Should You Try Barefoot Walking or Earthing?

Will reconnecting to Earth change your life?

After seeing some friends posting on social media about barefoot walking, or “Earthing,” and then watching a documentary called: “The Earthing Movie,” I decided to give it a shot.

As I began to study the benefits of going barefoot, I realized there are two distinct approaches. Earthing and Barefoot training are done with bare feet (obviously.) However, the premise is different. Since the practices over lap, I will discuss both.

With Earthing, the primary reason is to connect with Earth, grounding our energy. Earthing is a subtle bio-electric practice. The basic premise of Earthing is this: Human beings have a composition of about 60% water. Our brains and hearts are about 73% water. Water is conductive to electricity. We need to connect to Earth to ground extra energy. Benefit of Earthing are myriad.

Earthing simply means reconnecting the conductive human body to the Earth’s natural and subtle surface electric charge, an effortless lifestyle activity that systemically influences the basic bioelectrical function of the body. Doing so surprisingly stabilizes the physiology, reduces inflammation, pain, and stress, improves sleep, blood flow, and lymphatic/venous return to the heart, and produces greater well-being.

With Barefoot training, the primary reason is to strengthen the muscles of the foot and ankle. Barefoot training focuses on foot mechanics and physiology.

I’m no stranger to bare feet; as yoga and martial arts are generally practiced without shoes or foot wear. I also am known to take my shoes off at the gym when squatting or deadlifting. But for my walking and rucking, I almost always wear shoes. My favored brand, Hoka One One, is known for thick cushioning and zero ground feel.

Earthing is a more “granola” practice than the craze of minimalist shoes that took off a few years ago… maybe you recall seeing those weird Vibram Five Fingers shoes people were wearing? They still look weird to me.

However I get the premise of individual phalange footwear: Our feet evolved with toes (like fingers) to grip the earth. There are over 100 muscles in the feet which provide support, balance and mobility. The Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practices of acupuncture and acupressure recognize that energy meridians (chi) all have nexus and activation points within the feet. Hands, meanwhile have about 30 muscles. Hands & fingers are mostly activated by muscles in the forearm.

So what should we do with the feet, which until now have lived a sad existence cooped up in a sweat stinky box?

Reactivate them, rewild them.

Over the last few months, I’ve been getting treatments from the talented team at Ventura Training & Athletics for Muscle Activation Technique (MAT®.) Big shout out to J.Benson Wright who has patiently helped “reactivate” muscles throughout my body, which has relieved a lot of pain. I’ll circle back and give a more detailed post on MAT® a soon; but the short story is that when our feet live in shoes 90% of our waking day, many muscles become weak and inactive. Those weaknesses then cause compensations upstream from the extremities.

Maybe you’ve experienced something like this: You injure your foot which causes you to favor it, so you develop a limp. After some time limping, your knee or hip starts bugging you. A while more and now your back and shoulders experience pain and fatigue. All because your foot was injured and you started guarding that area.

The opposite pattern can happen too: Maybe you tweaked your knee or hip, which caused you to limp or favor it. After some time, the increased stress on one side of the body or other caused your ankle and foot to hurt.

Humans are compensating machines; we know from Newton’s third law of motion: For every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction.

I will get back to Earthing and barefoot walking, but this is important: You should have some body workers on your team to help fix these minor issues as they come up. When ignored, movement patterns become more ingrained, like ruts in an old dirt wagon road. They’re hard to bust out of without help. Small corrections can be made with talented assistants, which will help prevent major corrections down the line where you might need a surgeon.

Our bodies in their infinite innate knowledge, seek balance and healing. To that end, some believe that because we have lost our connection to Earth, that many health problems come up.

Benefits of earthing/grounding:

  • Earthing (grounding) connects people to the Earth’s natural healing energy.•
  • Reduces inflammation, pain, and stress; improves blood flow, sleep, and vitality.•
  • Earthing is a simple, profound lifestyle addition, requiring no effort or dieting.•
  • Earthing is a GROSSLY overlooked factor in health and healing.•(•Source: Science Direct)

Benefits of barefoot training:

  • Strengthens muscles, tendons & ligaments in feet
  • Improves proprioperception (spacial awareness)
  • Improves balance & mobility
  • Grounds energy
  • Activates acupressure points throughout the foot

Your feet will get dirty, of course. But besides that, there is no down-sides other than with barefoot training, perhaps increased risk of foot injury due to stepping on something, or muscle strain if you do too much too early.

Over the last three months, I’ve alternated with weighted rucksack walking (with about 45 pounds in my pack) and barefoot walking / Earthing. I’ve noticed stronger feet, better balance, an increased sense of vitality. My feet are tougher, and I feel more connected to the Earth.

I’ll keep up with the practice.

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