles in your feet (something that shoes have previously done for you). This increased strength is what gives you that additional balance. Have you have wondered why gymnasts compete barefoot?
Verrucas, Athletes Foot, Corns and Other Nastiness
Most complaints of this nature come from having your feet in warm, damp conditions for prolonged periods. Obviously being barefoot allows the foot to naturally condition itself and provides an environment where these conditions cannot survive let alone thrive.
Not all conditions of this nature are caused by the warm damp conditions in a shoe, some are caused by the shoe itself, especially if you have unusually shaped feet that don’t fit into shoes. The shoe can and does apply pressure to certain parts of the foot resulting in corns and bunions. No shoe, no corns!
Also it is recognised that being barefoot helps those with flat foot, due to the strengthening of the foot muscles from being shoeless.
The reason why I started barefooting was a more spiritual reason. To cut a long story short I went on week’s Shamanic retreat where the Apache trained Shaman actively encouraged us to go barefoot for the week… and I just never put shoes back on! The primary reason why we were encouraged to go barefoot was so that we could feel the ground beneath our feet, so that we could walk with Nature with the minimum amount of disturbance. It is almost impossible to walk through a wood with complete anonymity with any form of footwear on.
Being barefoot, especially in Nature, does give you a direct and physical connection to the Earth and Nature. It literally grounds and in some cases energies you. Remaining grounded, which is quite literally that, achieving an energetic or electrically neutral state, is I believe a most fundamental part of our overall well-being.
There are any number of Spiritual practices that recommend being barefoot, and I have spoken of one on here before; Sun Gazing.
Shoes have often been seen as a symbol of civilisation. However if you look at the majority of the Earth’s indigenous cultures they are all barefoot! Some of these indigenous cultures are anything but uncivilised; take the Ancient Egyptians although they had sandals they were reserved for special occasions only. There are still cultures in the modern world where barefooting is a part of everyday life; New Zealand and Australia are prime examples.
It is a perfectly natural state to be in, and before anyone says “so is being naked!” a bare foot is more socially acceptable than a bare backside!
I Like It!
Finally, we come to the reason cited by most; they just plain like the feeling of the ground beneath a bare sole.
Being barefoot does allow you to feel, or as the Shaman told us, see with your feet (this is true if you walk through a wood at night under a New Moon with no artificial light, the only way you can stay on the tracks is by seeing with your bare feet!)
The change in texture and temperature under foot as you move through any terrain be it a city street or a remote forest is one of the most amazing feelings that you can have, try it you might be surprised
Are You Barefoot?
Before I finish I must say that I am NOT a medical person and as such some of my comments relating foot pathology and physiology are all from the research that I done and I cannot testify to them being medically correct.
So are you a barefooter? If so please tell us why you started out on the barefoot lifestyle.