What is the connection between going barefoot and health?
When I was around 16 or so, up until age 28, I wore shoes with heels (2 inches or higher) almost daily. I took great pride in the fact that I could survive a night out salsa dancing in 4 inch heels for 5 hours. I loved (and still love) high heels. I’m a girl, what can I say? They’re pretty.
It wasn’t until I had my first baby and came to terms with the amount of stuff (diaper bag, purse, breast pump bag, carseat and the like) I would need to carry around with me whenever we attempted to go anywhere. So due to necessity I started to rock flats a lot. And after awhile I got used to the feeling of my feet being flat on the ground all the time and on the rare occasion when I might try a heel for Sunday service or a date night out, it felt a bit funny and way harder than it used to back in the day.
This made me wonder, had I been doing some damage over all those years of constant heel wearing? As I started to do some research on this topic I realized that yes, I had been doing some damage but I also came across some very interesting findings. One of which was all the benefits we experience when we go completely barefoot. I didn’t realize this at the time, but even flats, flip flops, or other “minimalist” seeming shoes can impede benefits that would be gleaned if we just simply went barefoot instead.
When your feet are free from shoes they have to use muscles that are usually left unused due to shoes doing a lot of the work. Barefoot, those foot muscles gain strength and promote good balance. In addition to building foot strength, the blood flow to those muscles increases. This can help with commonalities such as varicose veins, aches and pains.
When I was growing up in Asia as a young person, I would remember seeing scores of people walking around barefoot in parks on pathways that looked to made entirely of stones. As a kid, I thought how silly! why would they want to intentionally hurt their feet? But after doing this research about feet and knowing a bit about Chinese Medicine it makes perfect sense to me now. They were literally applying reflexology to their feet by walking on the stony paths. Reflexology stimulates the nerves on the bottom of the feet. This stimulation then works to bolster the immune system, lower blood pressure, and promote many other healing body processes.
Perhaps the most fascinating benefit I found about going barefoot is the ability to reduce inflammation throughout the entire body through what is called “grounding” or “earthing”. This is the process of reducing inflammation by walking, standing or even sitting barefoot on the ground. Because the free radicals (cells that cause damage and inflammation) in our bodies carry a positive charge and need a way to be released from our systems, the ground, which has a very large negative charge can be a great way to discharge those harmful cells, thus preventing needless build up of inflammation (the pre-cursor to all disease). So it turns out that spending some time outside with bare feet on the ground can be immensely helpful and I had absolutely no idea.
To quote Dr. Joseph Mercola, “The Earth is a natural source of electrons and subtle electrical fields, which are essential for proper functioning of immune systems, circulation, synchronization of biorhythms and other physiological processes and may actually be the most effective, essential, least expensive, and easiest to attain antioxidant.”
So after finding all of this out, did I give up all shoes and start showing up to work barefoot? No I did not, but I did try to make a few changes to take advantage of my new found knowledge:
– I replaced my traditional running shoes with barefoot running shoes. These type of shoes have gained in popularity over the years and now there are quite a few varieties available. They change the way you run and can take awhile to get used to. I can feel everything so much better on the path or trail as I run, muddy bits, rocky bits, hard and soft. Once I got used to them though, there has been no going back! My absolute favorite brand for minimalist running shoes is Vivo barefoot.
– I attempt to get some barefoot time outside on the actual dirt/grass/sand to enjoy the benefits of “grounding”. This can be a tough feat in the winter months! If you happen to live by the beach, walking on the sand can have the same great benefits.
– I try to keep our family shoe-free in our house. I am especially mindful that as kids’ feet are forming and growing, they need those foot muscles to be strengthened and optimally not reliant on shoes to do the work of their feet for them. If they want to be barefoot outside in short grass then I am more than okay with that!
-I only wear high heels about once or twice a week for a few hours. I still love the look of them and enjoy the fashion part of them.