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Should we say shoo to shoes and kick the habit of footwear?


Should we say shoo to shoes and kick the habit of footwear?

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Let's face it – we all consider ourselves as naturists or nudists – we love being naked. We aim to be naked when ever we can or at least when the weather, circumstances and comfort allows it. But does that always mean we are completely naked?

Some of us always have on our jewellery, others use sun glasses, maybe a sun hat is preferred. Part of naturism is recognising that clothes are not always needed but sometimes that also involves recognising that clothes can be useful tools and protect us from harm. Gloves can make great sense when attacking nettles and brambles in the garden or taking your dinner out of the oven.

If you take care your feet will be healthier and you will be happier.

Many of us see shoes as a sensible tool for protecting us from hot sand, thorns or broken glass and when you think about it these are certainly good reasons to wear shoes. Other good reasons may include protecting yourself from harmful bacteria and infections. People with diabetes should certainly consult a doctor about possible issues before planning barefoot walking.

Enjoy different temperatures

Barefoot Bad?

It is believed that walking barefoot can place strain on your feet and your body and can lead to arch pains, flat feet and tendonitis. However, much of this is due to the problem that we are not used to walking barefoot and need to recondition ourselves to doing it first.

Walking barefoot in damp places like public swimming baths can put you at risk of fungal infections, hookworm and other bacteria.

There is an idea that not wearing footwear can put you at higher risk of falls. In 2010, 765 elderly participants took part in a survey about home falls. 51.9 percent were not wearing shoes at the time of the fall and so the survey decided it was advisable for the elderly to wear shoes in the house. However if you consider the statistics more carefully what is it really saying. The survey states that 51.9% also included those wearing socks and slippers. It is maybe understandable that those in socks may slip over on smooth surfaces. It also means that 49.1% of participants were wearing shoes. As this is almost an equal split you have to ask yourself what percentage of time do people wear shoes in the house. In my experience most people only wear shoes for short periods of time inside usually reverting to bare feet, socks or slippers for the vast amount of time. Could this survey actually be suggesting how very dangerous it can be wearing shoes around the home at all!

Try your feet on different textures and surfaces

Back to Nature

When a toddler is learning to walk they are encouraged to do this naturally and without shoes. Shoes can affect how a child uses the muscles and bones in their feet. They also receive feedback from the ground when they walk barefoot, and it improves their spatial awareness. On an evolutionary level being barefoot makes perfect sense.

Our feet are amazing things and we are guilty of ignoring their potential. It isn't uncommon to see babies use their feet for touching, understanding and picking up things and some babies suck their toes just as others suck their fingers and thumbs. As we grow we start to forget how capable they are and it is usually only necessity that encourages humans to continue to explore the amazing things we can do with our feet.

When we return to walking barefoot we start to reclaim our natural walking pattern – our gait. This may help people have better control of the position of their feet and improve balance.


Cultures that are more used to walking barefoot have broader feet and toes that are spread out in a much more natural composition like the broad feet of toddlers. Steve noticed this when visiting New Zealand in 1989. At the time many Maoris would walk barefoot. Stretching the toes and taking a strong balanced stand is something that is practised at the beginning of many yoga lessons. One of many sports and exercises that are better practised with bare feet.


Barefoot populations have broader feet and this foot shape is seen a far more biomechanically efficient. Barefoot runners display a different foot strike which appears to protect them form impact related injuries. It is reported that the energy travelling up the leg with cushioned shoes is approximately three times that of a barefoot runner – which can have a negative impact on our joints. Footwear is seen to fail to respect the natural foot shape and function.

Ancient holy men traditionally walked barefoot and encouraged their followers to do the same.


We have unfortunately got very used to our narrow feet and squashed toes. In Disney's Tangled Rapunzel is supposed to have been barefooted for years and yet she is drawn with narrow feet and tight toes. Not wishing to make her seem like she has unusually shaped feet the animators chose to ignore what her bare feet would have looked like and draw her feet as if they had spent their life squashed into silly shoes.


Like many aspects of fashion we fool ourselves into thinking that the damage we do is unimportant and it is the look that matters. In centuries past young ladies denying themselves fresh air and vitamin D for the sake of pale skin was one foolish trend that is best forgotten. Another crazy idea is that women should have dainty, narrow feet and the squeezing of feet into tight v-shaped shoes for societies indecent ideas of beauty is a nonsense. It is hardly a new concept and was taken to extremes by the Chinese with the barbaric practise of foot breaking and bonding. Although the trend started to die out over a hundred years ago, the last reported cases were in the late 1950's. When Steve went to China in 1990 he saw many elderly women who had suffered this custom as younger women.

Don't be too fearful of rough surfaces.

Shoes Bad!

