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Grounding: The Potent Antioxidant That Few Know About... And
By Dr. Mercola
While still in the vast minority, an increasing number of
people are joining the barefoot running trend, throwing their
shoes to the wind and letting their feet run free, literally.
In the modern world, it might sound "extreme" to give up
your shoes, particularly when engaging in an activity as hard
on your feet as running, but surrounding your feet with thick
cushioning and stiff supports is actually the "new" trend,
Humans Went Without Running Shoes for Millions of Years
Writing in the journal Nature, Harvard researchers
"Humans have engaged in endurance running for
millions of years, but the modern running shoe was not
invented until the 1970s. For most of human evolutionary
history, runners were either barefoot or wore minimal
footwear such as sandals or moccasins with smaller heels
and little cushioning relative to modern running shoes."
Let's face it, your feet were designed to work without
shoes. And while running barefoot does pose certain unique
hazards, such as stepping on a sharp object or injuring your
skin on abrasive pavement, there are reports that barefoot
running is actually quite beneficial.
While the research is still limited and many of the
reports anecdotal, running barefoot may actually decrease
thelikelihood of ankle sprains and chronic injuries.
Shoes Alter Your Gait, but is This Good or Bad?
Walking or running with shoes is quite a different
experience than doing so without them. This is evidenced
perhaps no more clearly than among children, who in the
developed world are virtually the only ones who have not yet
grown accustomed to wearing shoes, and as such their gait
should be more or less the way nature intended.
Indeed, research published in the Journal of Foot and
Ankle Research revealed
"Shoes affect the gait of children. With shoes,
children walk faster by taking longer steps with greater
ankle and knee motion and increased tibialis anterior
activity. Shoes reduce foot motion and increase the support
phases of the gait cycle.
During running, shoes reduce swing phase leg speed,
attenuate some shock and encourage a rearfoot strike pattern.
The long-term effect of these changes on growth and
development are currently unknown.
And therein lies the question: is footwear a boon or a
bust to mankind? Surprising as it may sound, emerging
research suggests modern running shoes, with their heavily
cushioned, elevated heels, may actually encourage runners to
strike the ground with their heel first,
A move that generates a greater collision force with the
ground, leading to an increased potential for injury. The
Harvard researchers continued in Nature
"Here we show that habitually barefoot endurance
runners often land on the fore-foot (fore-foot strike) before
bringing down the heel, but they sometimes land with a flat
foot (mid-foot strike) or, less often, on the heel (rear-foot
strike). In contrast, habitually shod runners mostly rear-
foot strike, facilitated by the elevated and cushioned heel
of the modern running shoe.
Kinematic and kinetic analyses show that even on hard
surfaces, barefoot runners who fore-foot strike generate
smaller collision forces than shod rear-foot strikers.
This difference results primarily from a more
plantarflexed foot at landing and more ankle compliance
during impact, decreasing the effective mass of the body that
collides with the ground. Fore-foot- and mid-foot-strike
gaits were probably more common when humans ran barefoot
or in minimal shoes, and may protect the feet and lower limbs
from some of the impact-related injuries now experienced by a
high percentage of runners.
This may explain how marathon runners in Kenya are able
to run great distances barefoot with virtually no pain or
injuries. Likewise, research reviewed by Michael Warburton, a
physical therapist in Australia, revealed
Running-related chronic injuries to bone and
connective tissue in the legs are rare in developing
countries, where most people are habitually barefooted
Where barefoot and shod populations co-exist, as in
Haiti, injury rates of the lower extremity are substantially
higher in the shod population
Wearing footwear actually increases the likelihood of
ankle sprains, one of the most common sports injuries,
because it either decreases your awareness of foot position
or increases the twisting torque on your ankle during a
One of the most common chronic injuries in runners,
planter fasciitis (an inflammation of the ligament running
along the sole of your foot), is rare in barefoot populations
Running in bare feet reduces oxygen consumption by a
Grounding: The Overlooked Benefit of Going Barefoot
While much of the debate between the barefoot and the
shoed-foot focuses on the potential for injury, another often
overlooked aspect is grounding. The technique of grounding,
also known as earthing, is simple: you walk barefoot to
"ground" with the Earth. The scientific theory behind the
health benefits seen from this simple practice is that your
body absorbs negative electrons from the Earth through the
soles of your feet.
The Earth is negatively charged, so when you ground,
you're connecting your body to a negatively charged supply
of energy. And since the Earth has a greater negative charge
than your body, you end up absorbing electrons from it. The
grounding effect is, in my understanding, one of the most
potent antioxidants we know of and may have an anti-
inflammatory effect on your body. As written in the Journal
of Alternative and Complementary Medicine
"It is well established, though not widely known,
that the surface of the earth possesses a limitless and
continuously renewed supply of free or mobile electrons as
a consequence of a global atmospheric electron circuit.
