You’ve probably heard of barefoot running – now, get ready for the next step! (No pun intended.)

Barefoot hiking has begun gaining traction in the last few years, increasing in popularity among outdoorsy circles.

What is barefoot hiking? How can you get into it?

Are there any health risks involved with the practice?

Barefoot Hiking

Barefoot hiking is pretty self-explanatory. But what’s the appeal?

Why are more and more people picking up the practice?

Pros

Movement Speed

Barefoot hiking has a few attractions. Firstly, hiking without shoes lends itself to increased movement and flexibility.

To better understand this, consider how it feels to hike in a pair of huge, waterproof, treaded boots. They’re heavy!

person walking on rocky grounds

If you’re not used to the extra weight, they can slow you down, cause you to tire faster, and even cause joint problems.

The Experience

Barefoot hiking is walking in its purest form, which brings us to another point – being able to interact intimately with nature. There’s something liberating about feeling the earth with every step.

Image showing a person practicing barefoot hiking

It’s a unique sensory experience many miss out on.

Environmental Impact

Over time, hundreds of people walking a single trail causes slow erosion. This gradual degradation is lessened by bare feet.

woman walking on rocky seashore

Returning to the comparison between a bare foot and a boot – the concentration of weight on boot treads is much more likely to leave a mark than a foot.

Cost

Barefoot hiking is highly economical – in fact, over time, it’s a hobby that can save you money, since you don’t have to buy shoes!

How To Begin

Like any other sport, you should start out slow and let your body build up a tolerance over time. This is especially the case if you don’t already have callused feet, as you will be hyper-sensitive to pointy things on the trail. (Think: sharp rocks, thorns, litter, and so on.)

barefooted person lying on grass viewing lake and mountain

Start with short walks on familiar terrain. As you go further from home, make sure you always have an spare pair of shoes/socks, a first aid kit, tweezers, and anything else you might need to keep your feet safe.

If you’re not sure what shoes you should bring, how about crocs? They’re cheap, comfortable, and lightweight.

Cons

There are some downsides and risks involved with barefoot hiking. It’s important to educate yourself on potential danger – barefoot hike the safe way.

Injury/Infection

This is the most critical downside of barefoot hiking.

image showing a first aid kit

As said above – if you’re going barefoot hiking, bring a first aid kit. Alongside the usual contents, make sure the kit has bandages, blister treatment, disinfectant, and tweezers.

Make sure you’re up-to-date on your shots, especially your tetanus vaccine.

Connotations

Be prepared for other people’s opinions. Being outside with bare feet conjures up connotations of hippie culture and childlike carelessness.

People – even strangers- may be quick to let you know this.

Other Things To Know

  1. Decrease your chances of injury by taking deliberate, careful steps. Don’t drag your feet; step straight up and down. This will greatly reduce toe-stubs and mishaps.
  2. Take your time. If you’re rushing, you’re much more likely to have an accident.
  3. Over time, your feet will develop callouses. This is normal and should be welcomed, as it means your skin is toughening up.

Barefoot Shoes?

If you want the toe-wiggling freedom of being barefoot, but aren’t willing to endure the risk… try a pair of barefoot shoes. You may have encountered these before under other names, such as “toe shoes”.

Barefoot shoes come in many variations. Most of them are minimalist, only providing coverage of the pads of the feet.

man standing on peak front of mountain at daytime

Some are like regular shoes, but the toe-box is shaped to each individual toe.

Feel free to experiment and see what you enjoy most! There is no one “right” way to hike.

Do what makes you happy, and adapt where needed.