As with any exposed area of the body, there is the potential for nicks, scrapes, bruises, and bumps. The same is possible when we start to spend more time barefoot. We need to honor our bodies and ask ourselves, what condition are they in and what can they withstand? What environments do we intend to explore barefoot, and what could we possibly expect to find there? And, like any good explorer, be prepared for any possibility. Understanding our body's limits, as well as being aware of our surroundings, will help us avoid unnecessary injury or mishap.
However, despite our best efforts in these endeavors, bumps and bruises can and will happen. Just as we might get a small cut or burn while cooking, mistakes and oversights can occur. But that does not mean that we cannot be prepared and use preventative behaviors to avoid more detrimental injuries.
So far on this journey, I have experienced a couple of bruised toes from not lifting my feet or paying attention to my surroundings. I've also had cuts from underestimating the durability of the skin on the soles of my feet that were still fresh from shoes and hadn't had time to build tolerance and sturdiness. I have also experienced splintered soles and encountered other sharp objects that decided to embed themselves in my feet.
Each moment was a learning experience that drove home the need to be aware of my surroundings, listen to my body, and not rush into an activity it was not ready for, as well as employing proper walking techniques.
Know Your Environment
We need to be highly aware of the environment we choose to walk barefoot in. The go-to concern for many weary barefooters is the possible encounter with needles. To date, I have not come across, so to speak, any syringe needles on the ground in both urban or rural settings. This is a common question and hesitation when taking our bare feet into the wild, but it is one that, thankfully, I have never encountered. And, in conversations with other avid barefooters, they have not experienced it either, or at least not to a great extent. While needles on the ground haven't been an obstacle, one real obstacle that I have come across in both urban and rural trail settings is glass. The incidents due to glass underfoot have been low because I become extra aware of my surroundings when walking barefoot. I look ahead on the trail to prepare for what I may encounter, and I train my feet and ankles so I am quick on my feet and able to quickly evade potential threats if they are too close. Becoming present in the moment is what can safeguard you and your feet from potential injuries underfoot by simply focusing on what is in front of you, around you, and under your feet.
Listen to Your Body
If we have been wearing ill-fitting shoes for a long time and we are at the beginning of our journey, we may need to start small with our barefoot exploration. Starting with softer surfaces such as grass, concrete, or similar surfaces as we build tissue tolerance, durability, and strength. We cannot simply jump out of our shoe and sock life and start trail running barefoot. Walking over rocks may feel like certain death to some—those were the exact words of my children as they braved new experiences. Our feet can be very sensitive, meaning they have a great power to communicate with the nervous system via proprioceptors to inform our body how to safely move through space. If we overload proprioceptors that have been asleep and weakened for years, we need to ease into new textures and gradually increase time spent exploring them as well as build up tissue tolerance. Just like working any other muscle, we would not walk into a gym and pick up the heaviest weight to start. We would work our way up, building strength as we go. So listen to and honor your body; it is a journey, not a race.
I was never a Boy Scout, but I camped often as a child, so I know to be prepared for possible injuries or scratches by having some tools to help when others may be out of reach because we are on a trail or a road that is not close to our end destination. We have to be prepared for the entire journey and if we should encounter a cut, scrape, or bruise, can we make it safely back? To prepare for such occurrences, I always carry a little kit with me that includes the basics of any first aid supplies. I always carry a pair of tweezers in case of pesky objects that want to embed themselves in the bottom of my feet. And, I come prepared with alternative options for footwear. During my first long hike in minimalist boots, I also brought along well-seasoned shoes that could provide comfort if my new and reduced support boots provided more flexibility and ground feel than my feet could comfortably handle. By bringing a few extra items with me, I was able to adapt in the moment and continue my journey with minor bumps and scrapes.
Starting, or delving deeper, into your barefoot journey does not need to be scary, but I also want to be realistic. By being present in the moment and aware of your surroundings, you can be prepared to evade or adapt to anything that might be in your path. Listening to your body will help you understand your limits in a realistic way that will avoid injury and help you further your progress by reducing downtime due to an unfortunate incident that could have been otherwise avoided. Lastly, being prepared for the journey before you set off on your walk or hike will help you adapt should anything arise.
**Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This means, I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post. This does not change or affect the price of the product in anyway.**
Here are a few of my recommendations for keeping yourself safe and injury free:
Travel First Aid Kit: https://amzn.to/3OcFATY
Minimalist Hiking Boots by Xero: https://amzn.to/44kpbCr
Minimalist Hiking Boots by Vivobarefoot: https://amzn.to/3NRxOgE