While not for everyone, barefoot hiking is quickly becoming a popular way to hit the outdoors. It’s not new – people have been hiking, running, and engaging in just about any other activity barefoot for decades. More recently, people have taken an interest in this new way to experience the outdoors. Is it for you?
Is Hiking Barefoot Safe?
Barefoot hiking means hiking with no or minimal shoes. There are some concerns about engaging in this style of hiking. It’s possible to experience some injury as well as pain, especially if you have un-callused feet. The cold is another concern for many. Done properly with practice, this style of hiking can be enjoyable and very safe.
Considerations Before Barefoot Hiking
The process of learning to barefoot hike takes time. What you may
not immediately realize is that the pain and discomfort that seems to come with each step is something your feet will adjust to over the course of time. While having dirty feet may seem like a problem or even an unsanitary condition, that’s not the case. As long as your feet are cared for properly, there’s a lower level of risk involved.
Pros and Cons of Barefoot Hiking
Why should you consider barefoot hiking? There are a few key reasons why this could be one of the most important investments you make in your outdoor adventure lifestyle. Here are some of the benefits of it:
- It gives you a true earth/nature experience. It’s the feel of the dirt under your feet that makes this a transformative experience. Consider, for example, the number of textures you’ll feel with each step, whether it is from the cool sensation of the mud or the grit of the sand between your toes.
- It’s not just about the experience, but it can be practical, too. If you have heavy boots on, that’s adding a lot of weight to your hike. Wearing barefoot shoes is an excellent way to give your feet more freedom to move.
- It creates a completely different experience from head to toes. You’ll find each of the muscles on your legs, back, and shoulders change with each step. This type of experience can be quite surprising.
In addition to this, barefoot hiking can help to strengthen your feet, create a better overall gait, and improve the overall fitness in your legs. For many people, barefoot hiking is rejuvenating.
There are some cons to the experience. For example, it will take some time to learn to manage those new sensations. You will need to develop stronger feet – including calluses that give you the ability to run on a trail. Over time, this can improve, but it takes some care. If you suffer a cut or another injury, just like with any other area of your body, you’ll need to take proper care of it to minimize the risk for infection.
For those who want to experience nature in the most authentic manner, backpacking barefoot is an exceptional experience, one that is going to transform what you think hiking and backpacking is. It does take a bit more support – you’ll be carrying more weight, which means your feet may take some added pressure in the process.
Are Barefoot Shoes Good for Hiking?
One of the best ways to get the experience of barefoot hiking and backpacking while adding a bit of support is through the use of barefoot shoes. These shoes are the minimalistic form of foot protection you’ll need on some of your first experiences.
These shoes are an excellent choice for hikers who want more flex with each step. They can also be a good option for those who want protection against the elements, such as hiking during the winter, but still want to feel the ground between their feet. There is a good amount of evidence that these shoes can help to reduce musculoskeletal injuries, including plantar fasciitis.
If you plan to purchase these shoes, there are a few things to remember:
- Look for those that have a light weight. That’s critical to maintaining the experience.
- Look for those that completely cover the foot. This helps eliminate the risk of rocks getting into the shoe.
- Check out those that are designed to wrap the foot – rather than to be a slip on option.
There’s no doubt that barefoot hiking is a new experience. At worst, you may end up with some skin damage and a parasite. At best, you’ll experience a brand new way to experience nature in the most holistic manner possible.