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Not to mention the earthing benefits of bare feet
We take our feet for granted until they're injured. I persisted in running too many extra kilometres in my favourite running shoes until my feet told me to grade-up to new shoes.
As well as bringing out my new shoes, I decided to walk barefooted every day as a way of reconditioning my feet. That turned out to be a fortuitous decision, as I have now found out. You might like to give it a try.
When I decided to walk barefooted, I had no specific theory in mind. I just figured that having the bones, tendons and muscles of my feet moving across a natural surface - road, trail, and the beach in my case - would activate neuromuscular pathways that shoes don't.
I like the push up through my body from walking on sand
I've always liked the feeling of my feet working when pushing along the sand on the beach. That mild struggle that you feel when taking each step forward. You can feel that extra effort right up through your calves, quads and glutes.
Scientists say that it takes more than 2X the energy to walk on sand than a hard surface.
That difference between walking on shifty sand or hard cement is comparable to the difference between walking barefoot or in shoes. Barefoot walking activates more muscle groups from your toes right up to your head than walking in shoes.
Six benefits from walking barefooted
Healthline lists six benefits of walking barefoot as:
That is an impressive list - benefits gained by simply walking without shoes.
What really caught my attention was #2—maintaining good balance and body awareness is essential if we are to live actively for as long as possible.
Apparently, the barefoot running community know all about this. "Proprioception" is a favourite term among barefoot runners and fans of minimal shoes.
Sensing and balancing is improved - proprioception
Proprioception is the sensing of position, motion, and equilibrium - providing our brain with the inputs needed to maintain our balance. Good walking proprioception means your mind is in touch with the stimuli coming from your feet.
When we are barefoot regularly, the sensory feedback from the foot becomes more detailed and refined, allowing the foot and brain to fine-tune the chain of neuromuscular command. This is beneficial for our health for what is perhaps an obscure reason.
The obscure reason is this one. The more we use our nervous system, from our peripheral nerves right up through our central nervous system and into our brain, the healthier it stays.
This usage can stimulate the growth of nerves, and also have beneficial impacts on associated circulation and sensitivity.
Bare feet and earthing benefits
I was blissfully unaware, until now, that there is a branch of environmental medicine which includes the effect of direct physical contact with the earth.
This direct physical contact, called "earthing", has revealed surprisingly positive outcomes, including these (Research 2012):
The scientists concluded thus: 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. - Earthing: Health Implications of Reconnecting the Human Body to the Earth's Surface Electrons
The bottom line - hat's off to going barefooted
Little did I know that my old running shoes reaching their use-by date would lead me into the barefoot world, with a myriad of benefits.
While the most direct benefit from barefoot walking is that in theory, it more closely restores our 'natural' walking pattern, that benefit seems to be the lesser of the many others.
For me, the potential improvements in balance, body awareness are key, along with improvements in foot mechanics, strength and stability. As a runner, that list sounds fantastic.
My daily barefoot routine
I now walk barefooted daily:
If you have safe areas to walk barefooted give it a try. Start slowly if your feet are sensitive, and see if you like it.
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