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One step forward: why you should go barefoot

One step forward: why you should go barefoot

I’m standing in the middle of my local wood, feeling a bit silly. I’m halfway into my Saturday morning run, but I’m not running. Instead, I’ve kicked off my trainers and am looking down at my bare feet, praying I don’t bump into anyone.

I’m trying out a wellness ritual. Called ‘earthing’ or ‘grounding’, the idea is that standing in nature with bare feet will connect you to the ‘planet’s healing energy’ and therefore increase your sense of wellbeing. Devotees such as natural lifestyle coach Tony Riddle, aka the @thenaturallifestylist, believe it can help with everything from increasing serotonin levels and boosting your mood to easing anxiety (‘I like to think the earth is like a battery,’ Riddle claims). The therapeutic practice is built on the belief that electrical charges from the earth can have a positive effect on the body, especially on the immune system which relies on a matrix of electrical conductivity. By physically connecting to the ground, we’re soaking up the earth’s negative charge and helping our bodies rebalance. It all sounds a bit woo-woo. When a dog walker suddenly emerges from nowhere and passes me, eyeing my feet with pursed lips, it certainly feels a bit woo-woo. 

Rain or shine, my run has been part of my weekend routine for more than fifteen years. It’s my religion; a way to preserve my equilibrium after the week at my stressful newspaper job. But this summer, the runs have dwindled as life has gotten in the way. I’ve moved house, spent weekends deep in DIY. We’re one man down at work with a ramped-up workload. Mind racing, nights have become a sleepless battleground of clock-watching, to-do lists and work angst. Whenever I try to don my trainers, my runs are interrupted by noisy thoughts. The aborted workouts rack up and this is another thing to fret about.

I eye all new wellness trends with a degree of scepticism, but I’ll try anything once. I pick my way along the path, hopping around the roots and stones, my embarrassment subsiding as I begin to enjoy the sensation of cool earth underfoot.  

Peace descends. Is this ‘zen’ I wonder? I’m not sure, but what I do know is that I’ve suddenly become hyper-aware of everything around me: a group of golfers chatting on the course nearby, a plane humming and the squeals of children playing in the distance.

And, just like that, my head clears. 

So I put on my shoes and start to run. And, for the first time this summer, I don’t stop. 

Lucy Dunn is lifestyle editor of The Telegraph. Previously, she was a founding member of women’s platform, The Pool. She lives in St Albans with her husband, two teenage sons and a hyperactive dog, Spud.