So being bare foot allows us to have more natural feet but is that really a problem. Does wearing shoes really do any harm?


Shoes, particularly ill-fitting shoes, can cause blisters, ingrown toenails, bunions, heel pain, hammertoes and athlete's foot. Correctly fitted shoes can be hard to find and how many of us have not had the shape of our feet altered over the years by “making do” and accepting the best fit or even ignoring this altogether for a fashion or a look? Shoes with high heels, poor grip, inappropriate fastening and constrictive fittings can impair your ability to walk and balance, and give numbness or pins and needles. When our feet are impaired our health is impaired. We do less exercise, less walking, less sport, work less efficiently and this can have ongoing effects on our mental and physical health.


Even comfortable shoes can cause problems. Padding can feel great but they can prevent you from using certain muscles and weaken parts of your body.

Water can be refreshing and cleaning

Shoes can cause short term and long term damage to your body and the problems aren't just limited to your feet. 
Lets look at some of these issues in more detail:


Nail problems

Shoes and socks that are too tight can push the skin into the nail, cause pain and infections when the nail pierces the skin or lift the nail and open the toes up to bacteria. Fungal infections can cause discolouration of the nail and brittleness. This can not just be painful and unsightly but affect self esteem.



Hard, dead skin over a joint are usually caused by bad fitting, loose shoes that slide and rub. They are very painful and are hard to remove.


Athlete's Foot

Is caused by a fungus living on the skin. It is very itchy and results in inflamed and flaking skin. It is extremely contagious as well as being unsightly and uncomfortable. It is often caused by tight fitting shoes. Unfortunately this can be spread by sufferers walking barefoot in changing rooms and other public areas.


Back Pain

Improper footwear can lead to lumbar spinal muscle being exacerbated making you stiff and giving bad posture, and lumbar intervertebral disc compression leading to lower back pain.


Collapsed or Fallen Arches

Flat feet can cause muscle and walking problems and it is believed that children who do not wear shoes are three times less likely to develop flat feet than those that grow up wearing shoes. Most shoes (including sports shoes) stop the foot from finding its natural shape and changing its natural functions. Support can weaken muscles in the arch and feet pointing down can lead to a loss of calf muscles which in turn can lead to the arch collapsing to compensate for lack of ankle flexibility.


Wearing shoes can encourage a weakness and breaking of the Achilles tendon.


Joint Pain

Overloading our joints due to inadequate support supplied by shoes can result in arthritis and knee problems. By losing the natural shock absorbing qualities of our feet the joints are worked harder and the muscles on the front of the thigh is worked harder due to unnatural walking postures.

Try and stay barefoot while camping

High Heels are Particularly Bad

As well as the above issues, it is believed that high heals can lead to faster and more shallower breathing and effects the vocal chords. The toes are formed into unnatural v-shapes and this forms hammertoes, ingrown toenails, bunions and other swellings around joints in the foot and nerve damage.


The abnormal concentration of weight can lead to fractures and neuromas.

Long term arch strain can make it impossible for wearers to stand or walk comfortably while bare foot.

Heel pain and resulting issue can cause problems with the Achilles tendon, plantar fasciitis and a bony growth in the heel known as Haglund's deformity.

The wearer is more easily thrown off balance and numbness can make it easier to get twisted or sprained ankles.

High heels can effect the way you walk, stand and carry your weight. Causing stress to the knees, hips, spine and back, changing your posture and gait and having an effect on your whole body.

Man made surfaces are fine too

Barefoot Good!

If wearing shoes causes harm can not wearing them do you good?

Being barefoot helps with a variety of issues.


Walking barefoot can make your muscles stronger and acts as pain relief from improperly fitting shoes.


You have better foot positioning as you strike the ground – with improved balance and body awareness and even reduces pain. Better movement within the feet can also lead to better movement within the hips, knees and your bodies core. It offers a more appropriate range of motions within your feet and ankles and gives better strength to your muscles and ligaments. Stronger legs offer better support to the back.

Some natural surfaces are even flatter than roads

That all makes sense but what about...

Other Wonderful Effects of Walking Barefoot


Reduced Swelling

Walking barefoot reactivates blood circulation removing swelling and relieving a heaviness in the legs.


Lowers blood pressure


Walking barefoot can help you to feel relaxed, calm and safe. This has a positive effect on blood pressure. It is recommended that 10-15 minutes barefoot walking a day can normalise blood pressure.


Increases Foot Hygiene

Shoes often carry over 400 bacteria many more than you would find for example on a clean floor in your home. Naked feet can stretch and breath more freely away from the breeding ground for bacteria, germs and infections. Being barefoot is often more hygienic but sensible precautions should always be taken to protect your feet from infections and harm in certain locations.

