Many people don’t think twice before putting on their shoes in the morning. They wear shoes to go out for a run, to go to work, to walk the dog, to work out at the gym, and sometimes even around the house.
A case can easily be made for the benefits of shoes in terms of protecting the soles of the feet from the sharp and potentially dangerous litter or debris on manmade roads and sidewalks, but aside from a cultural expectation that shoes should be worn in public, there is really no reason that shoes would have to be worn on grass or soft and natural surfaces like dirt.
In fact, in some parts of the world and amongst people of certain cultures, walking barefoot is the normal way of life.
If you can get away from the asphalt and concrete that dominate the outdoor surfaces in many areas, there are indeed benefits of walking barefoot on grass and natural earth.
In this article, we will discuss the benefits of walking barefoot on grass and what to expect walking barefoot.
We will cover:
- Is Walking Barefoot Good for You?
- 8 Benefits Of Walking Barefoot On Grass And Other Surfaces
- 8 Tips for How to Do Grounding
Let’s get started!
Is Walking Barefoot Good for You?
There are certain physical benefits to walking barefoot that are inherent to the act of just not wearing shoes walking, but most of the most powerful walking barefoot benefits can be gleaned by walking barefoot on grass or natural ground.
Even just the act of being outside in nature is good for the body and mind.
Popular cultural practices like Nordic hygge and Japanese forest bathing have an integral nature/outdoorsy component, and the positive benefits of these sorts of nature-connecting activities have caused them to spread outside of their countries of origin and infiltrate other parts of the world, including the United States.
The practice of walking barefoot on grass or dirt is also called grounding or earthing.
Despite having distinct terms, grounding and earthing really are as simple as walking barefoot on the natural ground, letting the soles of your feet come into direct contact with the Earth. The thought is that by removing synthetic shoes and reconnecting to the Earth exposes the body to the subtle natural electrical charge of the Earth.
This is said to bring about different mental and physical benefits. Proponents of grounding say that the fact that modern society has lost this connection to the Earth has contributed to the increased prevalence of certain chronic diseases.
8 Benefits Of Walking Barefoot On Grass And Other Surfaces
Although grounding or earthing may sound “woo woo,” there is actually some scientific evidence to suggest that many of the claimed benefits of walking barefoot on grass may indeed be grounded in truth.
For example, research has shown that connecting with the ground barefoot can cause nearly instantaneous changes in the body, that in turn can reduce pain, reduce muscle soreness, decrease stress, and improve sleep.
Here are some of the potential benefits of walking barefoot on the grass or natural earth:
#1: Walking Barefoot on Grass Can Reduce Pain and Inflammation
The electrical flow or conduction that occurs between the skin and the earth when they come in contact walking barefoot on grass or dirt is said to increase circulation and decrease inflammation.
Because inflammation can cause pain, many people find a soothing, almost cathartic release of pain when grounding.
#2: Walking Barefoot on Grass Strengthens Your Feet
One of the benefits of walking barefoot is that it strengthens and stretches the small muscles, tendons, and ligaments in your feet, ankles, and calves, which normally atrophy due to being poorly engaged when walking shod.
This can potentially help prevent injuries like plantar fasciitis and shin splints and can be a great way to strengthen the arch for those who have flat feet or overpronate due to weakness rather than genetics.
#3: Walking Barefoot on Grass Can Improve Sleep
Research studies have demonstrated a positive association between walking barefoot on grass and improved sleep. Connecting directly with the ground is thought to stabilize your circadian rhythms, helping your sleep-wake cycles better align with the Earth’s natural day-night cycle.
Additionally, walking barefoot on the grass can decrease circulating levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, which in turn helps promote a deeper, more restorative sleep.
#4: Walking Barefoot on Grass Can Reduce Oxidative Stress
Studies show that grounding puts the skin in direct contact with the Earth, permitting a natural flow of electrons from the Earth into the body. These electrons have an antioxidant effect on the body, combating free radicals.
#5: Walking Barefoot on Grass Can Reduce Stress and Improve Mood
Walking barefoot on grass can be a great way to reduce stress, as it can decrease levels of cortisol.
