Standing barefoot with the Earth under our feet is a wonderful experience. Some believe that grounding into the Earth — be it dirt, sand, rock, or grass — is healing for the body and mind.
I believe that going barefoot (earthing), even if for just a little bit each day, is a strong reminder to be present and rooted in all our natural surroundings.
One of my favorite pictures of my husband and son does not even have their faces in it. Just their feet. Both barefoot, their toes grounding into the leaf-dusted trail beneath them, this sweet image reminds me of freedom. A freedom to be comfortable in nature, without the confinement of shoes.
Our family often enjoys going barefoot in the backyard and on hikes. While this might seem unusual to some, I believe there are many benefits to getting your feet dirty, and I encourage my son to “earth” often.
Bare feet may Reduce Injury Risk
According to a paper published years ago by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the “barefoot environment” is ideal for growing feet. Shoes may decrease the natural motion of your child’s feet when walking. This can cause “splinting” of the foot’s joints, as well as reduced muscular development of the foot. Poor muscular development may promote the risk of foot and lower leg injury.
In addition, going shoe-less will help children increase their agility as they play and pay more attention to their surroundings (therefore hopefully reducing the risk of falling). If going barefoot is not an option, studies show the merit of choosing shoes for your children that are slim and flexible, rather than chunky and thick. It’s not hard to do, there are so many adorable, moccasin-type shoes on the market these days!
Related: In Support of Rough-and-Tumble Play
Sans Shoes, Little Ones Learn Mindfulness
When walking barefoot, your child has no choice but to embrace crisp, dewy blades of grass and soothingly squishy puddles of mud. Their senses will be heightened with each teeny tiny pebble and warm grain of sand. I believe this is an easy way to teach mindfulness at a young age. It also presents the opportunity to slow down while walking and soak up the beauty of the natural environment.
“Earthing” Activates an Acupuncture Point
I have come to enjoy the almost uncomfortable pressure of the edge of a rock under my bare feet. Apparently, this could be due to the fact that I am receiving an extra energy boost from the Earth! According to Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever! walking barefoot “energizes” an acupuncture point known as Kidney 1 in Chinese Medicine.
This acupuncture point is located on the sole of the foot. Here the Earth’s energy, or Qi, is absorbed, which studies reveal has multiple health benefits, including reduced levels of inflammation in the body.
Going Barefoot more Often may Release Emotional Stress
Kiddos cranky? Send them outside for a barefoot stroll! Studies and researchers in the field of “earthing” have found that this practice is associated with a reduction in reported emotional stress, anxiety, depression, irritability, and sleeplessness. In fact, walking barefoot is often used as a meditation and mindfulness exercise in grief therapy.
I certainly know that I feel significant relief after wiggling my toes in the grass, and that is all the proof that I need!
Safety is Important Too!
With all of this said, our environment is not always set up for bare feet. No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service is real in most places. In addition, Mother Earth has a host of natural dangers (like sharp, jagged rocks—ouch!) and man made ones (shards of glass or scorching hot pavement for example).
I absolutely encourage checking out any potential “barefoot” areas for harm. It is also helpful to remind children to be extra cautious of their surroundings when at play without shoes — even though they may learn this naturally when barefoot anyway!
Photo Credit: Kathleen Dagostino/ Flickr.com.