Hiking has been a part of me since I can remember. Even today I need to get out into the wilds and walk. Whether it is alone, or with others, hiking quickens my soul.
We live in a fast paced world of busy, busy, busy. No time to slow down and release all that stress and drama. No chance to get away. Hiking is an escape. Getting away and thinking of nothing but the walk, the trail, and nature.
Barefoot hiking is a way that I use to alter my reality. It is the simplest thing in the world. We did it when we were babies, and wild eyed kids. Just go barefoot. Take off your shoes and enjoy.
“But, I’ll get injured!” Your fear screams. Yes, you might. But, you will survive and your feet will get used to it. Just like life in general. We live in a rough world, bad things can and do happen. But, to gain the good, we must deal with the bad, and we do get stronger. Perhaps we can even learn to enjoy the bad.
Barefoot Hiking is not like traditional hiking. You do not trump down the trail from point A to Point B. You walk slowly, observing the sights around you, communing with nature, praying, meditating. Since you are moving slowly, feeling the earth under your feet, the odds of injury are very unlikely. I have barefoot hiked for years, and with the exception of a few splinters, or stone bruises, I have never had a problem.
I pull up to my hiking destination. (Not all trails are suitable for barefoot hiking unless you are used to it.) I am wearing loose, comfortable, clothes in earth tones or even camo. I remove my shoes, and put on sunscreen or bug spray as needed. I put on my gear, as minimal as possible. Water bottles, survival kit, first aid kit with splinter removal tools, and snake bite kit or sometimes no gear at all. I tie my hiking shoes to my belt. Because sometimes you’ll encounter terrain that requires shoes. Grab my walking stick and head out.
A walking stick or trekking pole has many uses when hiking. Just the other day, I went hiking and came to a very muddy hill. The walking stick helped me safely climb and descend the hill without sliding all the way down. Find a stick you love, and use it.
When you enter the forest and have walked far enough inside to leave everything behind, just stop and listen. Clear your mind as best you can. Notice the changes in nature around you. All the beings in the forest know you are there and have reacted. Wait a bit. Perhaps sit down. You will slowly become one with the forest and nature will return to normal.This might take different amounts of time. But, the purpose is to leave all those concerns about time behind you. Now rise and walk slowly. Feel the dirt, stone, mud, and grass under your feet. Walk a little bit, then stop and listen, Watching. Then, repeat.
When you walk slow, going barefoot and silent, while wearing earth tones or camo, you will be able to see more wildlife. I have stalked up to many creatures and enjoyed seeing them wide-eyed wondering how I ever got so close.
When you come to a mud hole, or stone place on the trail, walk through it. Do not avoid it. Experience it. Live in the moment. Feel the squish between your toes, or feel the cold hardness of the stone
You will most likely meet people on the trail. Don’t worry about what they think when they see your bare feet. Just smile. Many of them secretly desire to do the same. Many will try next time. Some will be afraid, talking themselves out of it. Just move along. They are on a different journey than you are. Just like life. Keep trekking. Enjoy.
(Photograph is of a trail in the Shawnee National Forest of Southern Illinois)