Mud is known to pull toxins and bad odour out of the skin. Which is one of the reasons we cover things that are rotten with soil.

Walking bare foot can increase good bacteria and therefore increase your foot hygiene.

Relaxes Your Body

Walking barefoot, relaxes muscles and veins throughout the body, giving an immediate soothing effect.

Fights Insomnia

It is believed that that walking, and in particular walking barefoot, aids in improving your sleeping patterns.

Reduces Pronation

Pronation is the way your foot rolls when you walk. People who walk and run barefoot do not over-pronate which discourages people from having flat feet.


Heightened Awareness

Walking barefoot on the ground helps us tune into our awareness, making us more alert and encouraging mindfulness.




Improves Heart Health

Walking barefoot on grass helps to regulate your heartbeat, regulate body temperature and hormone secretion. With improved organ functionality comes a healthy heart and a healthy body.

Massaging with sand on your feet is fantastic and leaves your feet feeling great 

Acupressure and Reflexology

Walking barefoot can activate acupressure points on our foot due and this can have a positive impact on our entire body. Walking barefoot can be like a reflexology massage. Walking barefoot allows us to stimulate all the muscles of the foot and distribute the load more effectively.


Reflexology is based on the ancient Chinese belief in qi (pronounced “chee”), or “vital energy.” The idea is that Qi flows through each person and when a person feels stressed, their body blocks qi.

This can cause an imbalance in the body which leads to illness. Reflexology aims to keep qi flowing through the body. Maintaining a balanced and good health.

Reflexologists use maps of key points in the feet, hands and ears to determine where they should apply pressure. The touch sends energy through the body until it reaches the area in need of healing.

Zone theory is believed to explain reflexology. The body has 10 vertical zones and each zone corresponds to specific fingers and toes.

In the 1890's, British scientists realised that nerves connect the skin and internal organs. They also found that the body’s nervous system adjusts to outside factors. This includes touch. Reflexology can help to calm the central nervous system, promoting relaxation and other benefits like any form of massage. It is believed that reflexology can reduce pain and improve mood and reduce stress.

Being barefoot helps with balance

Potential Benefits of Reflexology

Reflexology is believed to help with stress levels, pain relief, mood swings and general well being. It has been suggested it helps fight cancer, boost immunity, protect against colds, sinus troubles and infections, boost fertility, help back problems, aid digestions, treat nerve problems and ease arthritis.

Although little has been proved scientifically, various studies have found evidence suggesting that reflexology reduces stress and anxiety, helps with pain relief, helps with shortness of breath in cancer patients and helps with the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.

It may even help your eyes. When we walk we put pressure on the second and third toe. The nerve endings of these toes are thought to stimulate the functioning of the eyes. So a barefoot walk in the grass may help with your vision.

Being barefoot on grass is so wonderful

Grounding or Earthing

Another belief linked to walking barefoot is the positive results of being grounded. Grounding is one of the best ways to connect to earth and to nature – giving pleasure and peace. Grounding can connect us with the powerful microbes in soil we naturally build our immunity. These microbes entering our skin feed the good bacteria in our gut making us healthier and boosting our immune system.


Earthing may sound like another silly trend but it is being taken seriously in research and is believed to reduce inflammation and pain, increase antioxidants and improve sleep. It only works if you walk on natural substances like soil, sand and grass. It concerns the relationship between our bodies and the electrons in the earth. Basically it is good for us to be connected to the natural charge of the planet. Walking barefoot helps us absorb negative ions from the earth.


Various studies have found that earthing effects the electrical activity within the brain, benefits skin conductivity, glucose regulation, heart rate, stress, the immune system, the endocrine and nervous systems, and blood viscosity. Lower blood viscosity leads to improved heart health.

Stepping stones are more fun with bare feet

Improve Your Health and Happiness by Going Barefoot Today

However, don't just rush out and think that after years of wearing shoes your feet will thank you for removing them. Be sensible and give your feet time to learn and strengthen for this more natural way of use. Steve and I both used to walk barefoot while on holiday, long before we ever became naturist, at first roads can seem hard, every little stone can hurt and hot surfaces make you walk in the shade, but after a short while all these things can be taken “in your stride.”


Maybe start with 15 to 30 minutes a day. Building up time and distance over an extended period. During this time look for shoes that are more minimalist with less structure, padding and broader in shape.


Your feet may have poor mechanics so if you start to feel pain give yourself a break.

Practise inside the house and on softer out door services like grass or sand. Take up barefoot activities like yoga, martial arts or pilates. Practice balancing exercises and keep an eye on your feet for an damage or injury. It is important to be aware of uneven surfaces, broken glass, thorns. Over time your soles will toughen up and your muscles and tendons will strengthen.

