“It was good for the skin to touch the bare earth, and the old people liked to remove their moccasins and walk with their barefeet on the sacred earth… The soil was soothing, strengthening, cleansing, and healing.”
– Luther Standing Bear (Sioux Tribal Leader)
I have to admit, up until a few years ago, that on the occasions I saw someone walking barefoot around town, hiking barefoot or even running barefoot, I merely grouped them together as a bunch of attention seeking hippies. And yes, I classified them all as hippies, because, well, you know, they weren’t wearing shoes like civilized people! In all reality though, I think deep down I was slightly jealous. I hated wearing shoes. My feet always felt cramped, I was developing bunions, near the end of the day my feet felt exhausted, I had poor arches, had dealt with plantar fasciitis once before and the cherry on top of it all was my feet often stunk worse than moldy dish rags (the ones that have been left on the bottom of the sink for a few days in the middle of summer… yep, those moldy dish rags). Gold bond did nothing. Athletes foot cream was slightly helpful. I tried various shoe brands but could never find one that my feet just loved. I eventually switched to zero drop shoes and I saw some improvement, but my bunions persisted and my feet continued to stink like sewer. “Maybe those dang hippies were on to something,” I finally concluded. And after months and years of experimenting, I think they were.
I am still not able to run on asphalt roads barefoot nor hike mountain trails void of footwear, but I have made an effort to go barefoot as much as possible and have seen some serious improvement in the health of my feet, and possibly my general health overall as I will explain further below. I now rarely ever wear “shoes” – those constricting boxes forced upon us by society (yes, even the famous Altra with their supposedly wide toe boxes – and instead wear minimalist sandals when footwear is needed. Walking and running and working in sandals is so liberating! You need to try it! And I’m not talking about Chacos, or Birkenstocks or comfy flip-flops. I’m talking about a hard, perfectly flat sole of rubber strapped to your feet. No arch support, no cushion and no ankle supports. It’s the closest thing I can get to barefoot, without getting kicked out of the supermarket or church 🙂 Since wearing minimalist sandals coupled with going barefoot as much as possible, I have noticed my bunions decreasing, my toes spacing out a little more, no more foot fatigue and my arches have never been better! In fact, many studies are now revealing various potential health benefits of going barefoot. Below are just a few:
Potential Health Benefits!*
- Reduces inflammation
- Strengthens immune system
- Improves sleep
- Reduces chronic pain
- Reduces stress
- Reduces cortisol levels
- Reduces muscle soreness
- Speeds recovery time from illness
- Helps regulate blood pressure
- Helps manage autoimmune diseases
How can grounding, or earthing as it is commonly called, have so many positive benefits? The earth is saturated with mobile electrons and freely passes them on to us humans, if we allow her to. But why would you want more mobile electrons flowing through you? The same reason why you want to consume more antioxidants from the magical fruit eaten by pink unicorns recently discovered in the lost city of Atlantis (Okay, I made that up. But I wouldn’t doubt that some company will try and use that story to sell a piece of fruit). Seriously speaking now, how antioxidants work is by giving up electrons to neutralize free radicals, or in fancy science language, reactive oxygen species (ROS). It’s conceivable that these ROS’s were also in the fire swamp with the ROUS’s – If you get that reference, you’re invited over for movie night. These ROS’s negatively impact the immune system and your body’s inflammatory responses. So, theoretically by grounding yourself with the earth, aka going barefoot, gardening without gloves, mud wrestling in your underwear, ect., you are actually helping to combat those nasty free radicals, which strengthens your immune system and reduces inflammation in the body. Also earthing helps stabilize the electrical environment of all your organs, tissues and cells, thus promoting their proper and healthy functioning.
I know it can be difficult if not impractical at times to go barefoot in our modern society, but that only means we should go to greater efforts to try and ground ourselves in some way throughout the day. Hopefully, you will find some potential options in the list below to help you benefit from Earthing!
How Can I Participate in Earthing?
- Going barefoot. Possibly the easiest and cheapest way (I mean you can’t beat free) is to have your barefeet contact earth for at least 30 minutes per day. The more moist the ground is the better the conductivity. This can be soil, grass, rock, sand or even water. This is one reason why the ocean feels so good, the sand and salt water are great condcutors and you are literally practicing grounding at it’s very finest! Grounding most likely a contributor to why people tend to sleep much better during beach vacations.
- Gardening. You’ve got to get your hands dirty though… no gloves. This is also an effective way to ground yourself. Typically you need to spend more time gardening though as your hands are not in constant contact with the earth, like they are when you are walking or standing.
- Mud baths. Probably the most intense and adventurous form of grounding, but you can’t get much more grounded than covering your naked body in mud.
- Swimming in rivers, lakes and oceans. Water is an amazing conductor of electricity. As long as the water is grounded that you are in, you are grounded. Sorry, swimming pools are a no go, not to mention all the yucky chemicals in the water as well!
- Earthing products. You can purchase earthing products or make them yourself. These products have conductive metal fibers built into the product that you can plug in to the grounding hole of electrical sockets (most newer homes have this grounding feature on all electrical sockets) with the electrical socket being grounded outside. It is literally the small round hole below the two flat holes on the socket. Has a similar effect as if you were sticking your feet in the dirt! These products can be ordered online from www.earthing.com in the US and www.earthingcanada.ca in Canada.
- Earthing mats – place under your feet at your desk or couch or in the kitchen
- Earthing throws – comfy cotton blankets
- Earthing pads – sleep on them, use on top of pillow, place under wrists while typing,
- Earthing bands – leg or arm bands that can be used while doing a variety of activities.
- Earthing sheets – fitted cotton sheets with silver thread sewn throughout.
- Earthing pillow cases
“The earth heals us through our feet. We heal others through our hands.”
*Here is the link to the study that looked at many other studies and saved me the time from doing it. Earthing: Health Implications of Reconnecting the Human Body to the Earth’s Surface Electrons
*You can also purchase Clint Ober’s book, Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever?