Did you ever wonder why you suddenly feel calm and energized when you spend time in nature, and why you think this, even more, when you touch the Earth with your bare hands or bare feet? There is good reason for this, and the benefits of barefoot walking can help with many physical and mental conditions that plague us in our modern world. Let’s explore why earthing and walking on the grass in your bare feet is something that you might want to include in your daily routine.
Earthing and Going Barefoot
For those unfamiliar with earthing or grounding, it all began in the 1990s with a man named Clint Ober. He was a cable television installer and knew that you had to install a ground wire and connect the system to the Earth to get a clear signal. Otherwise, the television would show nothing but static. He knew that the principle worked because the Earth contains negative ions, and the cable system contains positive ions. An exchange of ions took place until the system reached a steady state, and then, the static cleared.
Later, he began to experience chronic pain, and he wondered if connecting himself to the ground via a sleeping pad and wire stuck into the Earth would help. To his surprise, he almost immediately began experiencing improved sleep and a reduction in pain, which also allowed him to reduce the amounts of painkillers he needed. In the 2000s, he experimented on some of his friends, and a majority experienced similar results. Thus the beginning of the practice that we call earthing or grounding was born.
This exchange of ions happens every time we are in direct contact with the Earth. Going barefoot is one of the ways that you can quickly achieve these results. Leaning with your back against a tree can also have a similar effect.
What Happens If You Walk Barefoot on Grass?
When you walk barefoot on grass, your feet exchange ions with the Earth, similar to the ground wire on a cable television system. Our modern lives leave us disconnected from the ancient practice of walking barefoot, which was necessary for our ancestors and should be to us. Nowadays, we experience more stress, more exposure to electronics, and a lack of time to relax and build up positive ions in our bodies. Wearing rubber-soled shoes acts as a shield that prevents the ion exchange needed to ground our bodies.
A build-up of positive ions can eventually lead to free radicals in our bodies, which can begin the inflammatory process and disease. Walking barefoot on grass gives us a way to restore the natural electrical balance in our bodies by exchanging ions directly with the Earth. By doing this, we can help reduce free radicals in the body, calm our nervous system, and improve our feeling of mental well-being.
Is Walking Barefoot Good for You?
Aside from the exchange of ions, there are other health benefits too. When toddlers begin to walk, many parents are told to do this naturally without shoes. That is because the children receive feedback from the ground when they walk barefoot, and it improves their awareness of their body in relation to the world around them. The child develops what is known as our “natural” gait. This natural gait goes away when we begin wearing shoes all the time.
Are There Benefits of Walking on Grass?
Walking on different surfaces is healthy for your feet because your foot and leg muscles work less when you wear shoes. Wearing shoes causes your feet to become weak over time and can lead to pain and imbalances in the rest of the body. Walking barefoot on the grass helps to correct some of these issues. Without shoes, you can take advantage of the effects of grounding. Walking barefoot on the grass is healthy for your feet physically and your whole body.
What Is Barefoot Grounding?
Barefoot grounding is simply the practice of taking off shoes and walking barefoot in the grass. The ion exchange with the Earth begins as soon as you step foot onto the ground. For those who have difficulty standing, even sitting in a chair barefoot with your feet on the ground will give you the same effects. Of course, walking on the grass has many other benefits like building stronger feet, ankles, and improving your posture. This area of study has received considerable attention from the clinical research community, and it is now considered a branch of medicine called environmental medicine.
How Long Should You Walk Barefoot in Grass?
Ideally, it is recommended that you spend at least 15 to 30 minutes a day barefoot on the ground. Even a few minutes a day will bring benefits. There is no way to overdose on grounding, and if you can spend more time, it is even better. If you work in an office, even taking off your shoes and walking barefoot on the grass during your breaks will allow you to see significant benefits over time.
If you plan to incorporate earthing barefoot for exercise, it is probably better to start on a familiar surface. Remember that your feet have been in shoes for a long time. You may experience muscle soreness as you build up strength. If you are not planning to do it for exercise and want to stand with your bare feet on the ground, you will still experience the benefits of earthing.
Physical Benefits of Walking Barefoot
Walking barefoot has been found to cause measurable changes in the human body that have positive benefits. For instance, earthing can cause a measurable shift in the balance of the autonomic nervous system. It drives healthy changes in the heart’s rhythm, respiratory rate, skin conductance, blood oxygenation, and pulse rate to reflect a calmer state. The same research article also cites studies that indicate an improvement in glucose regulation, immune response, and bioindicators of osteoporosis.
Is walking barefoot good for blood pressure? Grounding has proven to affect several cardiovascular risk factors. In one study, after two hours of grounding, we found the change to red blood cells’ electrical charge reduces blood viscosity.
Is walking barefoot good for circulation? Any form of exercise is good for circulation, but earthing was also found to improve heart rate variability, which positively affects blood pressure and circulation.
Does walking barefoot boost your immune system? Earthing has been shown to reduce cortisol levels, which are associated with lower levels of stress. The medical community has studied this connection between stress and the immune system for many decades.
Mental Benefits of Walking Barefoot
Walking barefoot has several mental health benefits as well. When we are stressed and start experiencing anxiety, we are under the control of our sympathetic nervous system. This is the same part of the nervous system responsible for fight or flight response. Only a few minutes of grounding can cause our body to shift from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system. Meaning that we are no longer stressed or anxious, even if we were not aware of this before. These levels can shift without any intervention from us other than taking off our shoes.
Walking barefoot also causes us to release endorphins, which are known to relieve the symptoms of depression. Another measured benefit of walking barefoot is that it reduces cortisol levels. This lowers our stress levels and can help ease depression and anxiety. Exercise also has this effect, but just standing or sitting barefoot with your feet on the ground will produce this effect to some degree. That is why being in nature makes us feel more relaxed and calm immediately.
Sand Walking Benefits vs. Grass
Anytime you walk barefoot on the Earth, it will have a beneficial effect. Walking barefoot on the sand can have some extra benefits. Sand can help strengthen your legs and muscles even more than walking on grass. The sand adds resistance, and you have to work to push against it when you walk.
It also helps to improve your balance by reawakening the nerves that give us feedback when we walk. These nerves are numbed by wearing shoes. Walking on sand also burns more calories than walking on grass. Another reason to consider walking on the beach is the calming waves, the feel of the sand, and some vitamin D.
The Downside to Walking Barefoot
Many people have concerns about not wearing anything on their feet and whether it is healthy. The first question that they have is, Is it healthier to wear shoes or go barefoot? Some modern podiatrists will tell you that going barefoot can damage your feet and cause injury. However, many of these injuries happen because we do not use our feet and keep our muscles toned, setting us up for injury. Going barefoot can relieve many of the effects of improperly fitting shoes.
Of course, there is always the potential that you will step on something that could injure your feet. If you have diabetes or other conditions that cause your body to heal slowly, you need to consider this if you decide to walk barefoot.
People who experience plantar fasciitis also need to consider whether going barefoot is right for them. The potential for injury and conditions that cause you to heal slowly or bruise easily might make it unwise for you to go barefoot. If any of these issues concern you, earthing shoes are available; they have minimal padding but offer some protection against things that could harm you. Of course, if you have any concerns about going barefoot, you should consult with your physician. This article is not a replacement for their advice.
What If You Can’t Get Outside?
For those who cannot get to a place where they can safely go barefoot, products are available that can help you connect to the Earth and experience many of the same benefits. These products include sleeping mats, core bands, therapy patches, and earthing mats for under your desk.