Barefoot Observations

It all started in 1955, when I was born, and you’re probably not going to believe this, without shoes! – Barefoot Ken Bob Saxton

As you may know, I am a barefoot runner. Running Barefoot has taught me that I actually love being barefoot. It’s freeing, simple, and the way we are meant to be.

For a while now I’ve been trying to be barefoot as much as possible, and I’ve made some interesting observations along the way. Everywhere I’ve gone for the past 10 months, I’ve gone either barefoot, or in minimalist shoes (Vibram Five Finger Sprints, or Terra Plana Vivobarefoot Roots). Here are my observations from the experience.

I love being barefoot - It’s fun. It makes me feel like a kid again.

Being barefoot is minimalism - It’s hard to get much more minimal than your bare feet. It makes me realize how little we really need. I look at shoes very differently these days. They are useful tools for certain situations (cold weather, rough surfaces, etc.), but certainly not always necessary.

My body regulates its temperature better when I’m barefoot - I haven’t found any studies to back this up, but my body seems to be more aware of my surrounding temperature when I’m barefoot. This seems to allow my body to adjust better to temperature changes, and keep me warmer when I need to be warmer, and cooler when I need to be cooler. Has anyone else noticed this?

I love discovering new surfaces barefoot - Every time I’m barefoot and see a new surface, I rush to walk on it – to feel it. Every surface is different, and each brings its own, unique, sensations.

I love feeling things between my toes - Blades of grass, sand, small pebbles, wind – they all feel great between my toes.

I feel more connected to the earth - Walking around barefoot connects me directly with the surface I’m walking on. This gives me much more of a physical connection, but also creates a mental connection with my surroundings. My brain collects loads of information about my surroundings from the millions of nerves in my feet. With shoes, this information is muted.

I feel more connected to my body - Similarly, being barefoot makes me more aware of what my feet and legs are doing. My mind makes subtle adjustments to my stride, my foot falls, and my muscles based on feedback it receives from my feet.

Being barefoot often elicits strange looks - Maybe a negative to some people, but I’ve learned to just get over it. Some people just don’t seem to understand why anyone would walk around barefoot. Maybe they should try it.

I have better balance when barefoot - I had pretty good balance anyway, but I notice that I feel more stable when I stand or walk when I’m barefoot. I certainly feel more able to adapt and adjust quickly if I step on uneven ground, or find something obstructing my path.

My arches have risen - I don’t have any concrete measurements for this, but it seems the arches on my feet have risen and gotten stronger. My arches no longer fatigue even after walking around for miles and miles all day (they used to).

My toes are longer - Again, I don’t have any concrete measurements here, but I believe at least my pinky toe has gotten longer. It is possible that it has just gotten straighter. After all, it hasn’t been battling with the side of a shoe (why aren’t shoes shaped like feet, again?). I notice this because my toes now touch the ends of my Vibram Five Fingers more than they used to. I wish I had taken some before and after photos of my feet.

My feet hate socks - Now that it’s getting cold, I’m having to wear socks more frequently. My feet are certainly fighting back. Socks are like ear muffs on my feet. My feet feel dead and scream to be free when I suffocate them in a sock. They have gotten used to all the “noise” from the surfaces I walk on and the open dryness their nakedness allows for. Sweaty, dark, muted socks don’t make them happy.

My feet don’t smell – my socks and shoes do - When I’m barefoot for most of the day and my feet are allowed to breathe in the open air, they never smell. Really. If I have to put them in shoes – or more particularly, socks – that’s when the real odors appear. Also, I never get comments from co-workers or friends on days when I’m barefoot all day. If I wear socks in the morning and take them off at work, that’s when I get smelly feet jokes.

I enjoy walking more - I find myself more eager and willing to go walk the dog if I’m going barefoot (which is now pretty much all the time). I often crave getting my bare feet out in the world, which leads to more just-for-fun strolls around the nearby pond. Walking barefoot has become a simple pleasure which I yearn for more and more.

I enjoy running more - Running barefoot is wonderful. It cultivates mental focus, clarity, and childlike playfulness all at once. How many activities do that? Running with shoes never seems very appealing (or fun) anymore.

So there you have it: some observations on being barefoot.

Have you noticed anything interesting in your barefoot experiences?