Now that summer is almost officially here, just a week away until the summer solstice on Saturday June 20th, many are turning their thoughts to summer activities. For some, this can be as simple as taking off their shoes and taking a walk in the grass in their yard or going for a barefoot walk at the local park. For some, like myself, we don’t limit our barefoot excursions to simply one season of the year or one type of terrain or environment; we take as much of the world on with shoes off!
People have various reasons for exploring and experiencing a barefoot lifestyle. For some, it might be simply the most comfortable thing to do, for others it may help alleviate pain caused by various types of footwear, and for others it may be part of a spiritual or religious practice.
I really enjoy experiencing the different textures beneath my feet, whether it’s walking on a concrete sidewalk, an asphalt bike path, a grassy park or knoll, a mossy path in the shade, a dirt trail, or a sandy beach. I tell folks who haven’t experienced a lot of barefoot adventures, that taking in life without shoes is a lot like experiencing a buffet at a restaurant. There are so many things to try; you may find some textures you really like, and some you don’t like as much. But the best way to find out, is simply to go out for a barefoot walk and see what suits your fancy! You’ll never know unless you try.
There are some medical studies that indicate that barefoot walking is good for the muscles and tendons in your feet, and can often help with reducing stress, as well as reducing stress-induced injuries. Of course, everybody is different, and it’s always good to be aware of any restrictions or limitations you may have, before taking on a more extensive dive into the barefoot lifestyle. And, check with your doctor as needed, as I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on my blog, or radio show, or in "real life," either!
So are you thinking about checking out the barefoot lifestyle? Here are some of my suggestions, based on my own experiences. Feel free to take them or leave them, or refer back to them as needed.
My first piece of advice is to start slowly. If you are already walking a lot, transitioning to barefoot walking shouldn’t be that difficult. Starting on a smoother surface makes it easier for transitioning, such as on grass or asphalt. Although concrete is generally the smoothest surface, it is a harder surface, and extended barefoot walking on concrete sidewalks can sometimes cause body fatigue. When walking in grass, be aware of low spots, sprinklers, and other things that may not always be physically visible at first. And, regarding asphalt, although walking on it can generally feel fairly comfortable, it can get very hot, especially in the summertime! This time of the year, I recommend barefoot asphalt walking in the early morning hours, or after 7 or 8 PM in the evening. You don’t want to burn your feet!
My second piece of advice Is to make sure you have some footwear available, just in case you experience a situation where you need it. I usually wear a backpack when I’m out walking barefoot, as it makes it easy to store an emergency pair of flip-flops just in case they are needed. 99.9% of the time I don’t need them, but it’s nice to have them, just as an extra little piece of insurance!
We’re on a roll now! My third piece of advice is to be mentally and physically prepared for the chance that you may occasionally experience a splinter or a piece of glass in your foot. This sounds a lot worse than it really is! Sometimes I walk 10 or 11 miles barefoot at a time, and it’s very rare that I get any foreign objects in my feet. That being said, it does happen sometimes, and although it’s not the best feeling in the world, it’s generally not a big deal. But, you do want to be prepared for the chance that it could happen. I recommend keeping tweezers with you when you’re out and about barefoot walking, as they come come in really handy if you step on something untoward. Most times, you can take care of the issue in less than a minute. For what it’s worth, you might also want to have some alcohol pads and a bandage available as well.
OK, we’re already up to number four on the pieces of advice! Be accepting of the fact that your feet will get dirty. For some barefoot folks, getting dirty soles can be part of the fun adventure. Our dirty soles display all the cool places we’ve experienced without shoes! But, everyone is different, and if you prefer that your feet don’t get too dirty, walking in damp grass usually removes dirt pretty easily, and you may also consider having some damp wipes with you, to wipe off dirt as needed. And speaking of dirt, some people may be concerned about going barefoot in the current pandemic situation. Let's look at that issue for a moment.
Although there isn’t any medical evidence that indicates that going barefoot increases your chances of getting COVID-19, I recommend that you wash your feet off before returning into your home after going out for a barefoot walking adventure. This will help ensure that you’re not carrying unnecessary germs or viruses into your home.
My fifth piece of advice is to experience going barefoot in other situations as well. Believe it or not, there are no laws in California or in the United States indicating that you cannot drive barefoot. The most important thing about driving is having firm control of the gas and brake pedals, and for many people, myself included, it is much easier to do this barefoot, than with other types of shoes, especially flip flops, that could slip and cause problems while driving.
There are also no laws indicating that you cannot go shopping or eat at a restaurant barefoot. That being said, this one is a bit more tricky, since stores and restaurants can set their own dress codes, as long as they are not discriminatory against a particular race, religion or other legally protected class. For what it’s worth, I’ve had some store personnel tell me I have to wear shoes in order to shop or eat there. It happens. When I hear someone approach me, and start with "Sir," I usually know what they will say next! Depending on how hard-core you are about your barefooting, you may choose to shop at other stores that don’t mind that you shop unshod, or you may simply want to slip on some flip-flops or other shoes while you finish your shopping. In general though, I find that my barefoot shopping excursions are a lot of fun and not problematic. In the summer especially, I love the feeling of the cold floors in the frozen food section at the grocery store! Their floors feel so refreshing after walking barefoot across a hot parking lot! For some people, they don’t wish to take their barefooting to this extreme and may limit it to walking adventures, and that’s totally cool. Always, do what feels comfortable and best for you.
Finally, if you like to spend a lot of time barefoot, there are fun options for adorning your feet, whether it’s with toe rings, ankle bracelets, or foot tattoos! I like to do all of these things, but I know other barefoot folks who prefer absolutely nothing on their feet, taking the term “barefoot” quite literally. Again, this is a personal preference, and you may want to experiment with different types of foot jewelry to see what works and what doesn’t for you. I find most of my foot jewelry at surf stores along the California coast...and bonus, those stores are cool with barefoot customers as well! You can also find foot jewelry options online, but the problem can be finding the right sizing.
These are just some of my rambling thoughts about the barefoot lifestyle. I do still wear shoes for some occasions, so I’m not 100% barefoot all the time, and I realize that for most of us, wearing shoes is probably necessary at least sometimes. But, I’m hoping this blog encourages you to check out the barefoot experience if you haven’t. And, I encourage you to send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org, and share your experiences. Life’s too short for shoes!