Mom was wrong: It’s good to go barefoot

Remember the carefree summer days you spent running barefoot in the grass? Or the feeling of sand between your toes as you built sandcastles? For many of us, these blissful times were interrupted by parents proclaiming the need for footwear.

Mom and dad had a point – footwear is designed to protect the feet from dangerous stuff. But we now know going barefoot has a ton of health-boosting benefits, ranging from preventing leg injuries to reducing inflammation and promoting better sleep.

Please don’t write-off going barefoot off as a fringe, hippie idea. Science can be the best reminder of what our bodies and brains intuitively feel.

Shoe Shockers

Our feet are actually designed to function without shoes. Studies show that wearing shoes is less beneficial than going without – the modern shoe boxes in the feet, depriving them of necessary oxygen (stinky feet) and proper support.  

Using running shoes can lead to serious foot and leg injuries over time, as you become accustomed to hitting the ground with the heel instead of the ball of the foot. Running sans shoes – and on the right surfaces – increases the chances of landing on the ball or the flat of the foot. Barefoot running can decrease injuries like ankle sprains, plantar fasciitis and other chronic foot injuries. Plus, barefoot running reduces oxygen consumption, so you don’t tire as easily.

What’s more, high heels (two inches and up) shift body weight onto the tippy toes (ouch!) and make the wearer vulnerable to hammertoes, tendon pain, and ankle injuries. And perhaps our least favorite revelation, flip-flops may even have a dangerous side – lacking proper support, which can cause pain to spread to the head, neck, and even the jaw.

So should we just toss our shoes and go full caveman? Well...

Staying Grounded Naturally Makes You Healthier

Going without shoes may seem like dirty business – or unrealistic in modern society – but remember, being barefoot is part of our intuitive nature. Our ancestors were pros at walking, running, and hunting barefoot.

Unfortunately, somewhere along the evolutionary process, we slowly (and literally) lost our connection to the earth and increased our risk of developing disease. Fortunately, this can be fixed by simply going barefoot outdoors for at least thirty minutes a day. Yes, it sounds new-agey, but the data is clear – simply connecting barefoot with the ground (known as grounding) allows us to absorb electrons from the earth's surface.

The earth’s negative charge (available in limitless supply) counterbalances the free radicals in the blood. Grounding is proven to reduce inflammation, leading to better sleep, improved PMS symptoms, normalized blood pressure and blood sugar levels, heightened immune response, and is a great stress buster. By grounding you’ll experience a marked improvement in energy and overall wellbeing! Who doesn’t want that?

How To Stay Grounded Anytime, Anywhere

There is no magic formula for grounding as long as you do it consistently. The health benefits are cumulative, so the more you practice grounding the better you’ll feel. Aim for 30-80 minute sessions a day. If time is pressing you can divide up those 80-minute blocks into shorter sessions. And don’t beat yourself up, some grounding time is better than none at all.

Here are a few grounding ideas if you have grassy backyard:

1. Sit on a comfortable chair in your backyard with your bare feet to the grass for ten to fifteen minutes each morning. Damp grass is even better (like sand), because it increases the electrical conductivity between you and the earth, allowing you to feel the effects of grounding sooner. Ten minutes may not seem like a lot of time, but you can always fit in more grounding sessions throughout the day.

2. Get yourself/your family out in the backyard for a little barefoot fun. Set up a net for a volleyball game or get a Ping-Pong table and invite everyone to play in their bare feet.   

3. After a long, stressful day get a sitter for the kids and grab your partner for a romantic dinner in the backyard. Set a table on the grass and dine barefoot under the stars. This is a great de-stressor that allows you to connect with that important someone and with nature.

For urban dwellers, grounding in nature isn’t always feasible.  

Grassy areas and beaches may not be easily accessible, and the weather isn’t always cooperative. For these situations, an Earthing mat can be a convenient asset.  Earthing mats can help you stay grounded by providing the same benefits as standing on a sandy beach or on a patch of grass. Use Earthing mats anytime, like when working at your desk or watching TV.

Here are a couple more urban friendly grounding options:

  • Earthing sheets and mattresses allow you to absorb health boosting electrons while you sleep.

  • Earthing shoes mimic the look and feel of traditional shoes, but with the conductive powers of barefoot walking.

Your Daily Dose of Vitamin N (negative charge)

If you prefer getting your daily dose of Vitamin N from the outdoors it’s important to keep in mind that not all surfaces are electron flow friendly. Great grounding surfaces include:

  • Sand. But stick with the kind at the beach. If you live near the beach, this may be your top pick over the others on this list.

  • Grass. Take your shoes off and let your little piggies revel in the feel of grass and earth.

  • Ceramic tiles. Keep in mind that ceramic tiles that sit on wood or vinyl are not good conductors. They must be connected directly to the earth or sit on a good conductive surface like a concrete slab. Glazed surface ceramic tiles can also stop conductivity.

  • Concrete and brick are also good grounding surfaces. You can even use the concrete in your basement floor, but it must be unsealed and unpainted.  

Bad grounding surfaces like asphalt, wood, rubber and plastic surfaces all block the flow of electrons. Oddly enough, rubber, plastic and wood (sandals) are the primary materials in modern day shoes.  

The next time you have the inclination to run barefoot on the beach or do yoga barefoot on the grass in your backyard (or the park) go for it!  Not only will you tone your body and connect with nature, you’ll also absorb prime antioxidants complements of the earth’s negative charge. You’ll experience healing that’s free, natural and sustainable. Honestly, what could possibly be better?

Title image by Markus Spiske