Benefits of going barefoot

by: LJ Kunkel
Adapted from original published on parent.com (now mother.ly) – permission to reprint.

Have you ever had the pleasure of squishing your toes in the sand on the beach? How about walking barefoot in soft grass or sinking your hands into the dirt while gardening? It just makes you feel good!

This is actually a powerful biohack known as grounding or earthing, referring to direct contact with the natural surface of the earth, typically by going barefoot. There are scientific reasons why it feels so good.

These days we keep our feet trapped in shoes most of the time. Of course, there’s the possibility of stepping on something sharp, so protection is understandably necessary. But the more barefoot time you can spend, the better.
Are the best shoes no shoes at all?

You may have never given it a second thought, but wearing shoes isn’t exactly natural. In fact, today’s typical restrictive shoe designs can hinder normal foot development in kids. As for adults, the muscles of our feet, ankles, and lower legs are generally weak and malformed from a lifetime of footwear. Cutting ourselves off from the power of nature isn’t helping either.

The sport of barefoot running, in particular, was made popular by Christopher McDougall’s book “Born to Run”. Many athletes and enthusiasts have followed this philosophy for optimal training and health. They may get some stares jogging along with dirty naked feet, but maybe they’re not so crazy.

“Mounting evidence suggests that the Earth’s negative potential can create a stable internal bioelectrical environment for the normal functioning of all body systems,” according to the Journal of Environmental and Public Health. “Through this mechanism, every part of the body could equilibrate with the electrical potential of the Earth, thereby stabilizing the electrical environment of all organs, tissues, and cells.”

In other words, healing energy flows from the Earth to your body. It’s science, not hippie-speak.
You don’t have to be an unshod athlete to experience grounding, however. Walking on, standing on, or simply touching natural ground carries plenty of benefits, such as these:
● Increases circulation.
A study published in the journal Health showed that just one hour of earthing improves circulation of body fluids and blood flow. This allows for better nutrient and oxygen delivery and faster clearing of waste materials, resulting in lower blood pressure, improved heart health, better digestion, clearer thinking, and increased energy.
● Improves sleep and relieves stress.
Another study in Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine revealed that eight weeks of night grounding improved dysfunctional sleep patterns and reduced cortisol (stress hormone) levels. Participants reported better sleep, lower stress, and less pain.
● Decreases inflammation.
Excessive inflammation underlies many ailments, including chronic illnesses, impaired immunity, and cancer. The Journal of Inflammation Research presents many more studies associating earthing with a reduction in inflammation. This means it can affect many conditions such as digestive issues, arthritis, asthma, hormone imbalances, and more. It has also been shown to reduce redness and pain while helping wounds and injuries heal faster.
● Reduces muscle soreness and speeds recovery.
You know that annoying soreness you get after an intense workout that can last for days? That’s DOMS – delayed-onset muscle soreness. There are many methods for speeding recovery, including stretching, icing, massage, and foam rolling. Now you can add barefoot time to your recovery arsenal. An interesting study showed that subjects who underwent grounding after an intense workout recovered faster, reported less pain, and displayed differences in inflammatory markers as shown by blood tests.

Pretty cool, right? How can something so simple and easy have such positive effects?
The Journal of Environmental and Public Health explains further: “It is an established, though not widely appreciated fact that the Earth’s surface possesses a limitless and continuously renewed supply of free or mobile electrons. The Earth’s negative charge can create a stable internal bioelectrical environment for the normal functioning of all body systems which may be important for setting the biological clock, regulating circadian rhythms, and balancing cortisol levels.”
By being in contact with the ground, we absorb Earth’s ions into our bodies, which balance out the other harmful charges we carry around. Good energy in, bad energy out!

How much grounding time do you need?
This is an emerging technique with no set prescription and varies based on individual needs. Positive effects are instantaneous, but obviously, the more the better.

The research has involved earthing sessions ranging from one hour to overnight, but any time spent connected to nature is going to help. There is no time too short, and certainly none too long.

How to Get More Grounded
Try these tips to reap the barefoot benefits:
● Exercise outside.
Sans shoes, of course. Walk or jog in a grassy area or on the beach if you’re lucky. Do a workout on your lawn. Try some yoga or stretching on the ground. Gardening counts, too, without gloves for skin-to-earth contact.
● Just get out!
You don’t have to be active to reap the benefits. Simply stand or sit on the ground or in a chair with feet touching the ground while you read, talk on the phone, watch the kids, do work, etc.
● Take a hint from your kids.
What kid doesn’t love running around the yard barefoot or sinking their toes into the dirt? Join ’em, or at least take your shoes off while you supervise. (Make sure the area is clear of hazards, of course.)
● Connect from inside.
It’s not always practical to be outside, depending on weather, ground conditions, and your living situation. The good news is you can still do this indoors with an earthing system, which transfers energy from the ground outside via a cord connected to a conductive mat, sheet, or band. This makes it possible to connect while you sleep, work on your computer, read, or watch a movie.

All in all, whether you’re going for grounding or not, spending time outdoors is a surefire body and brain booster for your whole family. Simply slip off your socks and shoes and let nature do its thing!

To learn more, check out the book “Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever”.

LJ is a health/wellness writer, mom of three boys, and fitness trainer who enjoys barefoot walks whenever she can. See more from her at fitmixmom.com.

Originally published on parent.com.
(Please include this line to credit original publisher, as well as the hyperlink if posted online.)