Barefoot round about

The pleasurable side of uncomfortableness

 Not so long ago we were walking and running about barefoot. This was a medical recommendation for being flat-footed and also a pleasurable occupation. Right after coming home from school we took off our shoes and felt the earth and its various forms, and sometimes its inhabitants with our feet: soil, sand, mud, pebbles, puddles, dew, conifer needles, grass, moss … Now it looks like we have forgotten our barefoot enthusiasm from childhood. Yet, there is something in barefooted touch with the earth, pebbles, dew. It is agreeable, beneficent; it grounds us and also heals us.

How uncommon, the scientists who studied cancer patients, found out, that a short-term stress improves their health, like parachute jumping[1]. It is similar with barefoot running on dewy grass or walking on sun-heated stones, walking on sharp pebbles barefoot or with very thin soles – it presents our body with a short-term stress.

Barefoot walk or running usually forces you to first touch the ground with your fingers instead of the soles like we usually do while walking or running with the shoes on.

Walking and running barefoot on dewy grass

Years ago I wake up with such fog in my head that didn’t clear away until ten in the morning after some cups of strong bitter coffee or tea. So I started running barefoot first thing in the early morning every day during months without letter R. This morning jog didn’t take more than five minutes. I woke up instantly. The fog in my head cleared away without any coffee or tea; I didn’t even need a glass of water with freshly pressed lemon juice to wake up.

Walking on the mowed grass

Freshly mowed grass has a pleasant, sweet scent.   It pricks considerably, but it is manageable if you slither. In this way you also massage your feet and provide your brain with aromatherapy only fresh hay can give (provided no phytopharmaceuticals have been used on the grass).

Similarly, yet different, it is to walk barefoot in the forest. The grass is also soft, but it doesn’t make your feet sink. In the forest, except if it very dry, the ground sinks a bit and softens your landing and helps you to maintain you balance training. Moss is the best, and fir needles also – they are smooth and sometimes prick a bit. The paths are usually damp a bit.

Walking on the pebbles

Actually we are not aware of what we lost since we walk shod on asphalted pavements and roads. Not so long ago, when we still walked on rocky roads or rocky sidewalks, our walk upon it also massaged our feet. Back then barefoot walk upon pebbles was recommended only because of flat feet. But that practice had also some other side effects: the warm pebbles massaged our acupressure points on the feet we didn’t hear about yet and also warmed up our feet. Even though we haven’t heard anything about reflexology and acupressure, we provided ourselves with a similar treatment just by the way – every afternoon actually. It seems like the more we walk shod on asphalt the sooner we should learn the before mentioned techniques.

People older than me had to walk barefoot also into the mountains – shoes were only to attend mass. It is harder; hence the pebbles often have sharper edges. And the grassy terrain beside the paths can be quite steep. We can help ourselves with thinner soles. Long ago I maneuvered my way down the mountains in borrowed, totally outworn mountain shoes through a total downpour on the narrow mountain path. I was soaking wet. The soles were so thin, I felt almost every pebble.   My usual long step was out of use then, because the worn out rubber sole didn’t cling to the wet slippery pebbles. So I had to shorten my every step and thereby multiplied the number of pressings on the ground. After reaching the final destination I sat wet to my skin into my car parked, in the mountain village. The vapor was steaming out of me so heavily, a dense fog formed in the car. I would expect me to tremble from cold; hence there wasn’t warm outside. But no, quite to the contrary, I was warm, because my feet have been massaged as it has not ever been before. I didn’t even get sick – in spite of soaking for some hours in the rain. Of course, you don’t need to try this in the rainy weather, and besides, your physical fitness has to be excellent, to try such an ordeal.

Walking or running barefoot on warm soil or fine sand

It is something incredibly pleasant. Warm soil is a very fine dust that softly wraps your fingers when your feet slightly sink into the dusted soil. It touches your skin very slightly; its touch resembles gentle breeze that envelopes your feet.

It similar with the fine sand, only its touch is a bit rougher. Warm fine sand is very pleasant also when your feet sink into it and your feet is wrapped with warm fine sand. It helps you to train to maintain your balance and the sole muscles.

Walking or running barefoot on the snow

Barefoot walking or running is only for the brave and for a short time. Surely, old people, who were forced to walk barefoot due to lack and poverty, could tell more about it.

Barefoot walking on the asphalt

You can walk or run also on asphalt – it is rough, grained and hard to walk upon. It can be unpleasantly hot. It’s not really healthy treatment for your feet, but it does force you to step down with the front part of your feet.

The terrain should be carefully chosen: you should not carry out these barefoot endeavors where the phytopharmaceuticals are used or where some other contamination can be expected. You should not do this not even where such means have been used in the nearby past or in the close vicinity, because the aerosols for the spraying or dusting spread into the air and also land on the nearby places, whether they are full of greenery or not. Barefoot touch with the Earth is a healing one if the ground is not contaminated.

Watching the documentary film Dirt!, directed and produced by Bill Benenson and Gene Rosow (2009), can be an inspiration (or reading the book Dirt, the Ecstatic Skin of the Earth, written by Bryant Logan).

As already mentioned barefoot walking or running makes you touch the ground with the front part of your feet and fingers, what also strengthens the muscles of the feet arches, calves and the pelvic sinews, and it also causes less vibrations up the spine and lessens the pressure on the joints. You can find some instructions about it on the web site of dr Dan Lieberman. http://barefootrunning.fas.harvard.edu/5BarefootRunning&TrainingTips.html

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