Feet are weird. But shoes? Even weirder. Practically from birth, our feet are more or less bound and gagged—cut off from the world. While one-fifth of the world goes shoeless daily, our culture shuns the bare foot, banning it from public places and businesses. And naturally, after years imprisoned inside canvas, leather and suede, we've developed Stockholm Syndrome and fallen in love with our captors, buying pair after pair and squeezing our feet into painful positions, season after season. It's no wonder we're so disconnected from our planet—our feet rarely ever touch it.
Similar to the mounting research that shows numerous health benefits in eating organic, whole food, data continues to surface about the benefits of going shoeless. Could we perhaps be adapting to embrace a barefoot lifestyle?
By comparing 2,000-year-old skeletons to modern human feet, researchers at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa found that before shoes, we had much healthier feet. We don't walk correctly in shoes, and this recent habit has led to numerous foot defects from arches that are too high to those that are too flat, and painful conditions like plantar fasciitis, neuromas and bunions.
Running in running shoes causes more damage than walking in high heels! Running shoes are directly related to 54 percent more cases of hip rotation torque, 36 percent more knee flex torques and 38 percent more knee varus torques. Other health issues may also be connected to wearing shoes from obesity to anxiety. An immeasurable amount of negatively charged free electrons are contained within the earth's surface. The easiest and most logical way to connect to these is through our bare feet. When we aren't exposed to these electrons, we become more susceptible to damage from free radicals.
The Foot-Health Connection
Reflexology, an alternative medical treatment that correlates organs and overall body health with key areas in the hands and feet, uses applied pressure on those areas to treat conditions. Where issues develop on the feet or hands can often be indicative of trouble with the corresponding organs and body systems. Walking barefoot provides natural reflexology benefits that cannot be achieved while shod.
The Tarahumara, a northwestern Mexican tribe known for long-distance running, can run nonstop for several days with little more than a scrap of rubber tied to their soles. And "barefoot hiking" is a trend that continues to grow. Not only does barefoot hiking allow the foot to properly move, but also, feet are loaded with nerves and sensors that come alive when stepping on the naked earth, which may help to ground us and connect us back to that lost electrical connection, as well as stimulate those reflexology points.
As we continue to explore the possibilities for best health practices, evidence that going barefoot is healthier than shod is fast becoming recognized as a key component. Just like giving up junk food, exploring shoelessness can have a profound effect on your reality.
Interested in giving it a try?
-Always go barefoot at home
-Get (and give!) foot massages to help enliven the sensors and awaken your soles!
-Try going barefoot an hour or two a day outside on different terrains
-Bring shoes with you for your first shoeless hike if needed, but notice how your senses are sharper when you can touch the earth directly. How does it change your experience?
-Watch out for glass!
Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger