Are you getting ready to shed the parka – and the boots? You might want to start giving it some thought; the first week of June is National Barefoot Week. It might be the right time to let your inner child footloose and fancy free!
As a kid, I spent many hours running in hot pursuit of my older siblings, barefoot and probably screaming to high heaven about some injustice that had come my way. As an adult, I love the cool ooze of mud between my toes and the warm touch of summer sand – but hiking barefoot?
The theory on going barefoot is that shoes hinder the natural movements of our feet and the 33-odd joints, 20-some muscles and hundreds of sensory receptors, tendons and ligaments become under-stimulated and under-exercised.
In the past couple of years there has been a proliferation of barefoot shoes… umm… foot coverings… umm… gloves for feet… My question is “are you really barefoot if you have anything on your feet?” Devotees suggest that they provide natural movement and a layer of protection. Purists might suggest that they hinder one of the most important benefits of going barefoot: the sense of touch. What do you think?
3 good reasons for shoes:
- Snow (anytime of the year in the mountains).
- Cactus and sundry other pointy objects that like to puncture flesh.
- Foot infections.
3 good reasons try barefoot:
- A sensory connection with the ground beneath your feet.
- No worries about soggy socks and wet insoles.
- Strengthens feet.
If you want to start barefoot hiking, start slow:
- If you wear shoes all the time, it’s going to take a few weeks to toughen up those tootsies.
- Start walking barefoot in your house.
- Take a 5-10 minute walk on a smooth surface outdoors.
- Extend the outdoor walking time by a couple of minutes each time you go out.
- Once you’re up to at least ½ hour barefoot outdoors on a smooth surface, start introducing new terrain (dirt trails then mixed dirt, roots and a few rocks before hitting really rocky trails).
Find kindred “soles” around the country:
Front Range Barefoot Hiking Group, Colorado
East Bay Barefoot Hikers, California
Barefoot Hikers of Emporia, Kansas
The Portland Barefoot Hikers, Oregon