If you've been keeping up with my blog you notice a sneak peek into my soul with each entry. My goals, my values and my vision are written on each line. This entry is no different. Barefooting/earthing/grounding is a part of who I am and I want to share this with you.
This is a picture of me barefooting at High Falls Nature Conservancy this past May, 2017. Barefooting goes beyond time at the beach or hanging out in your house or backyard, it's creating a connection to the Earth, ground and the life force that exists all around us and sustains our life. It's actually a relatively simple concept and pairs well with minimalism.
I did a computer search and from surveys done and reported by Huff Post and the New York Daily News, the average American woman owns about 19 pairs of shoes. Can you imagine life in a tiny house with 19 pairs of shoes? I can't!
I want to show you some of the reasons I choose live a barefooting lifestyle and you can see if it's something you might try.
Why Do It - Mental Health Benefits
Connection to the earth - called earthing/grounding is a result of barefooting. The power from the force of your feet planted on the earth is one that is difficult to describe. Take a minute, wherever you are and take your shoes off, strip your feet of these artificial bonds that preclude you from knowing what is truly under your feet.
Right now I feel the packed dirt and grass cradle my toes, the balls of my feet and my heels. I close my eyes and can quickly focus on this primal connection. In a moment I feel an ant or some other insect travel across a set of toes which creates an unconscious wiggle of my toes and an immediate smile on my face. This connection is one that’s instantaneous but only because I am consciously grounding. It’s wonderful how I feel when I take time to engage with the Earth in this way, the benefits of a clear-mind and calmness.
When you walk with naked feet, how can you
ever forget the Earth?
Why Do It - Physical Benefits
A quick answer is, shoes are harmful to feet. Results from researcher Dr. Phil Hoffman found when comparing feet of those in developing countries (who as a rule don’t wear shoes) to those of people in a 1st world country (almost always wear shoes). The feet of those in the developing country did not have foot, hip or back maladies that were present in those of the 1st world nation. Hoffman goes so far to say wearing shoes ‘cripples’ children (p. 111) since it changes the shape of their foot in the formative stages. Surprised? This definitely rocks the foundation where it’s a ‘normal’ practice to have a closet full of shoes. Barefooting can keep you from experiencing pain - who wouldn’t want that! Why would you choose to experience pain, take medicine and possibly have surgery? No thank you. (Sorry to those podiatrists who would soon be out of work if we had people en masse embrace the barefooting life.)
Walk as if You’re Kissing the Earth with Your Feet.
Thich Nhat Hanh
The ‘Signs’ Say
You’ve likely seen signs that have the presumption of a legal foundation because they include some version of “By Rule of the Health Department...Shoes Are Required”. This is not only misleading but inaccurate. Letters from the Health Departments for 49 states are included here which show an unchanging American cultural norm that put up these signs in direct reaction to the Hippie Counterculture Movement in the 1960s.
The Law Says
OSHA does require footwear for employees - not customers (Society for barefoot living). The signs you see are the preference of the stores/restaurants and are not mandated by the law. There are very strict footwear requirements for those who work in kitchens/food service, public safety and health care, for example. If you decide to embrace a barefoot lifestyle you will undoubtedly be met with questions, glances and perhaps be asked to leave. You have options - choose to conform (put on shoes), take your business elsewhere or engage in a discussion. Barefoot is Legal suggests carrying a Health Department letter with you and showing it to the manager or store owner.
Options to ‘Pass’
Another choice is to attempt to ‘pass’ with a footless shoe option. There were 364 choices when I searched for “footless shoes” on Amazon, there are some on each page that were footless tights or for kids but the majority were options for adult women. I clicked on a few and noticed they had a much longer mailing time because they are handmade (who wouldn’t want something custom/handmade, I love this!). Supporting artisans is a great reasons to wear these as something that will help you ‘pass’ in a store/restaurant for folks who don’t look too closely.
The reason there are so many options is quickly clear in the title of many of these options that have the word “bridal” - totally acceptable if there’s a beach wedding. A norm to want to have some adornment on your wedding day and perfectly accepted practice not to wear shoes on the beach.
I Like to Walk Around Barefeet &
I Don’t Like to Comb My Hair
Can Barefooting Be Mainstream?
This barefoot movement isn’t only found in a small subset of the population. Joshua Reeves, the CEO of a $1 Billion company, uses a shoeless policy as part of his leadership style which is met with very positive feelings and results in a ‘family feel’ at the office. Reeves incorporated a practice from growing up in a house where shoes weren’t allowed inside to the workplace and it’s resulted in a positive workplace benefit (Adams, 2016). This should prove to be a model for other organizations to try and see how it could work for their workplace culture.
American culture is often slow to make changes (i.e. The existence of those 'no shoes, no service' signs) especially when it becomes so ingrained and people start to believe it is grounded in the law. Bottomline, bare footing isn't illegal, but it is something that can be frowned upon when you go out in public. I hope that you - like me and those who take the time to learn all the health benefits of being unshod and embrace your right at home and in public. Do not feel compelled to wear shoes because an arbitrary sign says so - follow your heart and live your values, it may not be easy at first but you will reap the many benefits.
There are so many other components of barefooting this just scratches the surface. I hope to have a follow-up post and delve into this in more detail. As always I'd love to hear your story. Share it with me here. Enjoy every step of your bare footing journey!
Adams, B. (2016, March 4). Joshua Reeves of Gusto: Directing without dictating.