It’s true that despite our child’s absence of shoes, I am still transitioning to becoming more barefoot myself. As an adult who was raised with shoes on most of the time, it takes time and patience to train the feet back to being comfortable in their natural state.
Like most people I have worn shoes since a young child and been conditioned into believing I must do so to protect my feet and prevent illness occurring due to over exposure to the elements.
From a young child I always had an aversion to my feet being completely incased in shoes.
Like others, I had free feet indoors and was encouraged to put shoes on whenever the weather was cold, wet or the terrain looked undesirable. I hated the transition from Spring and Summer into Autumn and Winter and frequently fell ill around these times. Of course there are a multitude of factors why this can happen; weather/temperature changes, less exposure to sunlight and less seasonal, fresh food available.
But why is it I began to wonder that our bodies can’t naturally adapt to these seasonal cycles and stay in balance?
A few years ago, I began to experiment with taking away some modern ‘conveniences’, one being central heating and the other being shoes and the amount of time spent grounding directly on the earth outside.
Since having kids I have also started to ask questions about which modern inventions were helping us and which ones were hindering us. I noticed that my post-walking babies suddenly began to ‘moon’ walk and trip over much more when we placed them in shoes so I kept them out of shoes for as long as possible, until they started to want to imitate those around them.
Today my five year old wears shoes as much as most other kids do and goes barefoot occasionally, mostly in parks and at the sea. Since wearing shoes more I have observed he has struggled much more with thermo-regulation and caught colds more frequently, unlike when he was a baby and toddler.
My second child (16 months old) does own shoes and ironically does have a shoe fascination but we have thus far kept her barefoot time exceeding shoe wearing time.
Witnessing these transitions for my children has made me think….could I help them stay connected to nature better by increasing my own barefoot exposure?
Recently I got in touch with a lady called Bea Marshall who coaches in a style of parenting called “Yes” parenting. She has lived barefoot now for 6 years, and she did all this starting off with just two weeks of going completely barefoot.
Inspired by her story, I set myself a one week barefoot challenge: wearing nothing but the soles of my feet on my lower extremities, indoors and outdoors, whatever the weather.
Luckily I picked a good week for warmer weather, although on day seven I did encounter some rain which actually came as a refreshing welcome after a week of hot pavements.
What did I discover?
I began the week with a pair of flip flops (thongs) and wipes in my bag just in case it all got a bit too much. I walked the dog twice every day and managed to avoid stepping on dog poop! I went food shopping (luckily my local markets don’t have barefoot restrictions. I even took a few strolls over Brighton’s famous pebble beach without so much as even a pair of beach shoes. As the week progressed I began to feel the nerve endings on the soles of my feet tingling and awakening. Luckily I work from home so I didn’t have to worry about any strict dress codes or having to sneak off shoes under the office desk! I did however experiment with making pretend shoe-illusions on my feet using ribbons and face paints in case of needing to go somewhere which required footwear such as a bar or pub. The week was not without pain, including stepping on a thorn and hot footing it over sharp, stoney pavements and shards of glass but only a few days in and my body began to feel more relaxed, energised and alert. I slept better and had smoother skin and softer hair.
I overcame obstacles along the way including learning to relax about others perceptions of myself and learning how to slow down when the body starts to heal. I realised that in order to walk safely barefoot, you must be 100% mindful and present in every step you take. This deliberation slowed me down and bought more calmness into my life, making me less stressed and less snappy at those around me.
Will I continue the barefoot revolution?
I embarked on this challenge with the intention to discover how I would feel and what would change for me without my shoes. One day I hope to be completely barefoot but for now I live in the city and city life is dirty…not in a wholesome, muddy sense but in a wasteful, non-biodegradable sense. There was all sort of undesirable objects along my path including: spit, broken bottles and split rubbish bags adorning many of the streets. When my youngest goes barefoot I oftern carry her in a sling along the streets and set her down when we arrive at our destination so she does not become exposed to dangerous objects.
After waking up my feet to their full potential I cannot however, go back to wearing my old thick soled, insulated shoes. For now I will choose the middle path and try to go barefoot as much as possible and will wear footwear that allows my feet more freedom and movement. One thing I have learnt from this week is how much cleaner and cared for our environment would be if only people took the time to remove their shoes more often, re-connect with nature and pay full attention to every step we take.