Don't worry about getting dirty

Barefoot Beware

Do remember though that sometimes it is just impossible or the idea is rather unpleasant. One day about 30 years ago Steve decided to travel around London barefoot for the day as a little experiment. He was dressed totally presentable and normally but had nothing on his feet and went on a trip to Oxford Street. He found that he didn't hurt himself at all – no cuts or stubbing of toes and no one trod on his feet. He found that he had a few people giving him funny looks and was refused entry to a few shops. His main concern was the dirt and the streets and the public transport. He said he noticed the discarded rubbish, spilt drinks and dust and grime on the floor a lot more than he did when he wore shoes. We live in a world where clothes on much of our bodies (including feet) are expected, a world covered with unnatural surfaces and littered with unnatural dangers and we need to be wary of these facts. Do also consider any long term heath issues (like arthritis or diabetes) you are living with, a ask your medical advisor for an opinion on barefoot walking for your own personal circumstances.

Sand, sea and bare feet - a great combination 

Some Home Exercises to Consider for Barefoot Walking

Do consider your own health, strength and balance before attempting any exercises and take medical advise first if you have any doubts.


Toe Splaying

Stand or sit with your feet in a natural, even, balanced position. Spread your toes as far apart as comfortable. Hold for 5-10 seconds and repeat 5 or 10 times. At first you may find spreading your toes apart seems impossible but with practice it will become quite natural.


Ball Rolling

Sit with a tennis ball or similar ball under your foot and roll it around under your foot for 2 to 5 minutes under each foot.


Stretching Your Big Toes

Sit with one foot on the opposite thigh and gently stretch your big toe up, down and to the side (away form the other toes) hold each position for about 5 seconds and repeat each direction 5 0r 10 times. Repeat with the other foot.

Toe Stretches

Sit and place your foot on the opposite thigh, take your toes in your hands and lever then up towards your ankles so you feel a pull on the underside of your foot. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat 5 to 10 times and then repeat on the other foot.

Achilles Stretch

From a standing position lean forward and place your hands on the floor in front of you facing in a straight line away from you (bend the knee if you prefer) then walk back with your legs (or forward with your hands depending on which you are more comfortable with) You eventually want to look like an inverted ”V” with your bottom as the high point. Keep you arms and back in a straight line and the straighten your legs and attempt to stretch you heels to the floor. Keep your two feet feet and two hands about the same distance apart from each other which should be about shoulder width.

Foot Stretch

Sit on the floor with back straight and legs straight in front (so you look like a “L”) then while keeping the backs of your legs touching the floor attempt to stretch your feet forward and touch the tips of your toes to the ground in front – your feet and toes should be in a straight line with the rest of your leg. Hold for 20-30 seconds and continue to attempt to stretch further down with both sets of toes.

Toe Pointing

Sit on a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Raise your heels so that only the two largest toes are touching the floor. Roll your toes forward on the ground so that the tips of your toes are touching the ground. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 5 or 10 times.

Marble Pick-ups

Sit on a chair and place some marbles (10 or 20) or other small object on the floor then pick up the items one at a time by curling your feet around them and drop them into a bowl. Once completed do the same with the other foot.

Take your bare feet on adventures

On to The Next Level

We recently had a barefoot walk at a National Trust property and had great fun walking over various different natural textures and surfaces. From small pine cones to round pebbles and flat stones, and digging our feet into sand, mud, damp straw and saw dust as we walked. Some things felt warm others felt soft. We then went through a walk around the woods and grounds barefoot and it was great fun. Except when we walked past an area where they had been clearing brambles and we all had to sit picking thorns out of our feet.

Steve and I also had a walk along the coastal cliffs with bare feet and chatted about the various textures. Squelching through mud was less concerning than it would have been if we had to worry about our shoes and socks and then walking through little rivers and brooks was refreshing and cleansing.

Once you have had some time strengthening your feet then you could move on to barefoot running or hiking.

Keeping your feet strong and flexible will help with ankle pains, muscle soreness and keep you active. Keep up exercises and stretches.


As naturists many of us will have enjoyed walking naked and barefoot in the sand. Find as many opportunities to do this as you can – even if it is too cold or not suitable to undress completely get you naked feet in the sand. Walking barefoot in sand strengthens and stretches your feet and toes and gives your calves a great workout. Long walks on the beach can be much more beneficial than walks on solid paths.

So don't just stand there....

...get out and get barefoot in the park

Walking completely naked in the sun is a life affirming joy. It seems that if you let your feet go naked whenever they can then you may well be extending the time you have for properly enjoying naturism to the full.


 Thanks for reading - Steve and Anna.

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Anna and Steve have shared over 150 articles and blog posts on and write regularly for naturist publications. If you would like to collaborate with them on any naturist / nudist promotional activity or quote from any of their work please contact them via email at [email protected]