Being a Kiwi, being barefoot roaming is nothing unusual to us. From the moment we take our first steps its barefoot baby, all the way, running around the home, inside and out, in the park, on the beach, even in the supermarkets. As we grow up and life becomes more formal we wear sandals and shoes where appropriate, although jandals become our version of barefoot as we get older and our soles become that little bit softer. And for the most part, I think we are a nation of “bare-footers”.
Of course, our environment has a lot to do with it, never being far from a beach, lake, river, parks or paddocks to roam through. An impromptu game of rugby, touch, basketball, tennis on the road with the locals, cousins and whanau are all easily played entirely barefoot. Stubbed toes are the norm and prickles are simply something you deal with after the game! I know most of you in NZ at the moment with summer holidays coming can relate.
And, seasons don’t make a difference, summer or winter it’s all the same. Many tourists around the smaller towns of New Zealand actually write about the phenomenon in their blog posts reporting it to their friends and family back “home” – just goggle it.
“On the road to Taupo we went through the small town of Tirau. What caught my eye was a field of barefoot boys chasing around after each other. They had on jackets, long pants and hats, as it was really “fresh (nice way of saying cold as hell) out with a blazing sun peeking out during the cloud breaks. This barefoot thing is quite interesting” (New Zealand Jaunt Blog)
So why the topic for this blog – because it’s just a random thought I had after being told how “bad” going barefoot is. Where I have chosen to live now, barefoot roaming is totally looked down upon whether it is outside or inside, at home or when visiting. It’s a non-negotiable even as an adult. Whenever I kick off my shoes, after a presentation, after classes, in a hotel lobby relaxing it is a total no-no! Suggest that parents take their kids shoes off in the park (or safe grass area) and allow them space to experience barefoot running around and you get a blank look, like WHAT? Are you MAD? And living here, in the environmental surrounding that we live in I can understand “some” of their concerns and yet, surely there is a little room for movement.
And when something that is so familiar to me is challenged it always makes me think of how different our lives can be on this planet. This instance made me wonder about my own and my two daughter’s barefoot childhood and how no matter where we live, we basically just follow our culture, the way things are done. For us, that meant being barefoot is just part of life, part of our norm!
So I decided to research a little into the myths and benefits of going barefoot especially around the two most common reasons given to me here in China for not going barefoot – fear of injury and fear of picking up a disease or illness. So here are some fun facts about going barefoot:
- Children’s feet toughen up the more they go barefoot, leading to more natural protection.
- Shoes actually create an ideal environment for bacteria and fungus, promoting darkness, heat and moisture in a closed setting.
- Ill fit shoes prevent proper toe spread.
- Going barefoot strengthens the feet and lower legs, making the body more agile and less prone to injury.
To be clear I am not an advocate of barefoot in the middle of a city. I’m talking about doing it in a safe environment wherever that may be. I simply want to destroy the fictitious facts that are everywhere here, as everyone just does what culture/tradition hands down through the generations – with no questions asked. I want to reduce the paranoia and fear that so many have to venture outside, feel the textures that surround them and enjoy what nature provides us (even if not perfect).
And then being me, I had to reflect on this activity that I take for granted. Aren’t I the same, just following culture, following the norm? And for me maybe it goes a little deeper.
- Choice – it is a choice we have, I don’t like to be told that I can’t do something. Running around barefoot is harming no one but myself (if there actually is any harm) and by creating a blanket statement that going barefoot is dirty, bad for you, what poor people do who can’t afford shoes or makes you any less responsible, is utterly ridiculous to me.
- Freedom – shoes restrict freedom. Why limit simple freedoms because of misconceptions or traditions that have us scared to step out of our comfort zones, even where there is minimal risk, simply because we may have been bought up in a culture of fear and minimal risk taking.
- Authenticity – painted toenails, toe rings create your own authenticity, take off your shoes, bare it all, become grounded and centered in the moment!
- Creativity & Inspiration – we live in such a tactile world, the relaxing feeling of walking on soft warm sand on the beach, oozy slippery wet mud squishing between your toes, the soft spongy feeling of walking on the grass (no prickles), gripping with your feet, climbing trees in summer and splashing in puddles on a warm rainy day are all wonderful ways of experiencing the world, learning about the world around us and expanding our comfort zones.
Now as an adult I can’t say I love all these sensations and yet I miss them and can’t comprehend how as a child some may not have those memories, those feelings to relate to. All of these sensations are available when we allow ourselves and our children to experience a bit of shoe-free time. And I guess down under we really do things backward and guess what? I wouldn’t have it any other way!
And perhaps it’s time to stand up for the simple fact that barefoot is beautiful. Maybe it’s a time to let our toes out and do something to remind us what life is really about. Imagine finding a little time every day, taking time, to kick off those shoes in the playground or in the back yard and be a kid again. Throw in a little adult barefoot time with a pedicure, a foot massage and toe painting on those special occasions and I think that covers all the bases. A bit of fun followed by pampering – sounds good for the soul.
So today, take time to enjoy your feet and what they were made for and use them and daily moments, to create endless memories for the rest of your life.