By Jordyn Cormier
Oh my goodness, don’t your feet hurt?
Wow, good for you! I couldn’t do that.
I just went hiking barefoot for the first time. The reactions of those I met on trail were hilarious. Sure, barefoot hiking seems like a crunchy hippie thing to do, but you’d be astounded at the benefits. Our modern feet, mummified in rubber, have become soft, weak and ubiquitous. Tromping in our highly protective footwear down cement day after day, we’ve forgotten that walking barefoot on occasion is a completely valid way of walking—it’s not against the rules, at least not at home nor out in nature. In fact, youshould walk barefoot, because it is great for you.
Aren’t feet dirty and disgusting? Shouldn’t we keep them stashed away in shoes? Au contraire! Hiking barefoot is one of the most glorious experiences. Not only does it put you more deeply in touch with your surrounding environment, but it is so, so good for your feet. Oh, and did I mention it feels fantastic? Here are some great reasons to give barefoot hiking a try… at least once!
The most obvious reason for barefoot walking is the reward of strong, flexible, healthy feet. According to Harvard Health, 30 percent of older Americans suffer from foot pain and instability due to flat feet, claw toes and bunions. These are all highly preventable if you exercise your feet regularly. Think about it: your feet are the base of your entire body; they are often the point where you meet up with the earth. If your feet are strong, stabile and powerful, it sets the rest of your body up for proper alignment and proper biomechanics. The benefits work all the way up the leg, into your hips even! Additionally, strong feet helps you to improve your balance and reduce the incidence of falls, meaning there is less chance of accidental injury due to an imbalanced tumble.
Embrace the power of earthing.
Earthing is based on the theory that the earth contains energy, and by being in contact with it, it helps to balance our own energy and health. Studies have suggested that it’s possible earthing reduces inflammation in the body while improving blood flow after merely an hour of being in bare contact with the ground. It may sound a little unbelievable to you, but there is actually some solid research on the subject. Sunlight is beneficial to the body, why can’t the earth be, too? For a little more information on earthing, check out this great Care2 piece on the subject.
Slow yourself down.
If the health benefits don’t entice you, how about mindfulness benefits? Walking sans footwear means you can’t hurry through any sort of walk. No matter how tough your skin gets, pointy things still hurt. When walking barefoot, you have to maintain awareness of your surroundings and mentally plot where your foot can safely fall. This allows you to live a bit more in the moment and to truly absorb what is going on around you. In fact, it can be quite meditative, forcing your mind to quiet and concentrate on steadily putting one foot in front of the other.
If you’re not into walking barefoot, there is another way to keep your feet strong and limber—yoga. Not only does your yoga practice encourage you to take off your socks and go bare regularly, but it works your feet through every facet of their innate biomechanics. Your range of motion will gradually grow more fluid as the muscles and tendons are allowed to function as they were naturally intended. Yoga keeps those toes happy!
Rigid feet are weak feet. It’s time to appreciate your little buddies. They miraculously take you so many places! Keep them healthy by walking barefoot or practicing yoga regularly and they will serve you well.
Source: Care2 | not affiliated with Aetrex Worldwide