Is is good to go barefoot?

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I had a Balinese-inspired massage last week and the beginning of the ritual was to put a heated eye mask on

I then enjoyed being massaged with small and large bamboo sticks as well as with hands. 

Then the time came to roll over...

Weirdly, having an eye mask on made it really difficult for me to turn! 

That small dulling of one of my senses affected the rest of my body, especially my proprioception - where I was in space.  In the end I had to lift it off my eyes so that I felt safe to move!

But this dulling of senses is something we do every day - with our shoes

You may not realise it but one of the primary functions of the foot is as a sensory organ.  The skin on the bottom of the foot is a gateway to the nervous system and is especially important as we age. This is because the impact forces from walking etc are perceived as vibrations by the nervous system. These vibrations help us with knowing how hard we're hitting the ground, give us energy for the next step and also help with balance and postural control. As we age, our perception of the vibrations decreases.  Add shoes to the mix and our awareness decreases even more. 

So instead of all the small nerves being aware of vibrations, texture, skin stretch, pressure and light touch, these small senses are drowned out and we have to rely on large nerves for feedback.  These are slower to react and so balance and control become less responsive - leading to inaccurate movement patterns and possible injury. 

If you're in an urban surrounding like me, it's unlikely that we can walk outside bare foot - too much dog poo and broken glass around!  But what you can do is to introduce texture into your day to day life which will help your feet to stay 'tuned in' to stimulation.

Here's some of my favourite ways of doing that:

  • Putting the washing out in bare feet
  • Staying barefoot in the house - including when teaching classes.  This is even better if you have natural surfaces around eg real wood floors
  • Always barefoot at the beach and paddling in streams!
  • Adding in some sensory input somewhere - at some stage I will make a pebble mat for me to stand on when washing up or even create a barefoot walk in the garden! I've loved the ones I've done at Eureka and Trentham Gardens
  • Using prickle balls to roll out the feet. Naboso does one - they also do sensory exercise mats and insoles.  I'm waiting for their new toe spreaders to come out, as they are sensory too!

Grounding is my favourite way to get that sensory stimulation - standing (or sitting outside) with your bare feet on a natural surface (or it could be your hands on the ground) for 15 minutes each day, ideally in the morning.  This has been shown to reduce stress and improve relaxation and sleep as well as reducing pain and inflammation and improving wound healing - so this could be something to add in post birth as a way to improve your healing?

You can buy special earthing mats that do the same thing - but for me, I love being on the grass

Focusing on the foot is such a great way to improve your overall health - from the benefits above to improved posture and balance, from pelvic floor and core strength, to improved athletic ability

If you want to take some small steps towards better foot function, my new foot course is now available.  There are tips, exercises to strengthen and mobility exercises that are really easy to fit in to your day.

Your Best Foot Forward


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