Walking barefoot is healthy - we’ve known that at least since becoming passionate barefoot-shoe wearers with our Wildlings. The best thing about it? You’re so wonderfully close to the ground.
When the days get longer again and temperatures exceed the 15-degree mark, it’s time again for the first shoe-free outings. It's finally here: The barefoot season has come round again! Barefoot at home, barefoot on holiday and barefoot in the office. What do you think? Sounds dreamy, doesn't it? But is it as easy as it sounds? And what do you have to consider?
First of all, the best thing is to pay attention to your gut feeling. Anything you dare to do is allowed. We’re not all the type of person who wants to walk through town barefoot. And we might also venture to suggest that there are places where you wouldn't want to be walking around barefoot. That's why there are barefoot shoes.
Picture: Sandra Dienemann
So what’s the barefoot trend all about?
At the moment you can read about the barefoot walking trend everywhere. But is that really how it is? Is it really a passing fashion or is there more to it? One thing’s certain: The health aspect in particular is not to be ignored. So, freedom for feet!
Healthy feet need fresh air from time to time - even Grandma knew that, sending us barefoot into the garden as kids. Committed barefoot walkers have made this motto their philosophy. Most people go barefoot at home. As soon as they get in, they take off their shoes and enjoy the freedom of movement that their toes suddenly have. There's no reason why you shouldn't enjoy that feeling to your heart’s content outside as well as in.
Picture: Sandra Dienemann
Practice makes perfect - exploring nature on barefoot paths
Barefoot paths are becoming more and more popular. You don’t find them only in health resorts and spa hotels, but also in various parks and leisure areas. The paths consist of short stretches put together using a whole range of materials. There are elements with cobblestones, clay, straw, gravel, tile, sand, grass and mulch. Some barefoot paths go for miles through the landscape, while others are on the shorter side. Some have additional stations where you can practise balancing; there might be little bridges or water features. And there's one thing they all have in common: They are there to train our senses and stimulate our motor skills.
They're ideal as preparation for summer barefoot walking. On them you can slowly get used to different surfaces and to barefoot walking in general. At the same time your feet get a massage and your circulation is stimulated.
Another way to get used to everyday life with bare feet is to wear your shoes with no socks. Minimal shoes (we recommend our low-cut Tanuki model) are particularly easy to slip into without socks. It’s important not to tie the shoes too tightly, and to combat foot perspiration we recommend using a thin insole.
Barefoot in the forest
She who goes barefoot goes mindfully through life. Roots and stones provide contrast to springy forest floors and sandy clearings. Damp moss under the feet cools, and grass tickles your ankles. Experienced barefoot hikers even go into mountainous areas. If you'd prefer to get used to it bit by bit, you can join a guided barefoot tour. These are now offered in some places.
Don’t worry: Everyone's familiar with the fear of treading in something you'd rather not have on your feet. However, with bare feet you’re actually less likely to step in dog mess, for example, than when you're wearing thick shoes - because right from the start you're much more careful about where you tread. Nor should you worry too much about hygiene in general. Think for a moment, for example, about what you touch with your hands each day. Doorknobs, handrails on buses and trains, money - everything’s covered in bacteria and viruses. And what do you do about it? Exactly! You wash your hands. It’s no different with your feet.
Until your feet fall off: When you're out and about with bare feet, there are a few things it’s good to always have with you:
- You can roll up a pair of Wildlings very small and pack them in your bag. In case you need to visit a public toilet or if unplanned difficulties arise, it’s very practical to have a pair of shoes with you.
- Plaster, disinfectant and tweezers - in case you tread on something.
- It’s useful to have a damp wash cloth in a plastic box, in case you get something on your foot that you’d rather not have there.
- Even the most experienced barefoot walkers might find themselves in the following situation: You're sitting having a nice picnic with friends, and suddenly your feet get cold. Of course that's no reason to go home. Warm socks are a lifesaver!
- It's great to have a little towel in case you go past a stream or pond and have an urgent need to put your feet in the water.
Foot care for barefoot walkers
After a long day on bare soles, your feet have earned a bit of tender loving care. Start with a warm foot bath. You might want to add some lavender oil. It neutralises and freshens. A bit of bubble bath will soften your skin and prepare it for the next treatment. If you have particularly rough calloused areas on the heels and balls of your feet, you can massage them gently with a pumice stone.
After drying your feet you can treat them to some rich body butter, cold cream or oil before putting them up for ten minutes. Comfortable socks provide pleasant warmth and allow the cream or oil to soak in better.
Sport in bare feet
If you not only enjoy barefoot walking but also love sports, you’ll probably want to try combining the two. With some types of sport such as yoga, Pilates or martial arts, it’s the norm to remove your shoes before the training session. But with other sports it’s usual to wear functional footwear. There are certainly some sports where that is definitely a good idea. If you ask racing cyclists, footballers or ballet dancers, they’ll be very reluctant to part with their shoes. Shoes are simply part of the basic equipment. However, there are some sports that you certainly can do in bare feet or minimal shoes.
If you train in a fitness studio or take part in courses, you might find that your trainer mentions your “missing” footwear, noting that you will be liable if your naked feet should lead to you having an accident. If you’d like to go barefoot jogging, you should start with small steps. First a few metres on the all-weather track, then the next time a few more, and so on. When you're ready you can go further afield.
And if you haven't noticed it before, you will then: Jogging without shoes is something completely different. Instead of coming down on your heels, the weight falls on the balls of the foot. People also talk about “natural running”, since it’s about the original form of running, the way our ancestors used to do it. If going completely barefoot is too extreme, then Wildlings are a good alternative. Our co-founder, Ran, has been running marathons in Wildlings for years.
You’d like to go barefoot all the time? Here’s what you should know
Once you’ve started walking barefoot, you might quickly find that you don't want to go back. However there are a few things to note. Driving a car with bare feet is prohibited for traffic safety reasons. Also, before visiting a museum, for example, you should check whether it’s alright for you to enter the exhibition rooms without shoes. The same applies to religious buildings. In some of them you’re expressly required to remove your shoes before entering, while in others it's considered respectful to keep them on.
If you haven’t been walking barefoot for very long you should give your feet a rest every now and then. In today’s world we’re very careful to keep our feet beautifully smooth. The protective calluses that are naturally found on our feet are scrubbed away, leaving many of us with very thin skin. If the soles of your feet are red after you’ve been for a walk, you should listen to your body’s warning signals and take care of your feet. You can increase the duration of your barefoot adventures bit by bit, each time venturing a little further into the big wide world.
Wildling Shoes recommends walking barefoot - how can that be?
Walking barefoot is the healthiest form of locomotion. Wildlings are the best alternative to that. You can use them everywhere where it’s not possible to walk in bare feet. Both barefoot and in Wildlings, your natural posture is strengthened, your feet are more comfortable and your back feels better. It’s also good for your balance. If you’re looking for tips on walking in barefoot shoes and would like to know more about what’s so healthy and wonderful about it, you can read our 10 Reasons for Wearing Barefoot Shoes.
So with all that in mind, run wild and enjoy the springtime to the full.
Picture in header: Sandra Dienemann