The Major Health Benefits of Going Barefoot (Really!)
"Set your feet free and your mind will follow."
So goes the logo on the Society for Barefoot Living homepage.
Why, you may be wondering, is there a society devoted just
to people who love to live barefoot? If you ask the barefooters
of the world, chances are the first thing they'll say is that
it just feels great.
"We enjoy walking barefoot as nature intended, taking
delight in feeling the many textures the world has to offer
-- " says the Society.
Kids who go barefoot more often actually develop stronger,
Not convinced that you're ready to throw your shoes away just
yet? Well, going barefoot doesn't just feel good--it's really
proven to be good for you! Here are some reasons why:
Say Goodbye to Troubled Feet
The introduction of the now out-of-print book "Take
Off Your Shoes and Walk" by Simon J. Wikler D.S.C., states
that, " -- Practically all shoes worn daily by men and
women in our Western civilization have little relation to
the shape of the human foot -- Most adults' foot trouble would
either not exist or would be much less bothersome if properly-shaped
shoes had been worn during childhood or, better yet, if those
people had gone barefoot -- "
The book details a bit about the history of foot trouble,
only to reveal that:
- There is no record of foot troubles in Biblical
times comparable to modern foot ills.
- The seeds of foot trouble were first sown
in the Renaissance.
- The introduction of the elevated heel and
the pointed toe marked the beginning of modern foot disabilities.
The book also describes a study performed from 1957-1960
that examined whether a mother's objections to letting her
child walk barefoot influenced the health of the child's feet.
It was found that children who were allowed to go barefoot
- Less deformed toes
- Greater flexor strength
- More ability to spread the toes
- Denser muscles on the bottom of the feet
- Greater agility than those who had never gone
- A wider range of hip circumduction and more
flexibility of the gluteal and hamstring muscles, which
gave them more ability to touch their toes when their knees
were held stiff
Keep Your Feet From Getting Lazy
"Shoes often protect the feet so much that certain foot
muscles get lazy because they're not being used," said
James DeMarco, running coach and sports store owner.
That's why more people than you'd think have taken to running
in bare feet. Marathon runners from Kenya do it all the time,
but in the United States you're most likely to see a barefoot
runner on the beach. Still, there are those who venture to
other areas like grassy fields and even hiking trails.
If you're thinking that running barefoot sounds strange,
consider the findings of Michael Warburton, a physical therapist
in Australia. In a 2001 research paper he wrote that running
barefoot decreases the likelihood of ankle sprains and chronic
injuries, such as plantar fasciitis. And, wearing shoes actually
increases the risk of sprains because they make runners unaware
of the foot's position.
It's not as far-fetched as it may sound -- Nike has just
released the Nike Free, a "shoe that lets your foot run
free on any surface." It's designed to mimic the effects
of running barefoot. According to Nike, "Studies show
that barefoot training leads to stronger feet, that stronger
feet lead to a stronger body, and that natural movement enhances
Fight Varicose Veins
Going barefoot can actually help prevent vein problems. Why?
The motion you get from your unrestricted foot helps the leg
muscles pump blood back to the heart. The motion may not be
as effective if your foot is confined in a shoe.
It's Just More Relaxing
Going barefoot is usually saved for those special relaxing
moments, but should it be?
Going barefoot really puts you in a different sort of mindset,
and is usually only reserved for those special, relaxing moments.
Think about when you tend to go barefoot -- at the beach,
at home on the carpet, walking on cool grass in the summer,
-- and you'll get an idea of what we mean. Exercises geared
toward strengthening the body and relaxing the mind (yoga,
tai chi, martial arts) are also typically practiced barefoot.
"Maybe the whole world secretly understands that free
feet produce a different, more philosophical, relaxed, and
unbusinesslike mindset. Without shoes, our ambitions would
fade away, wolfish trade practices seem too much trouble,
international frictions look foolish. Armies would curl up
to take a nap. Nobody would get any serious work done,"
wrote Barbara Holland in Endangered
Pleasures. Or maybe we should all take our shoes off next
time we're at work, and see just how stress-free we become?
Bare feet: They're not just for the beach anymore!
Get More Chi
According to some ancient philosophies, life-force energy
called Chi (also called Qi or Prana) can be absorbed through
the soles of the feet. Ground Chi is absorbed automatically
and unconsciously when walking barefoot, which increases the
amount of Chi absorbed by the body.
It's said that you can consciously learn to absorb more Chi
from the ground as you walk to increase your vitality, your
capacity to do more work and your ability to think more clearly.
Now there's a reason for going barefoot more often if we ever
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