It was reading the work of Clint Ober that inspired myself and my wife to experiment going barefoot and has encouraged us to raise our son Ulysses and when she is old enough our Daughter Ostara barefoot, to let there little feet connect with the earth and develop a full range of motion.
Clint was a retired billionaire maybe millionaire either way he was financially secure. One day he was sitting down watching the world go by when for some reason he cannot explain; his attention was drawn to the shoes, trainers/sneakers and other footwear that people were wearing and found it funny and curious, his curiosity encouraged him to remove his shoes.
After removing his shoes he noticed his connection with the earth he noticed that he felt better and then he asked himself a question – what would I feel like if I could spend more time of the day connected to the earth than disconnected? From this question he went on to create the Earthing brand, which provides grounding sheets and products that essentially bring you closer to the earths vibration more of the time.
Clint’s work explores how reconnecting back to the Earth reduces inflammation, stress, anxiety, improves sleep and encourages the body to self heal, there were a lot of other benefits, but the one that stood out for me was self heal.
Through going barefoot and earthing through the night Clint found you could heal a whole range of conditions, I was interested by this and from the moment Ulysses could find his feet we had him barefoot and whilst he does love to wear his wellies and has a pair of trainers you will find him climbing trees and running along a pebbled beach barefoot, when I first observed Ulysses running along the pebbled beach and digesting Clints work I knew I only had one thing left to do!
I winced at the thought of it and as my sleeping feet tried to communicate with the uneven attack of the pebbles below I knew this was going to be a painful journey; no one likes being woken up and my feet were no exception, they had become very accustomed to the sheltered life of a whole array of footwear, I did not understand to what detriment this was though until I took my shoes off. I have found also that through self healing the teacher is generally pain and so I took this discomfort as a positive sign, but also as a sign to be patient and nurture myself through this transition, Ulysses was running along the beach with no discomfort, how come I felt pain? That simple observation helped me to acknowledge the power of self healing potential in going barefoot.
Now I have practiced Yoga for many years and we even attempt to knead our fingers through our toes to encourage them to open up in yoga practice, however it was Clint’s insight that was key! he observed that just 20 or so minutes a day earthing (going barefoot) was a huge imbalance when you consider there are 24 hours in a day, the benefits would only be recognised through regular practice, which is similar of course to yoga and any practice.
To increase my practice time I purchased a pair of Vibrams, which are barefoot trainers and wear them as often as possible, I go to the sea most mornings braving the pebbles barefoot and I also climb barefoot.
Since increasing my barefoot time to a daily practice I have found my feet have finally begun to wake up and it is through this waking up that it was confirmed to me that most of us live with sleepy feet, which is probably why they ache and are stiff, they have been cushioned for far too long.
The thing is when you walk or climb or whatever your doing if you do it barefoot you have to pay greater attention too or you could say be more mindful of where and how you are moving; at first this actually increases the levels of tension and stress no different to any new practice, however when you get into it the freedom you have to move is unbelivable because the whole of the foot is moving, your ankle wakes up and your knees and your hips, in fact the whole of you wakes up to a whole new potential of movement.
Now this takes time it doesn’t happen overnight and yes it comes with a portion of pain and discomfort, let me tell you the pebbles in Brighton on a cold December morning are unforgiving, technically they are unforgiving all year round I have discovered, however they are particularly unforgiving in the winter, but worth the pain plus as time has passed the pain has lessened and the body has almost fully adapted, I will not be racing my son just yet, but I am getting there.
I mentioned I am excited about barefoot practicing as a self healing tool and I want to re-iterate that, as with all my recommendations don’t take what I say as a truth get out there and try it for yourself, feel the sand between your toes, feel the mud beneath your feet, climb a tree and feel how much more grip you have, plus doing all this is fun (ok not so much fun on those cold December mornings), but its summer time now.
Your feet will not be use to going barefoot so do take your time, wear flat shoes as often as possible (I do wear boots, this is not a complete removal of all footwear, I would happily place my feet in my snowboard boots to go snowboarding). Understand that the more often you go barefoot your body will begin a process of adaptation and change (back to your original design), this change can feel uncomfortable, but if you persevere you will reap the rewards.
Have fun with it, be curious and remember you were not born with shoes on or clothes for that matter (we will visit that at a later date), I encourage you then with this simple knowledge that if you were not born with it you may not need it as much as you think you do!
Feel free to share any barefoot adventures you go on, I hear that you can do barefoot marathons for the runners out there! Wim Hoff completed a barefoot marathon across the arctic!!!!
to you all in great health
The Yoga Health Coach