How I Started Walking Barefoot
Walking barefoot was not a habit I intended to start, but once it was in motion, I wasn’t about to give it up. About a year ago, three things happened simultaneously that changed my feet forever.
First, I was a few months into training with kettlebells. In reading all I could about kettlebell training, I learned that there’s a debate in that fringe kettlebell world over wearing shoes or going barefoot while training. I chose team no-shoes, since I didn’t have to deal with sweaty shoes, or smell the nastiness that is stinky socks (I don’t like stinky socks).
Second, I started a job that was mostly remote work for the very first time in my career. That meant while I could be professional torso and up, my feet were free to roam underneath without the captivity of socks or shoes. I could attend meetings all day at my desk while barefoot and not deal with stinky socks (I really don’t like stinky socks).
Third, because the mostly remote job meant my day was sedentarily spent at my desk, I took walk breaks throughout the day to ensure I was moving. And since I was already walking barefoot around the house, I decided to test it outside. One day in late March of 2022, I took a quick walk around the block without shoes or socks (did I mention I don’t like stinky socks?).
That 15-minute walk turned into a second 15-minute walk later that day. The bottoms of my feet were a little sore after a day of walking barefoot, but I decided to try again the next day. And before you knew it, that second day turned into a week, and that week to a month, and that month to a quarter, and that quarter to a year.
What Do You Mean by Walking Barefoot?
The accepted scientific definition of walking barefoot is:
“the strange phenomenon that occurs when an individual decides to forego footwear and walk around on their exposed and naked feet”
The Google definition shortens and simplifies it a bit:
“walking while wearing nothing on the feet”
The slang for walking barefoot is known as:
And my neighbors who see me walking barefoot around the neighborhood define it as:
“strange, odd, or unusual behavior”
Each of these gets closer to the true definition, whatever that is. But for me, I define walking barefoot as:
“going for walks around the paths and parks near my neighborhood without any footwear”
For clarification, I don’t walk barefoot into Target, Home Depot, church, the office, or other places where people typically wear shoes. On those days and on those outings, I either wear flip-flops or subject myself to the pain of stinky socks at the end of the day.
What I Learned From Walking Barefoot For a Year
Since that day in late March of 2022, I have logged who knows how many miles on the soles of my feet. And what a journey that’s been. Here are some of the strange things I’ve experienced.
My motivation to walk increased
This one surprised me… after a few days of plodding around on my exposed feet, I found that I enjoyed it. And because it was a new thing I was trying, I wanted to get outside and do more of it. I unintentionally found a strange way to motivate myself to walk more.
Even a year into this, the barefoot experience still has some novelty. And the step count on my pedometer thanks me for that daily, as I’ve been able to get 10,000 daily steps regularly, even with a sedentary job.
I cannot recommend the pedometer I use enough. It’s a watch, and I’ve had it now for several years.
This is an affiliate link, and as an Amazon Associate I earn on qualifying purchases. But unlike your feet, you should cover up your wrist with something that will help you track your steps.
My feet don’t stink as much anymore
Do you remember the scene from the movie Holes where Stanley’s mom is asked by her husband to smell the pair of shoes while she’s eating? After being disgusted, she takes a sniff, says “I don’t smell anything”, and then realizes she just had a life-changing experience.
Well, I guess I had my own Yelnats moment with my feet. After a few months of not wearing socks or shoes while walking around my neighborhood, I remember sitting down one day with my feet propped up on the coffee table, and I noticed that I didn’t smell my feet at all.
That thought quickly entered and exited my mind. Then I realized that my feet don’t stink. I bolted upright, pulled my feet in for a close sniff, and to my shock they didn’t stink at all. Normally, after a long day of wearing shoes and shocks, I like to keep a far distance between my nose and my feet. But after months of walking barefoot outside, there wasn’t a smell.
I asked my wife, who was nearby, to smell them. She politely declined a close-range sniff, but she did tell me that she had definitely noticed that my feet don’t stink as much.
Walking barefoot was my peaches and onions.
My toes are not as curled
Curled toes run in my family. I always thought I was destined to have toes that looked like gnarly and bent claws toward the end of my life. But I think I’m delaying or reversing that process by walking barefoot.
When you walk around in footwear (especially with narrow or smaller shoes), there can be slight resistance that’s applied to the tops of your toes that force them to curl inwards. My genetics already predisposed me to have more naturally curled toes, so even in my late twenties my toes were curling like an Olympian.
But when I started walking barefoot, my toes had room to spread. Again to my shock, my toes not only stopped curling as much, but they started to elongate more naturally. Hopefully, I’ve reversed the curse of curled toes in my family.
Watch out for things hidden in the grass
By far the number one question I have gotten from people who see me walking barefoot is related to safety. Is it safe? Aren’t you going to step on something? What about glass or nails? What about fungi, bacteria, or infections?
After doing this for one year, I have never cut my foot open nor have my feet been infected. But there was one time I did step on something memorable.
I was earthing that day. I decided to leave my well-trodden bicycle path for the feel of the dewy grass.
It was a great walk. The sun was out after a long night of rain. The temperature was cool. The grass on my feet proved to be softer and more comfortable than the pathway. My dog, who was with me, seemed to enjoy company on the grass as he and I made our way towards our destination.
That’s when I stepped into it. And I knew exactly what it was when I felt it squish between my toes. Someone had not fulfilled their neighborly responsibility by picking up their dog’s mess, and I had stepped right into it.
I was about a mile away from my house… so I wiped as much of it off my feet as I could in the wet grass, and hobbled my way back home. That was the last time I left the safety and security of the path.
The bottoms of my feet are tough as steel
Well… not quite. But there’s definitely a thick layer of protection on my soles that wasn’t there before. I also have veins and muscles on my feet I didn’t know I could have on my feet.
The way your body can acclimate to its surroundings, even in the forgotten-about underparts of your feet, is remarkable. The bottoms of my feet have adapted to the regular impact of hard pavement, ground, small rocks, and whatever else is on the pathways in my neighborhood.
In terms of temperature adaptations, I live in southeast Texas. We don’t really have a “winter”, so I was able to keep up this barefoot walking thing through the colder weather (with some exceptions on the really cold days!). But our summers can be brutal, and the pathways can be painfully hot. I avoided walks during the extreme temperatures of the day, but in the mornings and late evenings, my feet were able to adapt just fine to the warmer paths caused in the summer months.
Is Walking Barefoot Actually Good For You?
I probably should have asked this question a year ago. But here we are, one year and one blog post later.
I’m not going to make a claim one way or the other on if you should do it too. Most of the research I’ve read on walking barefoot adopts a “sure you can do it, but use some common sense” approach. But I do think letting your toes out every so often won’t cause any harm. You might actually like it.
Hopefully, you’ve sensed that I’ve been using humor throughout this post to tell my story. But I actually have been walking barefoot for a year, I actually have really enjoyed it, and I plan to continue walking barefoot this year.
This year I also plan on doing some research into the “barefoot shoes” world. But you likely won’t catch me wearing socks.
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