going barefoot…

I had a revelation some years ago while camping with some friends near Cape Wrath when, over three days, I went barefoot. Not only did I discover that my feet could cope with any kind of terrain (by changing shape, they proved to be the best all terrain ‘shoe’ *grin*) but, more importantly, I realized in what a profound way feet ‘feel’ the earth. We clump around our world with ‘space suits’ on our feet – as if we are walking on an alien planet. Another way to think about it is that we inflict deliberate leprosy on our feet – making them entirely numb and ‘blind’ to the earth.

Various conclusions seem me to arise from this. Firstly, that what we fear seems predominantly be the human environment – the danger of broken glass, for example: it is in our cities that we feel footwear to be most essential. Then there is a notion of ‘pollution’ – that we might inadvertently stand on some dog shit. How many of us can’t even walk on gravel without behaving as if it were white hot. We seem to believe that our feet are too delicate to walk naked on anything harder than a rug. Tough, of course, the human foot is as perfectly developed for walking on the earth as any hoof or paw. (It’s possible that we’ve evolved a more delicate foot – but I’m not convinced we’ve been wearing footwear long enough for this to have happened.)

And here is what I consider to be most important: if it is the case that footwear is one of the ‘gifts’ of civilization – is it possible that this profound numbness to the earth: to soil, to stone, to stream, to boggy ground, to plants, to sand (perhaps the only one we regularly walk on – and, interestingly, one of the most sterile) – is it possible that it walks hand in hand with the literal disconnection from our planet that makes it easier to despoil, pollute and destroy her?

It seems to me that much could be gained by moving towards – if not walking barefoot – the development of some kind of footwear that would allow as much sensation to come through to our feet as possible…

As ‘civilization’ marches on, more and more people are cutting themselves off from touching, daily, Mother Earth. Soon, not one of us will stand barefoot upon her and that seems to me a dangerous divorce…

Posted by Ricardo

writer and blogger

7 Replies to “going barefoot…”

  1. and then, coincidentally, this came along…


  2. A friend of mine back in Gr. 7 from South Africa toldme she and her cousins would always run around in bare feet, and that her cousins’ feet had grown thick skin as a result of that. it was something to be taken as a measure of pride. We scampered down her creek in the fall bare footed, which was incredibly fun, but honestly my feet were totally frozen since I have bad circulation to the outher limbs. lol. In the summer though, it’s wonderful – especially the feel of moss below your feet.

    🙂 I agree people should walk in bare feet more. Very soon, I think they’ll force everyone in HK to ware gloves for sanitation anyway…we have hand sanitizer everywhere to the point where it feels like the city is one huge hospital ward.


    1. yes, moss is a delight… but there are so many sensuous pleasures for naked feet! *grin* Very strange this business of masks and gloves… My general policy is to let my immune system deal with infections… it’s the best defence…


      1. I totally agree about about the immune system being the best defence. 🙂 I grew up with a dad who always said we weren’t sick until we were bed-ridden for a week and vomitting non-stop. Then he would ask us if “something was wrong”. 😛 But as a result, my siblings and I don’t really get sick, and I’ve realized i don’t even know what a cold/fever really is. I just know I’m roughly unwell and I need to sleep more and drink more water. 😛


        1. *grin* are we siblings? Sure your dad sounds like mine…! With the same result – I’m very rarely ill – and also drink water constantly…


  3. I don’t own any (yet) but these “shoes” are advertised to be somewhat like what you’re asking:


    1. *grin* I’ve been looking at those myself. ‘Gloves for feet’. The advertising for them made me aware of how, strangely, we run differently with shoes than we do without shoes?! (Barefoot our toes land first, then the heel: with shoes the heel lands first. It’s obvious that running barefoot we use our own inbuilt shock absorption – whereas with footwear we depend on the shock being absorbed by the heel… and that’s expecting a lot from that artificial heel – no wonder that runners end up with bad knees!?).

      All this said, though better, these ‘foot gloves’ are still far from what I’d like. What I think we need is a sock made of some resistant material that is thin enough to allow us to feel the texture of the earth – even allowing our foot to become wet – but that it is tough enough to protect us from cuts…


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