As a child, I felt a sense of freedom the moment I came home on the last day of school. I took my shoes and socks off and ran outside barefoot. Shoes represented discipline and structure and being barefoot allowed me to be free and experience life in a way that made me very happy.
A couple of years ago, while sitting on a rock by the shores of Lake Couchiching, I felt a surge of energy go into my body from the soles of my feet. That was the day I started to go barefoot. At first, the soles of my feet were so tender and I could only walk for about five minutes at a time outdoors. Putting our bare feet on the ground has so many positive effects that it almost seems like it’s too good to be true. And it’s free.
For years now I have been focused on a holistic approach to life that includes meditation, yoga and exercise, an organic food diet, alternative medicine, natural healing modalities, and an integrated East/West philosophy that includes love, compassion and gratitude as core virtues. In my efforts to be disciplined and rigorous about using natural products, I now believe I was forgetting one of the most important elements of all: connecting with the Great Mother Earth.
Walking barefoot I discovered that the soles of my feet are like a new set of eyes. We have almost as many sensory nerve endings in our feet as we do in our spine, as seen in the practice of reflexology. They can impact all of the main systems in our body including the cardio and nervous systems. They “read” the terrain, humidity and temperature of the area we are walking on and take in all of the sensations to determine how hard to place the food down, how to balance the body, how much blood is needed in the feet to keep them warm, and much more. In the winter I develop a pad of brown fat on the bottom of my feet to keep them warm when I’m walking in the cold. If we are wearing shoes, they can’t do that work efficiently and over many years, the sensory nerves can actually stop functioning.
The fear of stepping on glass or getting a disease from walking barefoot is so prevalent in our society that people wear shoes all the time and this cuts us off from connecting to the ground. Walking barefoot I have noticed that there is very little broken glass because most of our society uses so much plastic. By being barefoot, I am slowly exposing myself to more in an effort to build resistance to disease. Besides, the sun’s UV rays clean and act as an antibacterial to keep the streets and forest trails clean, and then the rain washes away anything that is missed. It’s a perfect cycle.
After only a few months after going barefoot my posture and balance improved and the inflammation in my body was reduced. The stiffness disappeared and the bottoms of my feet were no longer ultra sensitive to everything I stepped on. The most dramatic change was that my allergies to dogs and cats, which often flared up in an asthma attack, virtually disappeared. Clinton Ober and his team at the Earthing Institute suggest that since our bodies are electrically conducive and there is evidence that shows the influx of electrons received through direct contact with the earth neutralizes free radicals and in return it reduces inflammation. The only change I made in my life was I started walking barefoot in the forest a few times a week and this made a significant change in my life.
Through this practice I learned that my body wanted to heal itself. Ironically, I felt more in control of my health with Mother Earth on my side. I trusted she knew what my body needed to be healthy. This spring I will be participating in the Barnyard Community Garden and I recently learned that when we garden barefoot the soil reads what our body needs and provides that in the food we grow.
You can integrate this forgotten component of a holistic approach to life by putting your feet on ground, grass, rock or in salt/lake water for 10 minutes a day. That’s all. Start walking barefoot indoors first.
Dare to go bare. It’s organic, free and it’s right under your feet.
After almost two years of walking and running shoeless, this spring I will walk 225 kilometers on the Camino pilgrimage route in Spain, barefoot. I call it being soul to sole.