Sunday, 19 August 2007
Blotevoetenpad in Vlaanderen - Barefootpath in Flanders
Today we did something we have never done before. We walked on a specially prepared 2km long barefoot path in Zutendaal, Belgian Limburg. This is the first such path in Belgian Flanders. We walked over wooden logs, wooden planks, small stones, gravel, rocks, grass, squelchy mud, in knee-deep muddy water and sand. We felt cold and warm underfoot, wet and dry, hard and soft. We climbed up and down log steps and a four storey lookout tower. We balanced on treestumps of different heights, walked across a wibbly-wobbly wooden logs bridge and attempted stilt-walking on logs.
My children squealed with delight as they experienced all the textures and knowing they were allowed to get dirty.
My photos of the Barefoot Walk on Flickr
It is also peaceful, well apart from people's screams in the freezing puddles, and far from traffic and everyday noises. Walking over the different surfaces gives a chance to heighten other senses, just like a baby learns about the world through its mouth.
Walking barefoot is healthy. It stimulates the heart, blood circulation and regulates blood pressure. Paddling and gymnastic balancing promotes the vascular system particularly in the limbs. True contact with the earth is relaxing and works on the mind and spirit. Walking barefoot is said to stimulate all the zones of the body just as in a reflexology massage.
"The theory behind barefoot walking/running is that the nerve endings on the bottom of the foot when stimulated cause reflex muscle contraction to avoid the irritation. Stepping on a something sharp or rough is painful; the muscles in the foot and leg contract in order to get off the irritation. This constant cycle of sensory stimulation and reflex muscle contraction is thought to improve the strength of the foot and leg muscles." (Source: http://www.damienhowellpt.com/pdf/barefoot5.pdf)
"Barefoot walking is associated with decreased dynamic knee loading compared to walking in normal footwear."
Foot showers and scrubbing brushes were provided next to the lockers for our shoes.
Blotevoetenpad in Vlaanderen
Some other sites about barefoot walking:
Engage Gluteus maximus
Happy Feet (not the film about penguins!)
Parents for Barefoot Children
article on barefoot walking/running
alt.lifestyle - barefoot walking FAQ
walking barefoot on dew
By the way, in Belgium, the driving code does not explicitly ban barefoot driving, but article 8.3 requires drivers to be "constantly able to perform any maneuver". According to the federal police, this implicitly bans barefoot driving. (However, barefoot drivers dispute that lack of shoes impairs their ability to perform maneuvers. It is not known whether this dispute has been tried in Belgian courts).
© Antonia Stuart-James 2007