Walking barefoot (part 1): reasons I’m doing it & myths to ignore.
Although I can’t recall exactly since when I no longer wear shoes and am walking barefoot, but somewhere about now it should be my three months anniversary. I was trying to start writing about it probably every day of those three months, yet there’s so much to it that I just kept postponing the post over and over again. Since I don’t want to get burned out, I’ll start easy with a two part article.
In the first part I’ll tell you how I started walking barefoot as well as bust main myths stopping people from taking shoes off.
Second part of the article, which you can find right here, is dedicated to my observations since I started walking barefoot, a list of 15 advises for everyone considering freeing their feet from socks and shoes for longer or shorter time span as well as final conclusions on the subject.
One thing to consider is that average temperature of my barefoot “life” is only about +10°C / +50°F (with +3°C / +37.4°F last seven days), so there will be much more to it, not only “just take of your shoes and feel the summer and sun!” So let us begin…
My way out of shoes
I won’t expect you know something about me from my blog, so here’s my story short.
- In 2016 I started running frequently (10 – 15k) until I developed knee and hip pain.
- During the recreational pause I started digging how to run and stay joint-pain free. Naturally I bumped into “toe striking” technique.
- After several test runs utilizing this technique I started asking myself “why have I discovered this thing just now?” And never once did I hit the ground while running with my heel ever again (more about my discovery here)
- Few months later I got myself a pair of Vibram Fivefingers Trek Ascent Insulated (my review here). Those shoes were yet another discovery and I enjoyed every meter of trail in them.
- Then I bought a pair of Vibram V-Runs for warm season (my review here). And these were even awesomer to run in. I remember doing my usual 10k at a pace 30sec faster than usually. That was another “whaaaat?”.
- It happened so that me and my wife are members of a samba drumming battery called “Samba Vilnius“. In 2016 as well as in 2017 we played at major marathon runs here in Vilnius and both days happened to be quite hot. So instead of standing with my feet all sweaty in cheap shoes I took ’em of both times and it felt great.
- With the previous two statements (10k in Vibrams 30s/km faster and niceness of playing drums barefoot) boiling in my head, one day I decided to try out a short 6k run without shoes. My experience was mind blowing and I’ll definitely talk about it someday later.
- After I enjoyed running barefoot so much, a natural question followed – why the hell I use shoes every day instead of just walking barefoot? I even have all the conditions to do so.
- That was my breaking point. My feet haven’t touched a shoe ever since.
You may now imagine that it is no big achievement walking barefoot in summer. Yet somehow we do not have “summer” as we expect it to be here in Lithuania anymore.
In my childhood and years of high-school I remember hot, like +30°C days, that lasted for weeks. And now in 2017 we’re happy if it’s not raining and the “heat” reaches +18°C at its best.
This summer there was no week with several hot days in a row. Hell even water in small lakes didn’t got to the point where you could submerge yourself in it without screaming or doing some other rituals to distract your mind and ignore the coldness of the water.
Fall? Someone asked the right question after 1st of September: “why is it only fall and winter that come right on time in Lithuania?” It gradually went down from +15C° / 59°F to +0C° / +32°F in September and October with rain or heavy rain every second or third day. And a day before yesterday we already experienced first snow. Awesome.
What I’m trying to say, is that the weather wasn’t as friendly as you (or I) would want while starting walking barefoot.
My reasons for walking barefoot
I don’t know anyone and haven’t seen anyone walking barefoot wherever I went without shoes (beaches excluded – although people like to wear slippers or some kind of shoes there too), so I don’t really know why would someone start doing it here in Lithuania.
As of myself – the main reason was that walking barefoot just felt right. Instantly. By no means it was and is easy. Both physically and psychologically.
My stubbornness (or maybe will) however played a significant role here. Since it helped me to not use any kind of alcohol, nor drugs in my entire life as well as learn new things without the need of it, walking barefoot is more or less a piece of cake. Also it’s much easier compared to cold showers I take every time I’m in the shower for more than two years now.
Anyway as I already have three months of walking without shoes experience under my belt, I could distinguish following reasons I will keep walking barefoot:
- My body started to perceive temperature differently. I haven’t had cold hands (thus been frozen) ever since I dropped the shoes. Meaning I always feel warm. Inside or outside. Even when everybody around are freezing (in shoes and gloves), my hands are always warmest. I like to feel warm.
