There was a recent article, I’d like to put the boots to the notion of barefoot healing, in the London Free Press that took issue with a press release about the benefits of going barefoot (and promoting a business putting on workshops around it). However, the press release made a big deal about “earthing”, which I criticized in Eye on Ions.
In my piece, I noted that one of the bad things about touting new age quackery such as “earthing” is that
there is also another crowd that we need to convince, people like doctors and podiatrists. If we spend our time touting things that are obvious nonsense to anybody with a bit of real scientific training, they will end up deeply suspicious about all of our other claims about the benefits of going barefooted.
The recent article tried to do that.
And failed miserably. What it did was counter the folderol of “earthing” with ridiculous myth, lack of knowledge, and abject fantasizing.
The press release starts out mostly OK:
Wow. I’ve discovered the healing powers of going BAREFOOT. Scientific research has shown that there is a positive environmental impact from connecting with Mother Earth. Not only will you improve your balance and flexibility, you can heal your body, clear your mind, have more energy and have a spiritual experience too.
That’s a bit of an overstatement, but within the realm of realism. Going barefoot really does help balance (though much better feedback—what is called proprioception) and flexibility (allowing all those muscles, ligaments, and tendons to move the way they are supposed to, and not shortening the achilles tendon the way heels on shoes do). I’ll even go with clear your mind (feeling better can clear your mind), have more energy (if you feel better, you can feel like you have more energy), and the spiritual experience (all sorts of things can lead to spiritual experiences, like gorgeous sunsets—going barefoot can do so too).
But his response to that is really pretty stupid and demonstrates a profound ignorance:
Now in my experience, walking barefoot doesn’t give me more energy – it gives me splinters, cuts and dirty feet. More importantly, it prevents me from getting served a delicious, chemically-altered slab of beef in my favourite fast-food restaurant.
He’s doing it wrong. OK, maybe not the dirty feet part (depending on where you walk), but splinters and cuts are such a rarity (certainly less than the blisters, corns, and bunions caused by shoes) that he is just dreaming up excuses.
But then he goes on to the next part of the workshop press release:
Our bodies are electrically conducive and the influx of negative electrons received through direct contact with the Earth neutralizes free radicals and reduces inflammation. Wearing shoes has cut us off from this incredible gift the Earth has to offer.
This is just ridiculous, as is fisked in my other blog entry. It displays a profound lack of knowledge of chemistry and the way the world really works. Just adding a few electrons will not neutralize a free radical, any more than adding a few electrons to a salt brine will magically cause sodium to precipitate out of it and release chlorine gas to the air.
His response, though, made no sense.
I don’t know much about negative electrons. I do, however, know a thing or two about negative emotions, which often arise when you stub your bare toe against a hard part of Mother Earth, like a tree stump, or lacerate your bare foot on a beer bottle that’s lying in a naturally-occurring state of shattered chaos in the middle of a parking lot.
Of all the things you could possibly say criticizing grounding, that is probably the dumbest.
Again, he’s just dreaming. He’s making up crap. He is buying into nonsense just as much as the “earthing” people are.
I’d like to add another reason that “earthing” is just silly. The body is a conductor, but a pretty poor one. That means that if you ground it at on end, you’ll get a flow, a very small flow of electrons. But that is a flow that’s really not that much different from the usual flow going through your body.
The air itself has different electrical potentials as you walk through it. That causes small electron flows. The earth itself has different potentials at different points, which also causes small electron flows as you walk over it, either barefoot or shod. [There's a reason that when you ground, let's say, a lightning rod, you do so with a thick rod dug deep into the earth—you are not doing that by walking barefoot. Really.]
Heck, as you walk along, just the swishing of your clothing redistributes electrons from skin to clothing, so even if some are conducted away through your feet, new electrons move in and around.
The whole premise of “earthing” is based on misunderstandings of chemistry and physics. It’s also based on ignorance of any biological mechanism for it to work. It is almost certainly people seeing what they want to see, and mistaking anecdotes for data.
It would be nice if there were magical solutions to our problems. But there aren’t.
Going barefoot can really be an enriching part of one’s life, and has real benefits to the body’s structural health. But let’s not taint its credibility.