“I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees.” –  Henry David Thoreau

walking barefootOne of the most natural and primal things every healthy human being does is walk. Running is fine, but walking is one of the fullest expressions of our bipedal nature. And it is accomplished in its purest form when done barefoot.

Even Walking Barefoot is a “Thing”

While it is true that most humans have walked pretty much everywhere since they first started walking, it’s only been in the last few centuries that most of the population has worn shoes most of the time. While there may be room for debate, one could easily argue that for most of the known history of man, most walking was done either barefoot, or with very thin coverings around the feet.

Enter the modern shoe! Hard leather, rubber, plastic and who knows what has been used to shield our feet from the rough and even dangerous surface of the ground we must tread. And, with modern walking surfaces that are flat, hard and unforgiving, having shoes and boots with arch supports and cushioned soles are much-needed accessories.

Except that maybe they aren’t.

It turns out that there is a growing body of scientific evidence that suggests walking barefoot is a far more beneficial method of bipedal locomotion than with shoes on. And, walking barefoot on natural surfaces – not concrete or hard floors – is the truly healthy way to go.

In fact, there is a movement underway known as “Earthing” (or Grounding) that is quickly gaining ground (sorry for the pun!) worldwide.

Here is a brief explanation from the website Barefoot Healing,

“Years of extensive research has shown that connecting to the Earth’s natural energy, by walking barefoot on grass, sand, dirt or rock can diminish chronic pain, fatigue and other ailments that plague so many people today.  This connection is referred to as Earthing or Grounding.

To put it briefly, when your bare feet or skin comes in contact with the earth, free electrons are taken up into the body.  These electrons could be referred to as nature’s biggest antioxidants and help neutralise damaging excess free radicals that can lead to inflammation and disease in the body.”

While conducting natural energy may or may not be a provable interaction, there are a number of other benefits of walking barefoot.

Shoes May Do More Harm Than Good

We’ve noted in another post here that the custom of going about with our feet shod – that is, always wearing shoes – can lead to other bio-mechanical dysfunctions.

“Shoes support the foot, supporting the foot lessens the requirement for the foot to maintain its mechanics – so as the foot weakens from the shoe, the more the foot requires the shoe. Eventually the endgame is an orthotic, which completely interrupts the foots natural ability to pronate and alters the entire kinetic chain.”

Our bodies are designed to maintain a particular gait and much of this is determined by the placement of our feet on the ground, the length of our stride, and the texture and shape of the surface we are walking on. This is true for running, as well, and there is much evidence to support the idea that running barefoot is far more efficient and healthier than wearing cushioned running shoes.

In an article in Wired Science by Dylan Tweeny, he writes:

“Strong evidence shows that thickly cushioned running shoes have done nothing to prevent injury in the 30-odd years since Nike founder Bill Bowerman invented them, researchers say. Some smaller, earlier studies suggest that running in shoes may increase the risk of ankle sprains, plantar fasciitis and other injuries. Runners who wear cheap running shoes have fewer injuries than those wearing expensive trainers. Meanwhile, injuries plague 20 to 80 percent of regular runners every year.”

But there are other benefits to going barefoot beyond earth energy transfer and improved walking and running. According to a post at MBG Movement,

“One particularly compelling investigation, published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, found that earthing increases the surface charge of red blood cells. As a result, the cells avoid clumping, which decreases blood viscosity. High viscosity is a significant factor in heart disease, which is why so many people take blood thinning aspirin each day to improve their heart health. Another study in the same journal found that earthing may help regulate both the endocrine and nervous systems.”

A Bit of Comfort for Barefoot Beginners

While it may seem a bit counter-intuitive for people to gradually ease into something as natural as walking barefoot, most of us are far too tender-footed (and possibly flat-footed!) to just jump right into it one hundred percent.

Enter the foot glove shoe.

Perhaps you’ve seen these glove-like slipper shoes on others. They are often made for maximum comfort and the soles structured to allow for flexibility and create resistance on slippery surfaces.

The underside is elastic to allow full movement of your toes, which helps strengthen the muscles in your feet. This also helps to improve your balance. In addition, while being thin and flexible, they still protect your feet against rough terrain.

Glove shoes promote natural foot mechanics and helps strengthen your feet. Those with flat feet often find that it only takes a few weeks to get used to wearing the shoes. And the muscles in their feet will have adapted and improved in strength during that time.

So, whether you choose to step out in your full bare-footed glory and begin to experience the health benefits of “Earthing” or decide to ease into it with a cool pair of foot glove shoes, you will be taking a step in the right direction.

Walk In To See Us at Pain and Performance Solutions

At your first appointment here at Pain and Performance Solutions, we will learn all we can about your present pain and condition, along with any history of discomfort, as well as your current activity – or lack of it.

Treating and relieving pain starts once we understand where and how your pain started.

A full examination will help us determine which form of treatment is best suited to get you on your road to recovery. Your trust in us is key, as is your honesty. Ultimately, getting your body healthy and working properly is the only way to achieve total recovery. So, don’t hesitate to reach out. We are here to help and will answer any questions that you may have.

We will conduct a full examination to help us determine which form of treatment is best suited to put you on your road to recovery. Because our bodies will compensate for pain to allow us to function during our day, the pain can shift around and lead to other forms of pain.

Our goal is to work through the sequence of pain and dysfunction in order to get your body healthy and working properly, and to achieve total recovery. Don’t hesitate to reach out. We are here to help and will answer any questions that you may have.

You can reach us at (707) 636-4404 or by filling out our online contact form.