Wearing shoes with insulating soles and/or sleeping in beds
that are isolated from the electrical ground plane of the earth
have disconnected most people from the earth's electrical
rhythms and free electrons.
A previous study demonstrated that connecting the
human body to the earth during sleep (earthing) normalizes
the daily cortisol rhythm and improves sleep. A variety of
other benefits were reported, including reductions in pain
and inflammation. Subsequent studies have confirmed these
earlier findings and documented virtually immediate
physiologic and clinical effects of grounding or earthing the
Unfortunately, few people ever walk barefoot anymore to
experience the benefits of grounding. But it is very
plausible that some of the people who have converted to
barefoot running are experiencing benefits not only from the
lack of shoes, but also from the increased connection to the
Walking Barefoot Is a Valuable Aspect of a Healthy Lifestyle
Exercising barefoot outdoors is one of the most wonderful,
inexpensive and powerful ways of incorporating Earthing into
your daily life and will also help speed up tissue repair, as well
as easing the muscle pain you sometimes get from strenuous
exercise. A review of the available research, published January
2012 in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health, agrees
with the concept of reaping health benefits when connecting to
According to the authors
Mounting evidence suggests that the Earth's negative
potential can create a stable internal bioelectrical
environment for the normal functioning of all body systems.
Moreover, oscillations of the intensity of the Earth's
potential may be important for setting the biological clocks
regulating diurnal body rhythms, such as cortisol secretion.
It is also well established that electrons from
antioxidant molecules neutralize reactive oxygen species
(ROS, or in popular terms, free radicals) involved in the
body's immune and inflammatory responses. The National
Library of Medicine's online resource PubMed lists 7021
studies and 522 review articles from a search of antioxidant
+ electron + free radical. It is assumed that the influx of
free electrons absorbed into the body through direct contact
with the Earth likely neutralize ROS and thereby reduce acute
and chronic inflammation.
Throughout history, humans mostly walked barefoot or
with footwear made of animal skins. They slept on the ground
or on skins. Through direct contact or through perspiration-
moistened animal skins used as footwear or sleeping mats, the
ground's abundant free electrons were able to enter the body,
which is electrically conductive. Through this mechanism,
every part of the body could equilibrate with the electrical
potential of the Earth, thereby stabilizing the electrical
environment of all organs, tissues, and cells.
Modern lifestyle has increasingly separated humans
from the primordial flow of Earth's electrons. For example,
since the 1960s, we have increasingly worn insulating rubber
or plastic soled shoes, instead of the traditional leather
fashioned from hides. Rossi has lamented that the use of
insulating materials in post-World War II shoes has separated
us from the Earth's energy field. Obviously, we no longer
sleep on the ground as we did in times past.
During recent decades, chronic illness, immune
disorders, and inflammatory diseases have increased
dramatically, and some researchers have cited environmental
factors as the cause. However, the possibility of modern
disconnection with the Earth's surface as a cause has not
been considered. Much of the research reviewed in this paper
points in that direction."
When indoors, using a grounding pad or sheet is an
excellent way to lower your risk for cardiovascular disease
and other problems, such as carpal tunnel syndrome and
Before You Take Off Your Shoes
Just taking off your shoes, if you've been wearing them
all your life, does not mean you'll immediately attain proper
barefoot running form. Many new barefoot runners continue to
land heavily on their heels -- and the result can be injury.
So if you decide to give barefoot running a try, make sure
you do it slowly, progressing gradually to more and more time
spent without shoes. A good starting point is to first try
walking barefoot and then begin with quarter-mile barefoot
Keep in mind also that your gait will be different than
it is with your shoes on -- this is expected. Listen to your
body and try to tune in to your innate knowledge of how to
run and walk barefoot, and allow your feet, ankles, knees and
hips to naturally change position in response to the terrain.
When you start going barefoot it is best to initiate on
naturally softer ground like grass, dirt paths and sand, not
cement, asphalt or hardwood. When the muscles and joints of
your foot become more stable and the skin on the bottom of
your feet thickens, you will be able to handle progressively
more time barefoot and on a wider variety of surfaces.
While there are a growing number of minimalist footwear
options now on the market that are designed to simulate
barefoot running, some argue that these shoes are merely
marketing ploys, and in fact still change your gait from the
way nature intended. Personally, I have tried one version
that I liked very much and would recommend highly, although
since I traded in running for Peak Fitness, I haven't
actually used them for runs.
One final note, barefoot running or walking doesn't have
to be an "all or nothing" decision. You can incorporate as
much barefoot time into your life as you feel comfortable
with. Quite possibly, you'll enjoy it so much that you will
naturally find yourself kicking off your shoes as much as
Thank You Dr. Mercola
God Bless Everyone & God Bless The United States of America.
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