I spent most of my childhood barefooted. I grew up in the South with meadows, woods, and ditches right out the back door. I remember how tender my feet would be on asphalt and gravel when it first got warm in the spring, but within a few weeks, I hardly noticed. When I got horses as a teen, I wore shoes more often, but only because horse hooves are awfully heavy when they step on you. And because stables harbor tetanus. But mostly the former.
My mother blamed my wide feet on my going barefoot so much. It’s probably true.
At some point along the way, I stopped going barefoot much. Never outside. Inside until a massage therapist told me that my knee pain was caused by going barefoot. He told me to get orthotics in my shoes and never be without them, or I’d end up with knee and backpain for life. So for the last several years I’ve slipped on shoes as soon as I rolled out of bed in the morning.
It never seemed to be much of a problem. I mean, this is what grown-ups do, right? At some point I stopped being the tomboy who lived in the woods and became the woman who cringed away when “nature touched me.”
Last year, as I began delving into Paleo and Crossfit, I heard about barefoot running. Now, I’m not a runner and can’t imagine I ever will be. But I thought some of the arguments they made about bare feet being healthier than shod feet were interesting. I dropped the orthotics and switched to minimalist shoes. I looked at Vibrams — those glove shoes — but hadn’t taken the plunge yet. It didn’t occur to me to just kick off my shoes and go barefoot. Ew. My feet would get dirty and wet and cold. And there were bugs. And spiders.
A week or two ago, one of my daily meditations suggested going outside, taking off my shoes, and just connecting with the Earth. See above: bugs, spiders, cold, nature touching me. But it got sunny, and it was early spring…. It seemed silly, but I tried it.
I’d forgotten how cool the grass felt and how spongy the earth was. It felt… right. I walked on grass. I walked in dirt. I picked up a pinecone with my toes. I closed my eyes and felt the sun on my face and the ground under my feet, and I felt balanced and connected.
Today I walked to the mailbox and back barefooted. I avoided the honeybees on the dandelions and tried to ignore the plethora of little black spiders scurrying out of my way. I gritted my teeth and picked my way across the gravel road. (Want to pracitice mindfulness and “be here now”? Walk outside. With bare feet. On gravel. You will be here now. I promise.) There were moments I questioned the sanity of that choice, but when I got inside, my feet were happy. Truly happy.
It may take some time to build up those tough soles I had when I was a kid, but I want to give it a try. I really think all this shoe wearing has a price, and I don’t want to pay that price anymore. I miss the meadows and the woods and the ditches. I miss that connections. I think it may be time to let nature touch me again.