Did you know that direct, barefoot contact with the earth has enormous health benefits?
Walking barefoot has been proven to:
Reduce inflammation and pain. Ever heard of magnets to help with inflammation and pain? Well the earth is a giant magnet that freely lets you absorb negative ions through direct contact. These ions ground positive charges. Think of it as grounding an electrical charge, the earth absorbs and pulls the energy to calm the wire. Your body has an electrical current as well, think of an EKG for example. The human body is exposed to so many electrical signals it can contribute to pain and inflammation. Grounding with the Earth helps to calm the electrical current in the body, neutralizing free radicals and reducing chronic and acute inflammation.
Boost self-healing mechanisms and feedback. Modern shoes contribute to all sorts of problems including osteoarthritis, pain in the knee-hip-back, bunions, and overall lower extremity weakness. Studies have shown that part of the reason for this is that shoes block important nerve feedback from the feet. The feet are full of nerve endings that send important feedback to the brain about the terrain and temperature. Without this feedback, the brain cannot properly adjust position and gait to match the environment. Shoes block this feedback.
Improve sleep. With the reduction in pain and inflammation, comes easier rest for the body and mind. This goes for sleep improvement, and reduction of anxiety. Absorbing the negative ions from the earth by walking barefoot helps to retune or balance your circadian rhythms. This works in two ways, firstly it helps regulate cortisol, the stress hormone that disrupts sleep and our immunity. Second it calms and resets the “diurnal electrical rhythms” that set the biological clocks and hormones that regulate sleep and activity. So in addition to improving sleep…walking barefoot on the earth also boosts energy.
Boosts foot and leg strength. Shoes, especially athletic shoes/running shoes, and shoes with orthotic inserts are basically casts for your feet. Have you ever seen someones skinny weak arm or leg come out of a cast after breaking a bone? You get the same effect in shoes. That lack of foot strength reduces leg, foot, and ankle stability. By removing your shoes, and walking barefoot as much as possible, you strengthen the foot, arch, ankles, legs, and hips…which helps your back too. I have clients who have actually gone down an entire shoe size, with foot strengthening from simply loosing the foot cast…aka shoes.
But I’m a diabetic, what can I do?
Don’t worry! I have 2 solutions for you… first, rather than walking barefoot, pull up a chair and sit with bare feet touching the earth. This works for everyone, but is a good work around for diabetics.
The second, and you can read more below, is to wear barefoot shoes. Even those that aren’t diabetic should consider barefoot shoes for when shoes are a must.
I live in a climate that is so hot the concrete burns feet? (or too cold!) How can I enjoy the benefits?
My solution is barefoot shoes! This doesn’t replace the barefoot to earth contact, but it does allow for SOME of the benefits. Remember, being barefoot is BEST. When you are looking for shoes, for the kiddos too, look for shoes that:
- are the same thickness and flat from heel to toe. You want to only wear shoes that do not have a raised heel.
- have an open toe OR allow for toe movement. Meaning the toe box is not pointed or narrowed, it allows for free movement.
You may find these shoes called barefoot or minimalist shoes. All barefoot shoes are minimalist, but not all minimalist are barefoot. Some of my favorite brands are Xero shoes and Vibrams. They come in a variety of styles to suit almost any need and climate. Additionally, and this is a great way to get started, water shoes are a good example of a barefoot or minimalist shoe. You will often find my family and I in our water shoes hiking, paddling, or walking around the grocery store. You can find them for less than $5 too!
Get started barefoot today! Even just 5 minutes a day can help! Make it a point to add this to your routine.