Barefoot lifestyle. You gotta love it!
Walking bare foot is associated, among the western civilization, with poverty and with some sort of disgusting feeling about getting irremediably dirty. As it is true that not all places are ideal to lose your virginity in the peculiar world of walking bare foot, I’m wondering when and if plastic gloves will ever be offered before entering a public toilet. I honestly prefer to have my big toe dirty than my hands. After all, I use them in just as many fun and necessary ways than my feet.
Until this afternoon, I had forgotten how my life was before I changed my walking habits to feel the ground that I walk into every day. A friend of mine came visiting Costa Rica with his kids from Europe. We were walking on the Manuel Antonio National Park beach when we arrived to my child’s and his friend favorite rock that they love to climb every time that the tide is low. While the two jungle boys were already half way up the rock, the other two kids had only taken 10 insecure steps. It was not a matter of strength. It was a matter of sensibility and balance in their feet.
Nothing that a good pair of hiking shoes could fix, right? Why don’t we start thinking instead that wearing shoes at all times is the actual problem? If I hadn’t gone through this phase myself, I would not know the answer. A year ago I was walking along the Savegre River, bare foot, just like the rest of my friends. I couldn’t keep up with their pace, but I still made it to the camping site resisting the temptation to wear my shoes. Was it unnecessary discomfort? Seeing the results today on how my, proprioception and balance has improved, the answer is a round no.
Don’t get me wrong, stepping on pointy rocks will always hurt, I’m not a fakir, but I can avoid them better now, just like I’m learning to avoid spiky people.
I obviously prefer to walk on soft sand than hot asphalt where I could lose 3 of 4 layers of my feet’s skin, but for my son and I, walking barefoot, has become a daily fun practice, it is our barefoot lifestyle.
My shoes are now stored in the car. Tennis shoes, flip flops, sandals…there is one for every occasion. The habit that we have now is to leave the house barefoot. Always. The first unquestionable benefit is that I don’t get stressed or yell anymore…. “Where are your shoes (or mines), hurry up we are late!”
Depending on the social and the walking surface needs, we wear shoes, or not. In some places, is still socially unacceptable to go barefoot, unless you live in New Zealand and, even if I’m a yoga teacher and I could get away with it, I’m also a business woman that loves to wear high hills when a point needs to be made.
Like everything else in life, when start learning how to properly walk and even exercise barefoot, takes time, patience and right information.
If I was in your shoes, I would start slow, maybe 15, 20 minutes a day on kind surfaces to allow your feet and ankles to adapt to the new environment and ease up if you feel excessive pain and discomfort, but don’t give up.
Practicing yoga, it is a great way to kindly adapt your bare foot to a new whole world of sensations. My students know well how much importance I give to make them feel their balance when practicing the Mountain pose. We never pay attention to how we stand, on how much pressure we put on our feet, on which muscles we use more than others. You can try it now, if you want, and see what happens.
Bring your bare feet on a flat surface as closer together as your balance allows it, parallel to one other. Lift your knee caps, and engage your leg muscles and your hips. Belly in. Close your eyes. Pay attention and feel your balance, without judgments. Where in your feet you put the most pressure. Is it even? Do you feel steady and secure standing on your own feet?
Your answer will probably vary every day, but I can assure you that you’ll never go back to the slavery of always wearing shoes after experiencing the sense of freedom that standing, walking and running barefoot will give you.