How to Live a Barefoot Life
February 21, 2013
— Athletic shoe, Barefoot, Barefoot running, Leo Babauta, Minimalism, Philosophy, Shoe, Vibram Fivefingers
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Post written by Leo Babauta at ZenHabits.com.
And then I took off the minimalist Fivefinger shoes, and ran completely barefoot for half a mile. It was liberating.
Later, I walked for a couple of hours, taking my sandals off for a good part of the walk. Today I walked barefoot once again. There’s a sensation to barefoot walking that is light, free, simple, joyful.
Imagine walking barefoot on thick grass, or cool night sand. These are wonderful sensations that shod walkers cannot enjoy.
Going barefoot, I realized, is a perfect metaphor for my philosophy of life: the barefoot philosophy.
When you go barefoot, you become naked, you simplify, you become a minimalist.
It’s a hard philosophy to explain, because others often judge it as weird, hippy-like (as if that’s bad), unpractical. It’s very practical, and while it may indeed be weird, it’s also beautiful.
It’s the simple life, in a nutshell.
The Barefoot Philosophy, in Bits
To embrace the Barefoot Philosophy, you don’t actually have to go barefoot. Again, it’s a metaphor for how you might live your life, and these principles can be applied to anything you do.
- Light: When you’re barefoot, you feel light, and you’re not burdened by stuff. In anything in life, if you can be light, it’s a wonderful feeling. Think traveling light, or moving to a new city without too much stuff.
- Free: Walking barefoot, you feel free, without the restrictions of shoes. The fewer burdens and restrictions you have in life, the freer you are. Think of how easy it would be to pick up and travel, or move, or change jobs, or do something with a friend in the middle of a work day.
- Naked: Without shoes, you feel a bit naked, and being naked in public is scary. But it’s also an exhilarating feeling, and once you get comfortable with that nakedness, it’s kinda fun. Blogging can feel this way — you’re putting yourself out into the world, naked, and that’s scary at first. Doing anything different, where you expose a piece of yourself, is like being naked. But you get used to it, and it’s not so scary.
- Pleasureful: The point of walking barefoot is to experience the pleasure of feeling the surface beneath your feet. The sensations are marvelous: cool, warm, textured, plush, smooth, rough. In anything in life, if you can experience the sensations of whatever you’re doing, this is a beautiful thing. Think of the sensations of eating, swimming, washing dishes, sitting on a breezy porch, lying in the grass under the sun, kissing in the rain.
- Aware: Walking barefoot, you’re more aware of the ground you’re walking over — when you’re shod, you can walk for miles without really thinking about the surfaces you’re traveling over. In anything you do, increasing your awareness of your surroundings is a desirable thing. Think of walking outside vs. being inside a car, or shutting off the mobile device so you can talk to the people around you or pay attention to the beauty around you.
- Present: The beauty of walking barefoot is that it brings you back to the present moment. It’s hard to be stuck in a perceived slight by someone else earlier in the day, or worry about what might happen later in the day, when you are walking barefoot. In anything you do, if you can stay in the present moment, you will experience life to the fullest, will be less likely to be stuck in anger or consumed by worry or stressed by coming events.
- Non-conformist: One of the hardest things about walking barefoot isn’t the temperature or possible pain of pebbles, it’s the non-conformity of it all — it’s being worried that others will think you’re a dork, or homeless, or some kind of dangerous radical. And yet, I’ve learned to embrace my non-conformist side, to relish in being a bit different, to be proud I’m not one of the sheep. There’s nothing wrong with bucking societal norms, if it’s for good reason.
- Non-consumerist: The shoe companies would hate it if there were a major barefoot movement, because they’re no product they could sell you as a solution. This isn’t true of environmentalism — there are tons of green products that are making millions of dollars for corporations. I believe in ditching shoes like I believe in ditching any kind of product that you buy as a solution to life’s problems. Life is better with less, not more, and when you think of yourself as a human rather than a consumer, you’re breaking free from the endless cycle of earning and buying and using up.
How to Live a Barefoot Life
The above philosophy is fine, and might appeal to some, but what you want is a practical guide, no?
I’m not going to give it to you. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, nor is it desirable to live the life prescribed by someone else. The whole point is to do it on your own, without buying one of my books or doing it exactly as I do.
Live this philosophy, in small bits, and see if you like it. It takes some time to adjust to this approach, but it’s lovely in the end.
Some things to consider and try, though:
- Try walking barefoot (tips, faq).
- Get rid of a couple boxes of clutter today.
- When you leave your house, take less with you than usual.
- When you find yourself worried about the future or past, breathe, and focus on your breath going in and out.
- When you find yourself wanting to buy something, pause. Then think of how you can live without buying it.
- Take time to fully enjoy a few simple pleasures today: the slow savoring of a small portion of something delicious, watching nature, spending time with a loved one, walking.
- Try some minimalist fun.
- Think of the restrictions you impose on yourself, and see if you can lift a few of them.
- Smile, and breathe.
- Most of all, be present and enjoy life.