The old people came literally to love the soil. They sat on the ground with the feeling of being close to a mothering power. It was good for the skin to touch the Earth, and the old people liked to remove their moccasins and walk with their bare feet on the sacred Earth. The soil was soothing, strengthening, cleansing, and healing.
Ota Kte (Luther Standing Bear)
Lakota Sioux writer, educator, and tribal leader (cited in Zucker, 2010)
I spent a few days with friends from Hamburg. Nature lovers both, we camped by the beach, threw off the shoes and walked barefoot where water and sand meet. Lizzie told me that she’d had a bad accident where she broke several bones in her foot. Her physiotherapist recommended walking barefoot on the beach daily. Lizzie took the advice seriously. She has no after-effects from the accident and says that, at times, she struggles to remember which foot it was she broke.
Barefoot running is gaining popularity with reports of less injury proneness. The evolutionary argument is because humans evolved to run barefoot, this style would minimise shock from impact and provides increased proprioception and foot strength, therefore minimising injury (Lieberman, 2002).
Empirical examination of barefoot running is less conclusive, with some studies showing improved gait, stride and performance and other showing more injury proneness than shod running. However other variables are involved. When the style associated with barefoot running is examined, there do seem to be more conclusive answers. Barefoot running encourages forefoot impact rather than heel impact first. Apparent benefits seem to be more due to the more natural style of barefoot running. A heel-first shod runner switching to barefoot running is likely to suffer injury. Injury reduction appears to be from forefoot running (the more natural style) whether you are barefoot or not (Shi et al, 2013). As I run a couple of times a week, I’m grateful for my more forefoot first impact style. It is one my father encouraged – stay on your toes!
Unless going on an urban outing, I spend most of my day barefoot. I used to teach on my feet and at the end of the day, couldn’t wait to kick off those boots. There was something immediately relaxing and stress-freeing when I did. The lawn in the garden is now more a mossy carpet, absorbing the morning dew and I love the sponge bath I gain from taking a morning walk around it. I like to walk barefoot in the woods, trying not to make a sound. Something primeval, like the huntress within is trying to be freed. It’s a habit I have from childhood and I’m often admonished, even as an adult, for walking barefoot.
Have you felt that sense of well-being when your feet are connected to the earth?
Perhaps it is because the earth is healing?
In their book “Earthing”, Ober, Sinatra and Martin, make a case for spending time barefoot connecting with the earth. It is no accident that we like to lie on the sand during our holidays, and it is more than the vitamin D gained from the sun, else, why would some like to be buried in it? Taking what might seem a hippy dippy idea – walk barefoot, sit or lie on the earth to be healed, they present some of the physiological changes that occur when people do just that.
So, today’s challenge, you’ve probably guessed it, is to spend some time barefoot connecting with the earth. Even better, if weather permits, sit or lie down upon it. Unless you live in Missouri – chiggers aren’t fun. In which case, hug a tree.
Postscript: I’ve decided to keep the challenges to a week at a time, to keep it fresh.
Featured Image: Tom Brandt, Women at the Beach, Beppu, Japan, pre. WWII