Grounding experts say that walking barefoot on grass is particularly beneficial first thing in the morning, helping activate the nervous system and senses and improve mood.
#6: Walking Barefoot on Grass Can Increase Vitamin D Production
Any time your skin is exposed to the sun, it activates the endogenous production of vitamin D, an important nutrient that functions as a steroid hormone.
Vitamin D improves bone health, and low levels are associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, and other diseases.
#7: Walking Barefoot on Grass Can Help Regulate the Nervous System
Grounding is said to help activate the vagus nerve, the largest nerve in the autonomic nervous system.
This massive nerve extends from the brain to the colon. The vagus plays a key role in heart, lung, and digestive functions and is said to help reduce inflammation.
#8: Walking Barefoot on Grass Can Improve Eyesight
This walking barefoot benefit may seem a bit out there, but reflexology suggests that when you walk barefoot, you put maximum pressure on the first, second, and third toes, which are the primary reflexology pressure points for the eyes. It is thought that stimulating these points helps improve eyesight.
8 Tips for How to Do Grounding
There isn’t really a “right” or “wrong” way to do grounding or walking barefoot on the grass. You simply take off your socks and shoes and connect barefoot with soil, grass, or dirt.
Here are some tips for safe and effective grounding:
#1: Short Walks are Fine
Experts suggest that you can reap all the benefits of walking barefoot on grass in a daily stroll of about 15 to 30 minutes.
#2: Choose Wet Over Dry
Although there are plenty of benefits of walking barefoot on dry grass or dirt, wet soil and grass are preferable because the water helps conduct “unstable electrons“ from your body into the earth, augmenting the potential grounding benefits.
#3: Look for Clean Earth
When you are walking barefoot, there is an intimate connection between your body and the earth, so there can be an exchange of not only electrons in energy but also potential pesticides, bacteria from litter or dog feces, etc.
Try to walk in an area that is relatively clean and free from human litter and animal excrements such as the fresh forest floor, sandy beach, or dewy meadow.
#4: Check Your Feet
If you have open wounds or sores, they could be entryways to bacteria, fungi, and parasites on the earth. You either need to thoroughly cover any open wounds before walking barefoot on grass, or you should wait until your injuries have healed to enjoy the benefits of grounding safely.
#5: Wash Your Feet
This is probably a given, but when you are done with your shoeless walk, make sure to carefully clean off your feet and remove any debris, detritus, and soil from the soles of your feet.
#6: Do Walking Meditation
You can amplify some of the mental health benefits of grounding by engaging in some mindfulness meditation as you stroll. Walking meditation can clear your mind, engage the parasympathetic nervous system and quiet the stress response, and can connect you to your body and breath.
#7: Go Grounding After Flying
Although there are benefits of walking barefoot on grass any time you do it, the practice of earthing is said to be highly beneficial after flying, particularly if you have jet lag.
In these cases, grounding is said to help restore the body’s electrical equilibrium and circadian rhythms, bringing you back into a state of natural balance.
#8: Start Slowly
If you are used to always walking in shoes, walking barefoot on grass or other uneven natural surfaces can be quite tiring for the small intrinsic muscles in your feet and the muscles that stabilize your ankles in the lower leg.
Conventional sneakers and walking shoes have a built-up sole and a lot of material between the bottom of your foot and the ground, reducing the workload on many of the muscles that control your arch, bones and joints in the feet. Over time, these muscles become quite weak.
Build up gradually to how much shoeless walking you are doing to give these weakened muscles a chance to adapt to the new challenges of supporting, balancing, and stabilizing your body.
Start with just five minutes or so and progressively increase the duration of your barefoot walks as tolerated.
One of the benefits of walking barefoot on the grass is that it is accessible to everyone, regardless of age, fitness level, body weight, income status, etc. All you need to do is have access to a clean outdoor space, even if small, and connect with the ground.
Now that we are clear about the walking barefoot benefits, what about barefoot running benefits? Is barefoot running a safe practice? For more information on running barefoot, check out our article: Barefoot Running, Is It Healthy Or Harmful?