Transition to Barefoot

There are many adjustments for the body to make if shoes have been worn for many years.

Firstly, the tender skin on the soles of the foot needs to thicken and toughen up. The skin on the soles of our feet (and palms of our hands) is unique in that it has the ability to form protective layers. It responds over a period of weeks and months of gradual exposure to rough surfaces. It is best to walk barefoot in the house initially. Then starting outside with soft natural surfaces like sand, soil, leaves, moss and grass. Then increasing the roughness of the surface, including tarmac, and also try to increase the size of the gravel you walk on, till you can tolerate almost any surface.

Depending on how many years you have been in shoes your feet will vary in how long they take to adapt. Some people need to start with as little barefoot walking as five minutes, gradually increasing the time spent outside barefoot. The soles of your feet may tingle the morning after walking barefoot walking. This tingling should not persist for more than a couple of days. If it does, you know you are transitioning too fast.

Some people use skin emollients like Flexitol Heel Balm as a protection from dirt staining the skin and helping to keep the skin supple and avoid cracks.

Generally, although the skin thickens as a natural response to walking barefoot, it doesn’t become calloused. In fact it is more like soft leather. Some people may take up to two years to fully condition the skin to its true, natural, potential strength and thickness.

Secondly, the muscles of the foot, leg, hips and back will gradually need to be strengthened, and sometimes stretched, to revert back to natural gait from the adaptions the body has made to shoes. This is particularly true of the muscles of the long arch of the foot. They are very often atrophied and very weak. It is believed this is due to the bracing effect which shoes have on feet, leading to wasting of these important supportive muscles.

Many people find that doing specific strength training exercises for these muscles makes a big difference to how well they can cope with walking barefoot.

It’s like training any other part of our body. We should start gently, and slowly increase the load or effort involved so as to safely strengthen our muscles and prevent injury.

Another important aspect of this transition is neurological adaption. There are up to 200,000 sensory nerve endings in the foot. When shoes are worn, tactile sensory perception is dulled. So, on walking barefoot, the nerve endings will give a sensation of pain as a result of a sudden increase in the level of sensation. And possibly due to the nerve pathways to the brain needing to be created to cope with the wider variety of different sensations the feet are now exposed to.

Over a period of time walking barefoot these painful sensations moderate and differentiate, so as you will be able to sense touch, texture, vibration, shearing stress, temperature, pressure and pain.

You will be able to feel a variety of textures and sensations just like your fingers and hands.

The gradual adaption of feet from being weak and needing support to being strong and able to support themselves is possible for most people who understand the process.

It is also a satisfying experience and achievement, bringing with it better foot health and improved posture.

Most people who walk barefoot have amazingly good balance and postural support. Which means they are less likely to fall.

After just a few weeks of walking barefoot your sensory awareness will improve so that you will be more aware of your surroundings.

The big risk in transitioning is proceeding too quickly so as you experience problems before your feet and legs have properly strengthened to cope.

There are lots of benefits, but a slight increased potential risk of poor traction on wet, slippy and muddy surfaces.

Some of this is compensated for by improved response time when starting to slip, due to more tactile sensory awareness and improved postural stability.

However, increased traction can be obtained from wearing minimalist shoes which have off-road traction soles. Like Vibram FiveFingers and Vivo Barefoot Shoes. They have increased sensory perception compared to normal shoes by using very thin soles and reduce the bracing effect of stiff shoes by being extremely flexible.

They are very much a compromise as they do not give all the benefits of barefoot walking, but do give increased traction.

Hope you find this helpful.
Kind regards

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5 Responses to Transition to Barefoot

  1. Seth R. says:

    You know, when you lock a thread, or make it password protected, it’s usually good Internet etiquette to announce that you have done so to those still in the thread.

    That way, they will know that there is a reason I am no longer responding to the comments that continue to be directed toward me from other participants on that thread.

    I don’t intend to say anything else about the matter or make a further pest of myself.

    You can feel free to delete this comment after you have read it – since it has nothing to do with your post here. Thank you.

    • Steve Bloor says:

      Hi Seth

      Thanks for your comments.

      I am a novice to the whole internet blogging thing.

      My intentions in putting up the letter were to help people who are questioning realise they are not alone. It was meant for UK only in a limited group setting.

      However, John Dehlin publicised it more widely thinking he was being helpful.

      Unfortunately, due to the threat of Church disciplinary action I have to pull the blog down from public viewing.

      Sorry about that.

      I’m also not sure how to notify all the many kind people, including yourself, who commented in the lively debate.

      All the very best Steve

      Sent from my HTC

      • Seth R. says:

        Well, I’m certainly sorry to hear about the tough time you are going through. And I can sympathize with your blogging plight.

        I know it’s rough being caught in the crossfire between “Mormon apologists” and the ex-Mormon community. We both tend to be a little bull-headed, and so eager to pick a fight that we trample over the people caught in the middle.

        If this happened to you, I am sorry. I hope things work out ultimately for the best for you and your family.

        If you have any questions or concerns, you have my email address (I presume) and you can feel free to contact me. I’ll try not to go into hard core defend-the-faith mode on you. But if you’d rather sort this out yourself or elsewhere (after all, you don’t know me from Adam), I certainly understand.

        Good luck to you.

  2. Paul says:

    Interesting blog entry and very apropos to my situation. I have just undergone neuropathy testing and the results were not good. About maybe six months ago (or longer) both of my feet became very numb, something like when your foot is asleep, but different still. And it’s constant, though. I’ve had a battery of other tests and my heart, blood pressure, etc, is all good; just very low vitamin D and E. But every once in a while I ‘think’ my feet are getting better, but there is still the numbness, especially in the toes and bottoms. I had PMR (polymyalgia rheumatica) about four years ago, and I still think there is some residual effects of that in my body, so perhaps that a factor as well. Anyway, I am going to try and walk more in bare feet, but like you said, you have to be careful to not overstimulating the nerves. I never knew that.

    Also, I enjoyed reading about your recent LDS experiences. I am now inactive after having been a member for over fifty years. It has a lot to do about the ‘scam’ stuff as well, but also the aloofness and leader-worship aspects a lot of the members ascribe to got to me as well. Didn’t the Savor say He was meek and lowly of heart? Although, after having said this, I won’t resign my membership (at this point), but if a stake president wants to take it away from me, then good riddance to the ‘Mormon’ church. I do not — can not believe that the one, true church headed by THE living Christ would ever disfellowship, let alone excommunicate a once active, paying, contributing member of the church who just doesn’t believe in a lot of things about it anymore. My Jesus would much rather empathize rather than demonize and ostracize, yet the LDS church is notorious for “withdrawing fellowship.” It can be a very cruel, mean-spirited church even under a cloak of so-called ‘love’ (as in “courts of love — give me a break!)

    I would be interested in reading anything you have to say about all of this; it may help me. Cognitive dissonance can literally drive a person mad (as in ‘crazy’ AND ‘angry’). I’m pretty much over the anger, but ‘crazy’… mmm… No jesting, but I still think I am being emotionally, spiritually, and mentally tortured for the simple fact that I want to be with my parents (who were very devout LDS) again when I die. But the church does a real number on you doesn’t it? It can really mess with your brain. “Pay if you want to play and stay in Jesus’ *one and only true* game, otherwise you could even possibly end up being a son of perdition!” I don’t know, really, anymore.

    Hope you keep posting.

    Best to you and may we all find our peace.

  3. Hey, fellow BFer here. Love the blog. I hope you write more about BFing it.

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