I was walking through a parking lot today and stepped on a really hard, really pointy, somewhat large rock. It was big and hard and pointy enough that it really hurt, even through the sole of my sandal. Granted, these aren’t exactly steel-toe industrial-grade sandals. They’re fairly cheap. What is the point of footwear though, if not to protect the feet? (Everyone who said ‘fashion’ gets detention.) Stepping on a rock in a parking lot shouldn’t hurt. Then it struck me – what if I was barefoot? How much would that have hurt?
The answer – probably not so much.
Why? When you walk barefoot, you tend to be a bit more careful. And when you walk barefoot over uncertain ground, you tend to walk a bit lighter too.
Have you ever walked barefoot in a forest? I mean in the wild, not a carefully manicured park with trees.
I believe it is a special experience. Those first few steps are tentative and uncertain, right after you take the shoes off. There is strange crud underfoot, a layer of chunky organic matter between your feet and the dirt. For a while you take it slow, worried that you’ll step on something pointy or icky. Gradually though, you grow accustomed to it. And realize just how good it feels. To have the wild Earth against your naked sole.
Barefoot in the grass is ok, don’t get me wrong. A nicely manicured lawn where the grass is all evenly decapitated at just the perfect length can feel great. Barefoot in a forest is less ‘safe’ and in some ways, less… tender I suppose is the word I want. However, barefoot in the forest is more tactile, more ‘real’.
I bet being barefoot in other wild terrain is the same – not just forests. I haven’t had the luxury of being barefoot in a desert, or barefoot in the mountains, or on the plains, jungles, et cetera. But barefoot in a forest.. barefoot in a wild remote area of the Great White North, is very, very nice.
Take your shoes off and bare your soles to the Earth.