Walking barefoot might be something you only do at home. But for many, walking and exercising barefoot is a practice they do daily.
When a toddler is learning to walk, parents are told to let this process happen naturally, and without shoes. That’s because shoes can affect how a child uses the muscles and bones in their feet.
Kids also receive feedback from the ground when they walk barefoot, and it improves their proprioception (awareness of their body in space).
As a child gets older, we shove their feet into shoes and lose the benefits that come from walking barefoot.
That’s why advocates of barefoot walking and exercising are pushing back on wearing shoes all day long and encouraging all of us to let our feet be free.
The feet have many nerve endings and when we walk barefoot we stimulate them.
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If we do it on natural and safe surfaces such as grass, sand, or in our homes, taking advantage of the fact that we are confined, among other benefits, we will improve the circulation in our legs.
Benefits of Walking Barefoot
Stimulate your foot muscles
Walking barefoot is beneficial for our health since we give our feet a break from the pressure that footwear usually causes and the humidity that is generated in the foot.
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Helps calm anxiety and stress
Sometimes our current life produces stress, anxiety, and nerves. Walking barefoot helps unblock pent-up emotions that later turn into other illnesses. In the foot, there are many nerve endings and it is highly recommended that our plant has direct contact with the ground to release stress, strengthening the nervous system.
Improves anatomical structure and cognitive development
Walking without shoes helps to align the joints and improves the anatomical space.
In babies and young children, it is recommended that they walk barefoot at home. In this way, their development will be complete and they will strengthen their safety while they learn to walk when coming into direct contact with the ground.
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Improves blood circulation
Going without shoes improves blood circulation as the muscles are in contact with different surfaces such as grass, earth, sand, parquet, etc. In the feet, there is a deep circulatory network that drives blood to the heart.
It controls insomnia
A study in PubMed revealed that walking barefoot influences physiologic processes as well as inducing relaxation.
It has also been shown that people who had been exposed to grounding have better sleep at night when compared with those who did not walk barefoot regularly.
The reason for this is because walking barefoot helps stabilize circadian rhythms, which is the first step to better sleep; as it is the internal system that’s designed to regulate feelings of sleepiness and wakefulness over a 24-hour period.
It controls blood pressure
Recent studies have shown that the nerves of the feet are stimulated when we walk barefoot. And this usually leads to the reduction of stress levels. However, since stress is released through earthing, which is also known as walking barefoot, it helps in controlling the blood pressure.
It boosts energy level
Every lover nature knows that there is a higher energy in nature. This is why whenever you immerse yourself in the natural world, you pick up on the higher frequencies emitted from nature and therefore increase your own energy levels.
However, with our vitality constantly affected by modern society, it advisable for us to make out time to walk barefoot as often as we can.
It helps to reduce chronic pain
Alternative medicine practitioners affirm that the electrons present in the earth help enrich the immune system in our body. And this claim is backed by the findings of a recent study.
In addition to enriching the immune system, earthing increases the oxygen levels of the body and thus, helps reduce chronic or acute pain in our body.
Other benefits of walking barefoot include: better control of your foot position when it strikes the ground. improvements in balance, proprioception, and body awareness, which can help with pain relief. better foot mechanics, which can lead to improved mechanics of the hips, knees, and core
Consequences/Disadvantages/Potential Dangers of Walking and Exercising Barefoot
Walking barefoot, 15 minutes everyday, is enough to provide the body with some of the mentioned health benefits, however, for health sake too, walking barefoot can cause foot infections.
It is relatively safe in your house but when you head outside, you expose yourself to potential risks that could be dangerous.
“Without appropriate strength in the foot, you are at risk of having poor mechanics of walking, thereby increasing your risk for injury”. This is especially important to consider when you’re beginning to incorporate barefoot walking after having spent much of your life in shoes.
While it may be more natural to walk or exercise barefoot, without additional padding from shoes, you are susceptible to injury from the terrain (like rough or wet surfaces or issues with temperature, glass, or other sharp objects on the ground).
Walking barefoot through damp and unhygienic areas can cause us to catch some fungus and/or bacteria. People who have diabetic feet or who continually walk with closed shoes are more likely to have foot infections.
In particular, diabetic persons have to be more careful and prevent foot injuries that can later ulcerate. Diabetes can cause neuropathy by reducing sensation in the feet. These people should be very careful and do it on safe and clean surfaces.
Christopher Dietz, DO, MedExpress, says people with diabetes should always consult with their primary care physician before going barefoot. “If they have peripheral neuropathy, they can sustain wounds on the bottom of their feet and not realize it,” he explains.
Also, for babies, it is recommended that they walk barefoot than with shoes.
They will better develop the motor neuronal connection, it helps them to recognize the terrain, locate themselves better in space and enhance their safety day by day.
In people with diabetes, the disease changes the normal hydration of the skin, which can lead to cracking and infection. They must be very careful and do it on safe and clean surfaces.
How do you properly walk and exercise barefoot?
Knowing how to walk and exercise barefoot takes time, patience, and the right information. So, before you ditch your shoes in favor of a more natural approach to walking and exercise, according to Healthline, there are a few things to consider:
Start slow: You need to be patient and start with short 15- to 20-minute sessions of walking barefoot. Kaplan says it’s vital that you allow your feet and ankles to adapt to the new environment. As your feet get used to walking without shoes, you can increase the distance and time.
Ease up if you feel any new pain or discomfort: “While walking barefoot sounds like the perfect option, there are dangers that should be considered,” explains Kaplan. “Without appropriate strength in the foot, you are at risk of having poor mechanics of walking, thereby increasing your risk for injury. This is especially important to consider if you are beginning to incorporate barefoot walking after spending much of your life in shoes,” he adds.
Try it out indoors: Before you hit the pavement running, it might be a good idea to let your bare feet get used to the safe surfaces in your house. Misiura says the best thing to do would be to use an indoor surface that you know is free of something you could step on accidentally.
Practice on safe surfaces: Once you’ve mastered the indoors, try walking on outside surfaces that are less dangerous, such as turf, rubber tracks, sandy beaches, and grass.
Consider using a minimalist shoe: While your feet are adjusting to less structure and padding from your shoes, you may want to consider using a minimalist shoe before going completely barefoot.
Experiment with balance exercises: Misiura recommends you start with simple balance exercises like standing on one foot or pressing yourself up onto your toes and lowering down slowly.
Try an activity that requires you to be barefoot. Take advantage of activities that are already performed barefoot, like yoga, Pilates, or martial arts.
Examine your feet for injury: Every day examine the bottom of your feet for injury, as many have reduced sensation in their feet.
Please note that more strenuous activities such as barefoot running or hiking should not be incorporated until you’ve spent adequate time preparing your feet for this type of activity.
If you have pain in your heels after resting or have pain when you walk, you may need to go back to supportive shoes and start slowly again when your feet have healed.
The bottom line
Going barefoot while walking and exercising has some benefits, as long as you follow the safety precautions and participate in moderation.
If you have any concerns about your own safety or foot health, it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor before exposing your bare feet to nature for an extended period of time.