Time to Kick off Your Shoes

May 1, 2013

By Anna Varriano

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Spring is finally here!  There are so many things that I love about this time of year, and one of my favourites is to ditch the boots…then shoes…then socks, and walk around barefoot – especially on cool grass. I’ve been known to run around barefoot in my backyard early in the morning, when there is cold frost or dew on the grass. It’s very invigorating!

Even in the winter, I prefer to be barefoot when I’m indoors at home. There is simply something about being barefooted that makes me feel better. Interestingly, things that make us feel good on an intrinsic level – for whatever reason – are often good for our
overall health and well-being. Recently, I’ve read a few articles that have made
me more aware of why barefooting it is one of those things.

Walking barefoot on the Earth’s natural surfaces is known as ‘earthing’, and apparently, it is a scientifically researched topic.  According to the research, earthing can have profound positive effects on many areas of our health, including boosting the immune system, decreasing inflammation and pain, reducing stress, improving cardiovascular health, balancing hormones, and improving sleep . I’m betting most of us could you benefit from at least one of those!

The benefits of earthing appear to come from the relationship between our body’s electrical or energetic field, and that of the earth. It is well known that the earth has its own natural charge, or polarity, and research suggests that our body is happiest when it can ‘plug in’ to this source of electricity or energy.

If you doubt that our bodies are not only matter, but energy too, just think of common medical tests, such as an electrocardiogram (ECG) or electroencephalogram (EEG). Both start with the root word ‘electr/o’ which means electricity, and end with the suffix ‘gram’, which means a recording or measurement of something. These tests are designed to measure the electrical activity of two very important organs in the body – the heart (ECG), and the brain (EEG).

If that’s not enough proof that we’re full of electricity, voltage, ionic current, energy (choose your preferred term), consider that nerve impulses throughout our body are based on something called action potentials, which are short-term changes in the electrical potential of cell membranes. These action potentials are responsible for stimulating just about every function in the body. We’re more or less one big bag of salt water, which is known to conduct electrical current very well!

Studies on the benefits of earthing have been published in journals such as theJournal of
Environmental and Public Health 
and the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. A very well-known alternative physician, Dr. Joseph Mercola, has talked about earthing on the Dr. Oz Show, and recently wrote a detailed article on the topic. Here are a few excerpts from his article:

The scientific theory behind the health benefits seen
from this
 simple practice is that since the Earth has a greater negative charge
than your body, you end up absorbing electrons from it. This is, in my
understanding, one of the most potent antioxidants we know of, and may have an
anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effect on your body…

…To put it simply, it’s thought that the influx of free electrons from
the Earth’s surface will help to neutralize free radicals and reduce both acute
and chronic inflammation, which is at the root of many health conditions and
accelerated aging… 

…The effects of grounding appear to be so profound that researchers
suggest health practitioners prescribe outdoor “barefoot sessions” as
the weather permits. This is as simple as it sounds – you kick off your shoes
and socks and walk barefoot on the grass, the dirt, the sand or whatever
“Earth” is available to you. Studies suggest that benefits such as
pain relief and stress reduction may occur in just 30-80 minutes of barefoot
time a day…

This isn’t a new concept. Dr. Bernard Jensen, who was an internationally known pioneer in holistic and alternative health for over 60 years, recommended that patients at his health retreat centres walked outdoors barefoot every day, especially in the early morning when the ground was cold and wet. The cold stimulated the circulatory and lymphatic systems, and the dampness allowed for greater conductivity between the Earth and the skin on the soles of the feet.

Today, the health benefits of earthing have become so popular in some circles, that you can even buy ‘earthing pads’ to use indoors when the weather prevents you from doing the ‘real thing’. Apparently, these pads simulate the benefits of the Earth’s electrons.

Regardless of whether or not you’re ‘grounding’ yourself to a natural surface or an earthing pad, walking around barefoot still offers many benefits. As I have been trained in foot reflexology, I am well aware (as are many of my reflexology clients!) of the numerous beneficial effects of stimulating the bottom of the feet. In addition to just
being a wonderfully relaxing experience that anyone can enjoy on a regular basis – and a real treat for tired feet, Reflexology offers numerous benefits, including:

  • improves circulation of blood and lymph
  • normalizes body functions
  • releases tension and reduces stress
  • promotes relaxation, rejuvenation and repair by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous
    system
  • increases energy
  • boosts the immune system

Going barefoot is a bit like giving yourself a wee reflexology treatment, all be it a very general one.

In addition to all of the ‘functional’ health benefits associated with barefooting it, there are also structural benefits. Anyone who is familiar with orthotics knows that providing the feet with proper support can relieve pain from our neck to our toes by improving our posture in general. Ironically, many of our foot problems likely developed from spending
too much time in shoes; after all, we did just fine without them for a few million years!

Many sources claim that the ‘artificial’ support of shoes allows the muscles of our feet to become ‘lazy, and that by walking barefoot, we can retrain or ‘reboot’ these muscles (and ligaments, tendons, and bones) to shape up and strengthen. This offers many benefits, including better arches, stronger ankles, stronger legs, alleviated knee and back pain, better balance, better posture, and better support for our entire body (which will likely prevent falls that can have serious outcomes, especially as we age). Some sources even claim that foot conditions such as bunions and hammertoes resolve themselves as feet get stronger and healthier thanks to barefooting it.

I think it’s great that something that feels so wonderful has the potential to positively affect so many areas our overall health and well-being. If you rarely ever walk around in bare feet, start slowly, perhaps indoors, until you get used to it. Before you know it, you’ll be looking forward to every opportunity to kick off your shoes!

Enjoy!

References

  1. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/09/20/barefoot-on-electron-deficiency.aspx
  2.  

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