The sole of your foot has as many as 200 000 nerve endings. That’s why they are the most ticklish part of your body and why stepping on a Lego building brick is one of the most dreaded experiences around the world. But this heightened sensitivity has its upsides as well. One of the ways that you can use it to your advantage – go on a barefoot hike! Feeling various textures – sand, small rocks, dirt, grass – is a wonderful sensory experience that allows you to truly become one with nature.
Some barefoot hikers claim that walking without your shoes on has a lot of health benefits. This idea started with the 19th century naturopath Sebastian Kneipp. He believed that walking barefoot strengthens the immune system, helps prevent headaches, strengthens your body and relieves stress. He especially recommended walking in the dew which is a great way to energize yourself on summer mornings. You can read more about the benefits here.
Try out barefoot hiking and see for yourself if it is true! But before you do, read our tips!
Barefoot hiking tips
Choose the trail carefully. Start out on easy trails like grassy meadows or smooth dirt paths. Once you get more comfortable, you might be okay with rockier paths but these are generally not recommended for novices. Be careful crossing streams or rivers because they can hide unexpected dangers and you might end up with cut feet.
Start slow. If you rarely go outside barefoot, your feet need to adjust. Don’t just go on a barefoot hike and hope for the best; you need to prepare your body beforehand. Go outside in your yard and walk around for a while. Try as many different textures as you can find, not just soft grass but also cool, irregularly shaped stones. You need to get comfortable with different natural textures.
Put your weight on the balls of your feet. You don’t need to tiptoe but make sure you put the weight on the balls of your feet, not on your heels. It is actually the toughest part of your foot and absorbs shock very well.
Don’t drag your feet. Walk confidently. If you drag your feet or kick them, it increases the risk of cutting your feet on sharp surfaces, like rocks or spikey plants.
Keep an eye on what’s in front of you. It is very important to keep your eyes on the path. What’s ahead of you? If there any sharp rocks, weeds that might sting you or other obstacles, make your way around them. Once you go barefoot more often, you will become better at spotting these things and you won’t have to pay as much attention.
Use all of your senses. Make it a sensory journey! When you are hiking barefoot, pay attention to all your senses – not only touch, but also the sights and smells around you. Breath in the air and enjoy the nature all around you. As your senses are heightened, you will notice so much more of your surroundings!
Best barefoot hiking trails in the world
While you can skip the shoes and hike barefoot in a lot of places, there are a few trails that barefoot hikers frequent more than others. Some are made specifically for this activity while others just have all the right natural conditions for hiking barefoot. Read more about the best trails for hiking barefoot!
Alpine barefoot hiking path Reutte in Tyrol, Austria
Reutte resort in the Austrian Alps has a very special attraction: the barefoot hiking path along the meadows of Hofen Alm and the refreshing mountain springs. This path is great for walking without any shoes on – the gentle touch of grass and cool water from the springs is soothing and energizing at the same time. This region is home to almost 500 different types of alpine plants so you can make it a challenge to spot as many as you can!
Barfodspark barefoot park in Rodekro, Denmark
Barfodspark is a 2 hectare park that is dedicated to barefoot lifestyle. You will find a variety of different surfaces and textures. You will also be able to explore Kneipp’s water therapy – the benefits of walking in the morning dew! If you are interested in health benefits of barefoot hiking, this is the place to go.
Barefoot trail in Valmiera, Latvia
Latvia’s only barefoot trail is 2 km long and incorporates a variety of natural textures and balance elements that make barefoot hiking an incredible experience. You will find 15 different mulches in the Park of Senses, along with several interesting design objects and wooden elements that will test your balance. Located by the crags along the river Gauja, the park also has a white sand beach, a walking trail that’s suspended in the woods, numerous running trails and a SPA center.
Sentier Pieds Nus barefoot trail in Orbey, France
This 1,2 km barefoot trail offers a unique experience. You will explore the range of textures your feet are capable of sensing like sand, stones, tree bark, wood chips and even pineapple skins. It will awaken the senses you probably were not even aware of!
Barefoot Walk in The Trentham Estate, United Kingdom
In the beautiful Trentham Gardens in Stoke-on-Trent, West Midlands, you will find a barefoot path where you can walk on several different types of surfaces – from mud and bubbling streams to tree bark and pebbles. The owners of the Trentham Estate are also followers of Sebastian Kneipp’s teachings.