You know that amazing feeling when you kick off your shoes at the end of the day? When you wiggle your toes in the sand at the beach or run barefoot across grass? According to earthing enthusiasts, that feeling of wellbeing may have an even greater physiological effect on your body than previously thought.
The premise of “earthing” or “grounding” is based on the idea that for millions of years humans have roamed the planet barefoot. Proponents of the practice claim that our ancestors lived their lives mostly in direct physical contact with the earth’s surface and believe they have research to support the idea that they were all the better for it.
Many believe that if we can reconnect with purported “healing” electrons emitted from the earth, simply by walking outside barefoot or sitting on the ground, we can stave off the accumulative damage to our bodies caused by free radicals.
Dr James Oschman, a biophysicist in the field of energy medicine, believes a lack of “direct physical contact of the human body with the surface of the earth” is associated with the rise of modern diseases.
Oschman cites insulating our feet with synthetic materials as a source of chronic inflammation, which he believes is the root cause of virtually all disease.
According to Oschman, the noticeable effects of grounding include a feeling of greater peace, feeling calmer, improved digestion, immunity and sleep, a reduction in stress levels, muscle tension and improved hormone regulation.
“What is really happening with grounding or earthing is that you’re protecting your body from – I call it – collateral damage. Damage that was not intended to take place but does take place because we have disconnected ourselves from the earth by putting rubber and plastic on the bottom of our shoes,” Oschman argues.
So how often should we be going barefoot? According to some earthing experts, half an hour a day is sufficient to see the health results. There is also a commercial aspect to the practice, including ranges of grounding equipment for sale, from conductive mats to sheets to seat pads.
While many remain sceptical of the purported benefits of earthing, many other streams of alternative medicine place great importance on stimulating the feet to improve wellbeing. Reflexologists claim that walking barefoot on stones can help to stimulate pressure points on the feet which are connected to various parts of the body and its organs, and recently the popularity of barefoot running has soared.
“People have known for a long time that walking barefoot feels good. There are places in the world like Germany, Austria and Switzerland with communities where there is a tradition of getting up in the morning and going barefoot,” says Oschman.
While further research is needed to determine whether grounding can deliver the health claims made, there’s no denying that the summer season is the perfect time to kick off your shoes and indulge in some outdoor, barefoot fun.