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Recent research has shown that barefoot walking is healthy. It also tells why shoes can impede long term health development
We were walking barefoot for millions of years, until very recently when we invented footwear. Our ancestors used biological material for footwear, like animal hide. It is only very recently that we started to use materials like rubber and plastic. In the so-called developed countries, babies use footwear almost from the time they start walking avoiding any contact with mother earth. Mother earth contains innumerable bio-positive free electrons which are human immune-boosters. The influx of free electrons absorbed into the body through direct contact with the earth is likely to neutralise reactive oxygen species and, thereby, reduce acute and chronic inflammation. When we insulate ourselves from those healthy electrons, by wearing footwear, we are pushing ourselves towards illnesses.
A leading medical science journal Nature has published a study that has shown barefoot walking in good light. The study said, “Humans have engaged in endurance running for millions of years, but the modern running shoe was not invented until the 1970s. For most of human evolutionary history, runners were either barefoot or wore minimal footwear such as sandals or moccasins with smaller heels and little cushioning relative to modern running shoes. We wondered how runners coped with the impact caused by the foot colliding with the ground before the invention of the modern shoe. Here we show that habitually barefoot endurance runners often land on the fore-foot (fore-foot strike) before bringing down the heel, but they sometimes land with a flat foot (mid-foot strike) or, less often, on the heel (rear-foot strike). In contrast, habitually shod runners mostly rear-foot strike, facilitated by the elevated and cushioned heel of the modern running shoe. Kinematic and kinetic analyses show that even on hard surfaces, barefoot runners who fore-foot strike generate smaller collision forces than shod rear-foot strikers. This difference results primarily from a more plantar flexed foot at landing and more ankle compliance during impact, decreasing the effective mass of the body that collides with the ground. Fore-foot- and mid-foot-strike gaits were probably more common when humans ran barefoot or in minimal shoes, and may protect the feet and lower limbs from some of the impact-related injuries now experienced by a high percentage of runners.”
Moreover, oscillations of the intensity of the earth’s potential may be important for setting the biological clocks regulating diurnal body rhythms, such as cortisol secretion. The energy vibration is seen as a solid structure and might set right many an aberration in the body physiology. Professor Robert Becker, an orthopaedic surgeon from New York University, has shown that each body cell is but a semi-conductor. We also generate plenty of static body electricity which needs to be earthed.
On the other hand, footwear alters our gait and would result in minor damage to the various lower limb joints as also the lower spine. Our aches and pains are due to this minor change that we have brought upon ourselves by wearing the fashionable footwear. We do not feel that until the pains become severe. Correcting it early, if not avoiding it in the first place, should be our aim.
“Shoes affect the gait of children. With shoes, children walk faster by taking longer steps with greater ankle and knee motion and increased tibialis anterior activity. Shoes reduce foot motion and increase the support phases of the gait cycle. During running, shoes reduce swing phase leg speed, attenuate some shock and encourage a rear foot strike pattern. The long-term effect of these changes on growth and development are currently unknown,” quoted the Journal of Foot and Ankle Research.
So hit the ground bare feet. There are certain precautions one has to take before barefoot running though. If one is used to shoes, do it gradually. Running barefoot requires longer period of training. One should try to walk on sand, preferably the wet variety, for a few days before walking barefoot on rough grounds and roads. Another good place to walk barefoot is a well-kept lawn. Barefoot walking will correct many of the changes that have been caused by shoes. A variety of other benefits have been reported, including reduction in pain and inflammation. I am sure that even the sceptics among us will consider barefoot walking!
Professor Dr BM Hegde, a Padma Bhushan awardee in 2010, is an MD, PhD, FRCP (London, Edinburgh, Glasgow & Dublin), FACC and FAMS.