Walk barefoot, live grounded: a connection to nature and self

Woman balances on slack line with clock tower in background on Pitzer campus
Juliana Jaasma PZ ’26 one of many barefoot enthusiasts here at the 5Cs practicing on a Slackline (Andrew Yuan • The Student Life)

Amidst our technologically interconnected world, Marina Shishkina SC ’25 finds it easy to become disconnected from her natural human needs. Searching to bridge the gap between a separated mind, body and external environment, she found the answer: barefoot living.

“I experience a sense of detachment from my environment when I’m consumed by the allure of social media,” said Shishkina.

Certain individuals at the 5Cs see the practice of being barefoot as a proactive way to reconnect with the earth and interweave the body and mind. Put simply, Chloe Lampert PZ ’27 chooses to engage in a barefoot lifestyle as a means for her to be more in touch with her environment and self.

“It reminds me to slow down,” Lampert said. “It allows me to be more observant of my surroundings and my impact on them as well as their impact on me.”

In a similar sense, Marina Shishkina SC ’25 perceives the custom as a new form of consciousness. In other words, Shishkina conceptualizes our feet as storytellers of life and our emotions.

“It’s as if little sensors on your feet are able to answer questions on your emotions more deliberately,” Shiskina said.

Barefoot enthusiasts like Shishinka believe that this activity helps them lead to a more grounded form of existence in temporality and self. In 2021, Shishkina embarked on a journey of barefootedness for two weeks as a part of an art performance piece.

“I could really feel everything that was going on and happening to me during those two weeks,” Shiskina said. “It allows me to … react the way I want to react. Feel the way [I] want to feel. Be the way I want to be.”

Meanwhile, the practice can extend beyond spiritual and mental health to physical self-care as well. For barefoot practitioner Juliana Jaasma PZ ’26, her journey began as a matter of addressing her underlying health issues.

“It reminds me to slow down,” Lampert said. “It allows me to be more observant of my surroundings and my impact on them as well as their impact on me.”

“My family and I experienced a lot of foot problems, such as bunions,” Jaasma said. “For a long time, we thought it was a genetic issue.”

Jaasma tried various inserts and other forms of mitigation, yet was still feeling this overarching sense of discomfort.

“Then, my mom and I tried wearing foot spacers and being barefoot whenever possible,” Jaasma said.

Jaasma has now experienced several health benefits as a result of adopting this way of life.

“I’ve seen considerable improvements in my toe mobility, balance and athletic performance.” Jaasma said. “For instance, I’m able to wiggle my toes more when I’m doing certain yoga poses.”

Similarly, Cristian Rosales PZ ’25 has seen notable improvements in his athletic abilities through barefootedness.

“After going barefoot more frequently, I have been able to correct my running posture,” said Rosales.

When Lampert is faced with negative comments surrounding her lifestyle, she is interested in looking deeper at these conventional social norms. In other words, Lampert is asking the broader questions — getting to the root of these judgements.

“What makes you feel that being barefoot is unsafe or abnormal?” Lampert said. “Where does that idea stem from? Furthermore, how does my footwear, or lack thereof, affect you?”

Practitioners believe that in an experience that is intimately woven with the self, it is important to begin practicing to the extent of which you are comfortable.

“When you’re starting out, don’t overdo it,” Lampert said. “Grass and sand are always safe bets. Your feet will adjust overtime and it will gradually get more comfortable to walk on asphalt, dirt paths, rocky terrain and eventually even gravel and seashells!”

Shishkina conceives of the practice as being a fundamental aspect of the authentic human condition.

“Afterall, it’s the part of us that touches the ground,” said Shiskina.“I think everyone should be barefoot.”

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