"Oh, I can never go barefoot! ... "
* It makes my ____ (arches, heels, ankles...) hurt.
* My feet/toes/nails are too ____ (ugly, crooked, knotty, long...)
* I have ____ (bunions, hammertoes, plantar fasciitis...)
* Bare feet are ____ (creepy, dirty, backward...)
* My doctor said I should never, I can't go without my orthotics, my mother never let us as kids, I hate the feel of anything on my feet, I might step on a bug or in dirt or poop or a nail, my feet would be cold, it's a health hazard....
Yes, I have heard all these arguments against going barefoot and others too. None of them sway me away from my barefoot habit! In Michigan, it's that time of year again. Here are two arguments about why we SHOULD go barefoot - at least part of the time.
It's How We're Made! The body is a mechanical masterpiece. A system of levers and pulleys and arches and columns that support us in a variety of positions and allow us to move. The feet in particular, both support our body weight and move it forward in space (and backward, in circles, side-to-side)! They are perfectly made to do so. Alone. Without the support of shoes, inserts, gels, orthotics or other paraphernalia. Think about it. When a part of the body is injured, we use crutches, splints, slings, casts, right? And then the part heals, we discard the temporary assistance and use the body part again as was intended. No other body part is subjected to the constant constriction-position-holding-changing contraptions when healthy that our feet are. We bring most of our foot problems on ourselves for lack of letting the feet be and do as they were born to be and do!
There are all sorts of variations on this argument and many benefits to be had from it. The strengthening and increased flexibility of hundreds of muscles, ligaments, bones and tendons that make up the feet is great all by itself. When your feet are happy and working optimally, that function moves up through your ankles, knees and hips. Remember the song - 'ankle bone connected to the (clap) knee bone' - it's all true! Positive, healthy impact in one place will lead to a healthy impact in another.
Happy, healthy feet are also pain free feet. Many of us know that when our feet hurt, everything seems to hurt!
Connection to the Earth. There is some study that says we are doing harm to ourselves by not being in regular physical contact with the Earth. It's not complete research and most of conventional science has not bought into this theory. But we do know there is an electromagnetic force to the earth. And there are electromagnetic forces in us. No one disputes that. This partly falls into the WHAT IF category of my thinking. What if it does make a difference to physically touch the earth each day? How hard can that be? And what's the downside? None! So why not? What if that's partly why we feel so great walking barefoot along the beach? Why it feels great to be on our hands and knees in the dirt of our gardens. Why lying our on backs in the grass with warm sun and blue skies above makes us smile. When these things are free and without side effects, why wouldn't we consider trying them? You can read more about 'earthing' here - Earthing Institute.
Pre-dating the official earthing business, the old naturopaths and nature cure docs often recommended walking barefoot in the grass. Especially first thing in the morning in the dew. It was believed to be of great benefit to overall health and vitality. In Chinese medicine, the Kidney meridian begins on the bottom of the feet and its first point is said to absorb the earth's energy into the body. Now how can it do that if we have it insulated up in shoes all the time?
How to Begin the Barefoot Habit. SLOWLY! If you haven't gone barefoot in years, giving up your shoes for your next 2 mile stroll around the neighborhood is not going to go well! One, the bottoms of your feet will be very tender and feel every pebble and twig, not to mention the roughness of the sidewalk! Two, the muscles, tendons and ligaments of your feet and ankles are like all the rest of the body. They will be sore when they are worked for the first time, especially if they're over-worked. So be kind and aware and start slowly. In between times, start massaging your feet and working on range of motion in your ankles and toes. Reintroduce your feet to movement!
Shoes. While shoes are often the original cause of foot trouble, they aren't going anywhere! Not everyone is as free as I to skip them as part of their every day wardrobe. But we can make healthier shoe choices. Skip the heels, give your toes plenty of room to move, and avoid shoes that hold your toes up. You'll see this, known as toe spring, in many athletic shoes. If the toe of the shoe doesn't touch the floor when it's sitting flat, your toes are being lifted. From the earthing perspective, natural substance soles help us with connection better than synthetic rubber which is insulating.
WellSpring has recently entered a relationship with the shoe company Juil. They make all leather shoes with copper buttons to help with grounding like we were actually barefoot. If you believe that earthing will help your health, they're an option to extend your barefoot time in shoes! If you don't, they're still cute sandals! You can check them out here. Juil - On Sale
Bottom Line - Our feet do an extraordinary amount of work for us every day. Let them out to play often! Soak and rub and pamper them. And let them occasionally feel the wonder of the Earth as we settle into this barefoot time of year! And tell me, when was the last time you went barefoot? Where were you? What's your favorite place to be barefoot?