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Why walking barefoot is good for your health

Lisa Armstrong is the mother of two grown daughters, a yoga practitioner, an educator and a long-time freelance writer who focuses on health, wellness, and historical topics that affect humanity's personal and collective well-being.

Get back in touch with your body

Can you rekindle your health simply by walking barefoot? Some experts think so, and you'll be surprised at the benefits of this new (old) method of healing.
Woman walking barefoot

Remember how good you felt as a kid when you went barefoot all day in the grass or on the beach?

Earthing: The most important health discovery?

Or maybe you awoke refreshed from sleeping outside under the stars? Believe it or not, you were helping yourself to a dose of Nature's own healing powers.

Earthing is not a new concept — it's the idea that if you walk around barefoot, especially if you're walking directly on the ground, you'll realize the healing benefits of doing so. Some even call it "yoga for your feet."

Native Americans and other indigenous people instinctively knew for centuries to walk barefoot or in leather shoes and to sleep on the ground. By doing so, they were recharging their body's batteries, says Clinton Ober, founder of The Earthing Institute and co-author of the book Earthing: The most important health discovery ever?

Earthing explained

So, what is Earthing? Earthing is as simple as walking on the beach, laying down on a rock or in other ways connecting directly to the earth's surface with your bare skin. The premise is that the earth's negative ions help balance the positive ions we build up every day through stress, inflammatory foods and exposure to electronic and cellular devices.

An expert in the field of Earthing, Dr. James L. Oschman, describes the exchange in this way: “The most reasonable hypothesis to explain the beneficial effects of Earthing is that a earth connection enables both daily electrical rhythms and free electrons to flow from the earth to the body."

Benefits of Earthing

Regular contact with the natural electrical field of the earth helps restore your body's natural electrical balance. Practitioners of this trend, ranked #3 in the 2013 Spa Finder Wellness report, say that it helps:

  • Reduce chronic pain
  • Improves sleep
  • Lowers stress
  • Improves energy
  • Lessens hormonal and menstrual symptoms
  • Accelerates recovery from extreme athletic activity

"One of the major benefits of Earthing is that it appears to extinguish the negatively-charged electrons from the surface of the earth into the body where they neutralize positively-charged destructive free radicals involved in chronic inflammation," says Dr. Stephen T. Sinatra, co-author of Earthing with Ober. "The potential benefits from the earth's energy on the brain, heart, muscles, immune and nervous systems — and in turn the whole body and the aging process — are massive. Medically, this is a big deal!" he says.

As a youth, Ober enjoyed being barefoot and spending time outdoors in his native Montana. After years as a cable television executive, he had a near brush with death, which was his wake-up call to lead a healthier life. He had often noted that electronic and electrical devices had to have a grounding wire or other mechanism to keep them safe. He wondered what effects that same technology might have on human longevity and health. The results were grounding mats, special sheets, wrist bands and patches, all intended to recreate the grounding effect while working or resting indoors.

Also expect to see more formal "Earthing" at spas, as well as more "nature grounding". Think less background music with nature sounds and more real nature to help combat "Nature Deficit Disorder," the wellness report states.

An alternative to Earthing

If you can't easily go barefoot, an alternative is needed. Traditional plastic or rubber-soled shoes prevent getting this natural energy-enhancement from the earth. However, Peter Coulter of Juil Sandals, says Earthing can be done even while wearing shoes. The company has designed grounded footwear that incorporates copper insets. "If we stay connected by wearing earthing or grounding shoes, these unwanted positive ions are absorbed to neutralize and release the harmful free radicals in our bodies, " he says.

Another believer in Earthing , Dr. Roy Lidke, a Marion, Iowa podiatrist, says that all biological creatures benefit from grounding, which can even help serious conditions. "Damage to cells from oxidative stress causes the inflammatory process, which is related to heart disease, cancer, and the aging process and can eventually lead to cell death. Grounding provides the electrons for the atoms and molecules to alter these free radicals," he says.

Try your own version


  • Go barefoot for 20 to 40 minutes at a time in (preferably moist or wet) grass, sand or dirt.
  • Wear a wrist band.
  • Wear copper-grounded sandals.
  • Use a computer floor mat that has also been plugged into the ground outside.
  • Sleep in specially grounded sheets.

These are all intended to bring about a better night's sleep, fewer aches and pains and a better quality of life!

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