- Continuing the topic of limbs – I no longer think of my cold feet. In reality my feet are colder than “normal” all the time, but it doesn’t feel like that.
- Since “it’s all relative”, I love being able to define what is really cold and what’s not. Surprisingly 99% of surfaces are considered “warm” or “warmish” by my brain (or feet?). Probably because of that I never feel cold. How can I feel cold if I stand or walk on warm surface? Relative.
- If the surface is really cold – like grass early in the morning after +0°C / +32°F in the night – my feet get numb, yet after a while they’re literally warm (warmer than usually). Great feeling that makes me want to stay outside for longer periods of time and fills my body with warmth.
- Back to statement #3 – only the opposite way – it’s so pleasing to step on something cool and refreshing once my feet start to overheat.
- As you may have already noticed one of the most impressive effects of walking barefoot is that you start to feel yourself as well as the surface you’re walking on. And you begin to look at the ground in a different more “exploring” way. What may have seemed harsh cold and unpleasant to step on, turned out to have most comforting effect and vice versa. And these observations come naturally without overthinking or trying to analyze everything I step on or into. First I step, then I feel and then I automatically make conclusions. Trivial, but very unusual and impossible to understand if walking in shoes.
- Since I started walking barefoot I haven’t once got cold in a form I used to get it. Earlier if I got cold I knew it right away as well as I knew that I will be out of order exactly for one week. With or without medicine – seven days for sure.
- Yes, I got cold, but after 33 years of “7 days marathons of sickness” it was in its mildest form. Just a light cough for a day or even a night and that’s it.
- And the most interesting part – I knew – I just felt where the cold came from. And it wasn’t because of my temporary shoe-less lifestyle. Two times in three months I felt it and both times it was closely connected with my emotional condition. In fact even before I started feeling first symptoms I already knew I’ll feel ’em and knew exactly why. Because at certain moments where there was a risk of getting cold, I was stressed out. So it is very interesting to realize that the cold (as perhaps many other diseases) really comes from our inner condition as opposed to environmental impact. Oh, and I’m clearly not talking about sitting naked in heavy wind during a storm naked. Everyday conditions. Usual.
- When I run barefoot and I see people running in shoes heel first – I feel like a queen. Not king, because the king is a bit cumbersome, heavy and slow-ish. And the queen – she’s gracious, light and the wind is making her hear look super light. She looks at everyone from a bit above. By no means I feel better than everyone else, instead I feel free. Same feeling translates if walking barefoot. When I walk in a city without shoes I feel free and at the same time like I’m in a different dimension. Where I’m part of something that everyone is only passing by without noticing the core of it. Strange feeling.
- My feet are always dry and do not smell. And I love that. No need to wash socks, look for socks suited for hot weather (not that we have it…) etc. Basically I no longer care about my feet.
Myths about walking barefoot
In today’s world of shoes and prejudice in general it is natural that people can not bare a thought of one not needing shoes at all. So people who either never tried it or don’t have will, health, curiosity, determination, conditions or else, do very wrong assumptions on the subject of walking barefoot. In fact they not only do wrong assumptions, they “know for sure” it’s BAD, STUPID or whatever. Here are some myths I can bust already:
- Walking barefoot on asphalt or hard surfaces can harm your joints. Yes it can – the same way running can damage joints of those who strike heel first. If you don’t want to suffer, either you start to strike toe first or you reduce your pace. Same with walking barefoot on hard surfaces – you need to choose the pace that fits your body to not harm yourself. And it is trivially easy to do, because it’s natural and you can feel it right away. E.g. if you don’t want to get burned, but wish to stay warm, you step away from the fire until you can feel the warmth, but there’s no danger of burning. If you’ll listen to your body while doing natural things, it’ll always choose the best option for you. Obviously you won’t be able to walk fast shoe-less on hard surfaces without consequences, that’s because you should take a light jog toes-on-ground-first instead of shouting that walking barefoot on asphalt will harm your joints. It is our unnatural habits we developed in a long period of time, that are hurting our joints and bodies, and not something that was intended to be done by the nature.
- It’s easy to damage your feet with all sorts of broken items while walking barefoot. Probability is about the same of a plane crash. When you have nothing on your feet to artificially protect them, you – your body – takes over the role of feet-guard. I bet relatively larger part of people in shoes step into a dog shit in an hour, that barefoot walkers get something sharp stuck into their feet. Why? Because when walking barefoot you’re naturally always conscious about where you put your feet. If not 100% on your path, at least your peripheral vision is always checking the surface out. Thus it’s nearly impossible (because highly counter-intuitive) to text or read, or do something else that requires your eyes when walking barefoot. Your eyes is your main guardian and if you try to distract it, which is against the nature, you then can easily get hurt. And in case you’re thinking more of a road made of needles, shattered glass, or ninja-stars, nails or something similar – you should choose your paths more carefully then.
