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  • Bare feet

    On a recent walk by the Merri Creek one of my sandals broke. I walked the rest of the way in bare feet.  Sometimes on concrete, sometimes on grass and sometimes on sandy paths. In this experience of different surfaces my attention was brought freshly to my feet. 

    I felt the density of concrete, the soft and springy nature of the grass.  I felt cold and damp at times and warm and hard at others. I felt pebbles, sticks and cracks. I had to walk more carefully; I was aware of my footfall and my bodies shock absorption system.  This occurred particularly when walking on the unforgiving concrete.  I needed to land precisely to avoid jarring my knees and hips. 

    At the end of the walk I felt brightly awakened through my core system and my fascial web. I felt so alive, my mood elevated, my senses awakened, my embodiment. “How delightful” I thought, “I should do this all the time!”. 

    Later however I felt my old sacroiliac instability triggered and my hip overcompensating and tight. Both these feelings passed in a few days, but my initial excitement was tempered.  

    This experience got me thinking about our time barefoot. There is so much that is beneficial about barefoot time.  We awaken the sensitive receptors and tiny muscles located in the soles of our feet.  We need these structures awake and functioning in order to balance well, have good earth support and core activity. 

    However modern landscapes include so many hard, flat concrete surfaces that without the cushioning of our shoes we we are likely to jar our joints on these surfaces. It’s a catch 22.  We need our shoes for protection but our shoes deprive our feet of good sensory stimulation which depletes their functioning even more. 

    So yes, we need times barefoot to keep our feet awake and supple but we need to use caution around hard surfaces. Especially if we aren't used to barefoot time or have any injuries. Furthermore, many people reply on shoes and innersoles for some additional arch support. So we must be pragmatic and work within the confines of our individual needs.

    If we can choose soft and uneven surfaces like beaches and parks for our barefoot time we get the benefits for our feet and a nature bath at the same time. Even walking around the house barefoot can be good for some of us. 

    We can also think about the shoes we walk in. Aside from aesthetic I look for a balance between the following when choosing new shoes. 

    • Support vs flexibility 

    • Cushioning vs palpatory capacity (ability to feel the ground) 

    • Space for toes 

    When trying on new shoes put one on and walk with one foot bare.  Try to feel the difference, asking the question “what is the shoe providing for me?”. Try the same comparison but this time wear the new shoe and a familiar shoe. Ask questions like; is the toe box allowing full spread of my toes or are they being squished?  Do I feel comfortable? Stable? Can I feel the ground? Can my feet move as I walk?

    Hold the shoe in your hands. Check if the shoe sole flex at the toes and can it twist along the arch (think ringing out a wet towel).  

    Each person has unique requirements that will change over time.  When in doubt go gently and listen to your feet. 

    Happy walking!