Does the thought of going barefoot make you flinch?
As the mother of two young children, I spend my life at home in hard-soled slippers to protect me from the trail of Lego bricks and trains left strewn in my path, and I also would never consider leaving the house without shoes.
It’s not that i’m precious about these things - I gamely joined in with a fire-walk last year, happily succumbing my feet to burning coals, and I regularly practice tai-chi barefoot in the garden to help connect me with the earth’s energy.
I just wouldn't think to spend my daily life in bare feet.
Well apparently there’s a growing movement towards barefoot walking and running, and it’s not looking like just another fad or novelty idea, there’s actually some pretty compelling cause to consider when you start to look into it.
For example I had never before stopped to think about how recently we have been wearing proper shoes compared to how long we have lived in minimal shoes or barefoot.
Just look at the timeline below to demonstrate how recent it is in time comparison:
The 5 main reasons why people are switching to barefoot walking and running.
1. Injury Reduction:
Going barefoot increases blood-flow, circulation and flexibility of the feet, as well as helping to strengthen the muscles and ankles. This can not only help prevent and protect against injury, but can also help speed injury rehabilitation.
There is also thought to be reduced impact with barefoot walking and running due to a more natural flow of the stride, bringing the heel first in walkers, and the fore-foot first in runners.
2. Reduced blood pressure:
Although the causes are as yet unclear, there is research to suggest that walking barefoot on surfaces such as cobblestones can reduce blood pressure.
One theory according is that it acts like a gravity based foot massage which relaxes the body and therefore lowers the blood pressure. This would make sense based on the principle of reflexology and the fact that the feet hold more nerve endings per square centimeter than any other area of the body.
3. Improved Balance:
Balance is achieved and maintained by a combination of the Vestibular system (repsonsible for spatial orientation, motion and equilibrium) and Sensory input - namely sight and touch. Barefoot walking is thought to stimulate the Vestibular system, while strengthening communication and neural connections between the brain and the senses.
4. Benefits to childrens' development:
Barefoot stimulation in children is thought to improve their concentration and memory, as being in contact with the ground strengthens their senses and helps map the neural connections in their brain.
It is also thought to result in stronger, healthier feet with better strength and flexibility, with reduced risk of injuries and developmental issues.
5. Boosted immunity:
Connection to the earth through the soles of the feet can help the body with ionisation. Ionisation is the process of reducing the amount of positive (harmful) ions, responsible for inflammation in the body, and increasing the amount of negative (beneficial) ions, which help to boost the immune system.
If you would like to maximise the ionisation through the feet, aim to walk barefoot in the early morning or evening dew, along a beech or in woodlands, as these spaces are rich in negative ions.
Going barefoot also stimulates the reflexology points of the feet which is thought to strengthen the immune system, and other healing processes in the body.
It is never advised to just remove your shoes and make the change instantly. There are gradual way to phase it in which help to prepare your feet and legs and help prevent damage or injury so please do take professional or expert advice before you take the next step.
We’d love to hear any comments or experience you have on this subject, as many or our regular customers are seasoned and passionate walkers and runners, both professional and recreational, so do get in touch and share your thoughts with us.
As with all information provided by Westlab Ltd, this information is provided in good faith and from reputable sources. However this does not replace the need to consult healthcare professional where appropriate as each individual will have different medical conditions or health issues. Always take your own health seriously and see advice when needed.
Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (2005;  8, 1305-12)
Lieberman DE1, Venkadesan M, Werbel WA, Daoud AI, D'Andrea S, Davis IS, Mang'eni RO, Pitsiladis Y. Foot strike patterns and collision forces in habitually barefoot versus shod runners. 2010 Jan 28;463(7280):531-5.