In a stressful year, many people have found solace walking out in nature. We have found this also and have loved watching the seasons change. But this year there has been an added layer that has calmed more deeply than nature and exercise could do. This year Pigeon and I went barefoot. Not literally, unless you count the lack of something on our feet at home. What I mean is that we switched to wearing barefoot shoes after reading about the benefits (Parrot wears leg splints so couldn’t join us in this).
Shoes have been a battle with Pigeon for as long as he has been wearing them. He, like me, much prefers to be barefoot, going without socks and shoes much of the time. Even as I write this he has nothing on his feet! I have socks on purely as a concession to the winter cold.
Barefoot shoes are designed around the way our feet were supposed to be, until we squeezed them into tight fitting heeled shoes that is. Did you know that shoes started having heels for the purpose of horse riding so that feet stayed in the stirrups? The toe box of a modern shoe is a far smaller space than our toes need; they need more width to spread out, which actually improves our balance. The thick soles of modern shoes are like putting your feet in a sensory deprivation chamber, you can’t feel much and your foot cannot move the way it is designed to move. Our feet are amazing pieces of design; responsive, strong and flexible – but only if we allow them to be. Barefoot shoes have a wider toe box, thin flexible sole and are a lot lighter to wear.
Pigeon used to moan about walking any distance, but since wearing barefoot shoes, he loves going out walking. He finds all kinds of textures to tread on and excitedly calls me over to try them for myself. Barefoot shoes allow you to feel so much more. Just before writing this, I took Parrot out in his wheelchair on a snowy run. Beneath my feet I could really feel the stones, the ice crystals and the slush of the melting snow. It was like feeling the world in HD! That is the added layer that I alluded to earlier, the increased sensory feedback from each step walked. It calms and distracts in a mindfulness kind of way; there is pleasure in taking each step. Other benefits are better posture, less back pain and feeling lighter on my feet.
A serious note If you want to find out more about going barefoot, reading posts by Katy Bowman, author of ‘Move Your DNA’ is a good place to start. Freet Barefoot shoes have a good website, as do Vivobarefoot and Xero Shoes. You will need to read up on how to transition properly to avoid injury, don’t just make a sudden change. Shoes can also be expensive, but they often come up second hand on eBay after only being worn a couple of times.