‘Earthing’ Advocates Claim Walking Barefoot Outside Helps Depression

A couple weeks ago, I saw something online about a new trend called “earthing,” a.k.a. “grounding.” Proponents say the earth is covered with electrical fields, and bringing our feet into contact with the ground makes us healthier by “synchronizing of biorhythms.”

I have a hippy heart, and I honestly believe with all my heart that all we need is love, but borrowing from the mind of Sheldon Cooper … “earthing” sounds like pure hokum.

I couldn’t get the idea out of my mind though.

Thinking about all those times I’ve walked barefoot on the beach and never felt happier drove me to investigate. Certainly, walking outside barefoot is something I don’t do much as an adult. Could it really do anything to help with my depression?

Filling my browser with tab after tab of clicked Google links in hopes of finding some honest-to-science research proved disappointing. Mostly, I got dozens of blog posts recycling the same seven or eight points about the benefits of walking barefoot outside.

Some of the points seem a little out there, but four of them seem fairly logical:

1. It clears your mind.

If you’re walking outside without shoes, you have to focus on every single step, especially if you have pets who poop in your yard. That’s funny, but the point is serious. You automatically distract yourself from burdens and worries when you’re walking barefoot outside because you don’t want to step on anything that’s gross or dangerous.

It’s like a quick little vacation from stress.

2. It’s a free foot massage.

Reflexology is an alternative medical practice that isn’t backed up by scientific research. However, if you ever get a foot massage from a “reflexologist,” it feels really good. In between reading all these articles, I’ve gone outside a few times and walked barefoot on the grass. It tickled. It made me smile. It felt like a foot massage. Best of all, it was free.

3. It decreases anxiety and depression.

This probably goes back to that whole, “it clears your mind” thing.

The lists that include “decreasing anxiety and depression” as a benefit say it can help decrease anxiety and depression “by 62 percent.” I’d call that hokum without a long explanation about how that’s quantified. Still, in my informal test, it’s hard to not be happy when your feet feel all tickled.

4. It helps you get a good night’s sleep?

We know getting exercise helps us sleep better at night. Proponents of “earthing” say 30-minutes of earthing is enough for someone to begin to feel positive benefits. If there are actual sleep benefits, they probably come from the exercise and escape from stress rather than a mystical “synchronizing of biorhythms,” but there’s no harm in trying to see if it makes a difference for you.

Is “Earthing” Real?

After scouring the Internet for scholarly studies about the benefits of walking barefoot outdoors, I did find some research. It wasn’t about an exchange of electrons between our feet and the earth. The studies were all about how shoes are constructed in ways that aren’t good for our feet.

For example, the toe end of shoes nearly always curl up away from the ground, but our toes naturally cling towards the ground. The heels of shoes are padded and lifted to prevent trauma to our body from running and walking. Research reveals that extra padding increases trauma to our feet and knees because we slam our feet down harder toward the ground when walking and running in shoes than when we’re barefoot.

I’m seeing more and more stories on the Internet about health benefits of “earthing.” It seems like it’s becoming a “thing,” but here’s a warning sign when you’re looking for information on the Internet: If you see a bunch of different websites with almost the exact same information using the same words, someone is probably trying to sell you something.

Whether or not walking outside barefoot can help with depression is an easy thing to test. Just try it for yourself. See if it helps. The best thing about it is that you don’t have to buy anything from anyone to see if it works.

Just watch your step.