“What spirit is so empty and blind, that it cannot grasp the fact that a human foot is more noble than the shoe and human skin more beautiful than the garment with which it is clothed.” Michelangelo
So we touched on some of the benefits of barefootin’, in the previous post. The feedback we received from that post was great both in the world of social media(grrr..) and in person(yes!). Many people had personal stories that nailed home the concept of going barefoot not just as “barefoot running” but just going barefoot during other times. Many of the stories sounded like testimonials to some higher power with people improving balance and eliminating pain through the simple act of taking off their shoes.
But where do you begin if you want to start a journey in barefoot exploration? What are the dangers? Benefits and even legalities of doing so? Well, here are some ideas.
1.Start small– For some it just starts with a simple act of taking the shoes off around the house in an area that is very known and relatively controlled. This is a great place to start for folks that aren’t willing to bite off more than they can chew. Your lawn or yard or heck your back deck or hardwood floors can serve as an initiation to the estimated 70,000 nerve endings in each foot. People need to break in their feet incrementally and build up their feet to be able to handle greater terrain challenges.
2. Be regular– Instead of going for a long hike right off the bat, go for shorter regular break in periods giving the feet plenty of time to recover. Feel your feet not only becoming stronger but also possibly the foot and ankle complex which will result in improvements in balance and proprioception, coordination and even joint function among other benefits. But as with everything in our bodies, regular is good but think about varying the intensity of sessions. I can really feel my feet “talking” after a long hike or a full day in the woods barefoot so the next day will time to back off and let them recover and heal so they can come back even stronger and more resilient.
3.Pay attention!-one of the great things about taking off your shoes is that you will start to PAY ATTENTION! You aren’t bumbling along blindly dragging your feet, you really need to look ahead and plan out your steps. This can be an extremely rewarding experience and can turn a simple walk or hike into a real movement adventure. As you go from the break in period to being ready for greater adventures, the need for awareness increases contrary to what you may think. Yes your feet are built up but just like with knives, chainsaw’s and many things in life, it is often when we get too confident and take things for granted, things can fall apart real quick. The dull knife being more dangerous than a sharp one scenario. Just this week, I’ve had some close calls with glass in areas that I assumed were safe and where my attention had lapsed a bit…stay focused!
4. “Know before you go“- Knowing the terrain you will be walking, trekking, etc. in can be a good practice for sure. Beaches for example can be an area that seem like a “no brainer”, but actually can be fairly risky with both man-made hazards such as glass, metal and even needles etc. in addition to sharp shells, rocks and wood. So sometimes it can be good practice to have some footwear on at first until you know an area and once you feel ready and willing to take em’ off, do so.
Yes this world is not as pristine as it once was and as opposed to our ancient forefathers having to dodge large scary animals looking to eat them, we conversely have to mostly watch out for our fellow bipeds.
Get to it!
So it really comes to you and what you want from the experience. Improved musculature in the feet and legs vs. atrophy and weakness. Awakening the numerous nerve endings at the entry point of our connection to the earth. Strengthening the very foundation of our great temples. A tactile connection that has been ingrained in us for most of our existence on earth. Whatever it may be, make it yours and maybe bring even more attention and engagement to your game by kicking off the shoes and getting grounded!