We all know shoes are great! They keep our feet safe from the cold, the dirt, and diseases.
But think about how differently you walk when you are barefoot. The foot lands almost flat. It rolls through the step, and the toes push off. The creation of the modern shoe, with its thick sole and heightened heel, has caused us to change the way we walk and research has shown this puts much more strain on our joints, especially our knees.
In shoes, we take longer strides and impact the ground heel-first. Due to the general rigidity of the shoe sole, we don't really ‘roll’ through the step and instead of pushing off with our toes to create our next step, we tend to use the strength of the leg to lift the foot off the ground and the foot muscles and toes become inflexible.
Although our bodies are designed to walk barefoot, we don’t ‘develop’ to walk barefoot as we wear shoes from such a young age. Over time, our posture and centre of gravity get changed. The design of the modern shoe means we develop ‘too long in the front body and too short in the back body’, hence the tight hamstrings and painful lower back muscles.
Also, just because we are designed to walk barefoot, doesn’t mean we slip into walking correctly if our shoes are off. Our bodies are now developed to walk in shoes. It takes effort and practice to strengthen and lengthen those important muscles for you to start to improve your posture, balance and general good health. I often find my hips and legs ache that first week of summer, when my winter boots are tossed aside and I roam barefoot, as my muscles are getting woken up and they are not always happy about it.
Reflexology is the process of stimulating the body's own natural healing process by applying pressure to certain points on the soles of our feet which correspond to different organs and internal systems. So by walking barefoot, especially over uneven terrain, you are enjoying a spot of nature’s reflexology too!
Walking barefoot, especially on natural surfaces like soil, sand and grass, is also known as "earthing" and has gone from being a ‘hippy’ custom to a scientifically-researched practice with a number of remarkable health benefits.
Emerging research is revealing that direct physical contact with the intense negative charge carried by the Earth can have surprisingly positive effects on our health. This charge is electron-rich, and reconnecting with the Earth’s electrons has been found to promote intriguing physiological changes and subjective reports of wellbeing. But how does it work? As you walk around day-to-day, you build up a positive charge in your cells. Back when we were all walking around barefoot, working with the soil and sleeping on the ground, this wasn’t an issue. Direct contact with the earth cancelled out the positive charge and left us neutral. But now that we wear rubber-soled shoes and sleep indoors, we are insulated from the earth, and our bodies don’t return to neutral. You just keep building up a positive charge, which is thought to sap your energy and causes inflammation and disease.
A study published in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health suggested that earthing could offer a potential treatment for a variety of heath problems. It concluded that “the research done to date supports the concept that grounding or earthing the human body may be an essential element in the health equation along with sunshine, clean air and water, nutritious food, and physical activity.”
So maybe taking advantage of this delicious warm, sunny weather and getting those toes out is having an even more positive effect than just absorbing lots of sunshine, let’s say, it’s more like sunshine squared :)