- And yet if you accidentally step onto a piece of broken glass or some other sharp hidden object – you will get hurt. Chances are, that you will. About 50%. If you’re drunk – maybe about 100%. Interesting thing about walking barefoot is that it is not only your eyes that guard you, but the whole body kicks into doing its best to protect you from injuries. Although there’s no added tension in muscles, but as soon as your foot steps onto something hazardous, it’s a matter of milliseconds for your body to react to the thread. My foot for example doesn’t even get fully on the ground if it feels something sharper than usual. With all that being said, I must admit, that if you or I am going to step on a needle, spike, nail or else, most likely there will be blood. If walking wisely (with your eyes on your path and not smartphone screen) however, the likelihood of getting such an injury is equal to being assaulted on the street. Meaning if you know there’s a chance of being ambushed in a specific place – you shouldn’t go there. Otherwise there’s increased likelihood of 50% of all the things in the world happening to you if you’ll want to avoid the remaining 50% of it.
- It’s cold to walk without shoes in temperatures below +15°C / 59°F (I’m taking average of all the “theories” here, so feel free to insert your number). This one’s totally wrong because of three reasons. First – friction. Since your feet are always brushing into whatever sort of surface cover you’re walking on, friction makes your feet warm from outside. Second – movement of your body. No secret here – if we move, we get warm. Of course it may come hard to wait for a bus for an hour barefoot, but how natural is that? You should better walk the time instead of standing. Basic movement will make your feet warm from inside. Third – enhanced blood circulation because of free massage you get all the time walking barefoot.
- It’s very uncomfortable to drive a car without shoes. Is it comfortable to be 5’10”? Is it comfortable to lift your right arm? Is it comfortable to look a bit to the left? Is it comfortable to breath? Is it comfortable to walk in high heels? Is it easier to navigate your smartphone in mittens or without them? The answer is it is extremely comfortable to drive barefoot as opposed to slippers, thick sole shoes and especially high heels. I’m not sure why people thinks or more importantly say that driving barefoot is uncomfortable and yet they’re not afraid to hold a fork with their bare hands or do several pushups without gloves.
- To start walking barefoot you need to start slow. Yes, only if you have extremely sensitive feet. But because of that probably most won’t even consider walking barefoot. So the only thing you need to have while starting is sanity. I’ve read lots of suggestions to start from 5 minutes on soft grass and similar. This is so funny. To people who actually have tried walking without shoes 5 minutes on soft grass sounds same amount absurd as 5 minutes on a rug, or 3 minutes on tiles. Or even better – if you want to start doing pushups, start by putting your palms on hard surface for 5 minutes first…
This is all I can remember for now. There are probably lots more, but please be sure – every health related statement encouraging you to NOT walk without shoes is false. Public opinion on this subject is based 100% on rumors, ignorance and the episode of Game of Thrones were Cersei Lannister walked trough the city without shoes and her feet were all covered in sticky blood. That looked funny and is barely possible if walking barefoot on stone tiles. Even gravel.
Conclusions for part 1
Fact is – my way to walking barefoot was kind of gradual, thus it may seem a bit easier than it really is. On the other hand I started my shoe less experience in lower than normal temperatures, which may make you think, that starting walking barefoot is more difficult, than it really is. Because we are all different, there’s nothing 100% universal, that could be applied to all. Yet if you’re considering taking a chance to start walking without shoes, I encourage you to just do it, ignoring everyone who’s trying to advise you not to.
If you found yourself in a summer right now, you should definitely do your next relaxation or wisdom walk barefoot. If it’s winter outside or the weather is less than pleasant where you live, I’d friendly advise you to read second part of this article (will be posting it next week) as I’ll be sharing some useful tips for walking barefoot in sub +15°C / +59°F temperatures as well as my general observations and very interesting discoveries I faced once I took my shoes off and went feet-naked-public.
Thanks for reading this. Hope you found it useful. And I’d really appreciate your opinion on the subject especially if you have more experience walking barefoot than me, because I’m really interested in how this affair will end.