As well as being a sensuous experience, walking barefoot has a great influence on how your feet develop, your gait and your physical capabilities. These are the insights from the latest research done by Karsten Hollander, a sports medicine expert from Hamburg.
His study, conducted with sports medicine specialists in Hamburg and South Africa, compared children in South Africa who go barefoot with others of the same age who wear shoes. It emerged that the shoe-wearing kids were more likely to be flat-footed, could jump shorter distances from a standing position, and were less skilled at balancing on a narrow bar than children of the same age who grew up barefoot. Silke Schmitt Oggier, paediatrician and medical director of santé24, also recommends that "children should run around barefoot more often because it trains all the small foot muscles and improves coordination. And it can help to avoid malpositioned feet, or even correct them. At the same time, it is almost like getting a massage."
Children should run around barefoot more often. Silke Schmitt Oggier, paediatrician and medical director of santé24
Benefits of going barefoot
Other studies have shown that going barefoot not only stimulates the circulation, boosts metabolism, and improves the sense of balance but also strengthens the muscles, tendons and ligaments. In some cases, going barefoot can even help allay back problems and varicose veins, and correct misalignments of the foot.
Barefoot in day-to-day life
Not wearing shoes from dawn till dusk, however, is not advisable. At first, going barefoot is very strenuous on the muscles. You also don't yet have the necessary calluses to protect you from blisters and sores.
Even so, you can run around barefoot on the lawn at home, or take off your shoes briefly in the woods and walk along the bed of a stream – as long as you take care not to slip. If you want to stay on the safe side, try running barefoot on a woodchip trail.
When you're starting out, you may also want to try a barefoot or Kneipp trail. These are specially prepared paths with sections of flat stones, fine pebbles, water, woodchips, clay or sand that help you get a feel for walking barefoot.
When you take off your shoes, you should look out for sharp objects, pieces of metal, shards and thorns. Those allergic to bee or wasp stings should walk with great care, especially around flowers, where the insects like to gather.
The most beautiful barefoot paths in Switzerland
You’ll find beautiful barefoot and Kneipp paths on the Website of Switzerland Tourism. SWICA is the official partner of Switzerland Tourism and is committed to promoting tourism in Switzerland and building awareness of the country as a travel destination.