The sensation of walking barefoot in the grass is one that many of us leave behind with childhood. We rarely take the opportunity to feel the natural contours of the ground, and instead we spend many of our waking hours wearing shoes.
Over the last twenty years, a number of barefoot parks have been founded in several European countries, giving adults (and kids!) a place to experience the earth with their bare soles. While we discuss many of these parks and their benefits in the book about barefoot running, most of them can be found in different parts of Germany and Austria, there are also parks in Denmark, France, Hungary, Switzerland, and the UK. Trentham Gardens Barefoot Walk, Mezítlábas Park, Park mit allen Sinnen, Panorama-Barfußwanderweg, and a host of other Barfußparks await the curious.
They are all open to the public and include many trails on various terrains and surfaces. Some parks provide rope bridges, stone paths, log ladders, and submerged walks across streams, even rivers. Others include playgrounds built especially for barefoot use.
Visitors are able to walk up to three miles or more in some cases. Most of these barefoot parks provide storage for shoes at the beginning of the trail and also facilities to wash feet after a day tromping in the grass and dirt.
The varieties of activities that can be found in these barefoot parks have made them sought after tourist attractions. As the popularity of barefoot continues to grow, many more are discovering the health benefits of reconnecting with the earth through natural movement.
Touching The Earth
Barefoot parks can help you rediscover the simple pleasure of touch the earth directly. Like the palms of your hands, the soles of your feet were developed with higher sensitivity. This allows you to become not only more aware of your natural surrounding but also aware of your body. Body awareness is an essential part of most of the common relaxation methods used through the world.
Barefoot walking and barefoot running provide many of the benefits of relaxation techniques simply by anchoring you once again in the natural sensations of the ground. This closeness to nature has its own health and wellness benefits.
While there is some disagreement among doctors and health experts about the benefits and risks of going barefoot to either hike or run, the success of these European barefoot parks should be taken into consideration as well. If you haven’t visited one of these parks before or you haven’t walked long distances barefoot in the outdoors, you should take precautions and exercise care when doing so.
Parks In Other Places
If you are based in the United States, you might be wondering if there is anything similar in your area. While there are not any recognized barefoot parks with all of the amenities of those Germany or Austria, the U.S. has several barefoot clubs located in different corners of America, such as the Seattle Barefoot Hikers, the Barefoot Hikers of Minnesota, East Bay Barefoot Hikers, the Barefoot Hikers of Connecticut, and the Barefoot Hikers and Grass Walkers of Greater Kansas City. These groups gather and go barefoot hiking in parks and other public spaces.
Photo Credit: hamron on Flickr