Wander The Surprising Benefits of Going Barefoot Wanderlust hike leader Cory Sterling shares how “earthing,” or the art of walking barefoot, changed his life. By Cory Sterling Photo by Wendy Shepard. Want to experience earthing first hand? Join Cory Sterling’s barefoot hike this summer at Wanderlust Whistler. To check out our other festival locations, or view the 2017 lineup, click here. The practice of walking barefoot has changed my life. It wasn’t until 2006 that I realized the power of connecting directly to the earth without shoes. I was on a camping trip with five friends in Algonquin Park, Ontario, and one of my friends from South Africa was visiting. He braved the entire four day canoe trip through forests, rocks, mountains, rivers, ravines, lakes, and parking lots without anything protecting his feet. I couldn’t believe it. Under a slippery waterfall near Canoe Lake he turned to me and spoke from his heart, “I’m telling you bru, you’ve just got to try it. You and your feet will be liberated.” He grew up in the “bush” of Africa and the mere thought of anything preventing him from gripping the earth with his bare soles while in nature made no sense. I emphatically threw my shoes into the lake. My toes met the slimy moss of the rock as water from the waterfall rushed between my toes. A smile washed over me. I was converted. Since that transformative trip in Algonquin, I’ve found myself wearing shoes less and less to the point where sometimes I’ll pack for a trip and not even bring anything for my feet. While finding the specific words to describe why I do it is difficult, I am very confident in knowing that the process of ‘earthing’ just feels right. And being a person who in inspired by feeling, I don’t need much more convincing this is how I want to live my life. The term “earthing” has recently entered pop-culture, and is now somewhat of a trend, depending who you hang out with. Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever states that walking enables us to feel the Earth’s natural surface charge, which is naturally discharging and can help prevent chronic inflammation. Studies have even shown that earthing plays a significant role in the aging process itself. Yep, that’s right. Save money by not buying anti-aging creams AND not buying shoes by grounding into the Earth. There is also a plethora of new scientific research that directly supports the health benefits of connecting with the electrons of the earth, a process triggered when walking outside barefoot. Tests have shown that human’s separation from connection to the Earth’s energy can be a significant contributor to physiological dysfunctions and diseases. Who knew?! From a naturalist perspective, walking barefoot is a beneficial practice because it brings us back to our natural state, how we were brought into the world. No one came out of the womb in Blundstones. Clever marketing and the massively lucrative footwear industry has trained us to assume that we always need to be in shoes and need so many shoes for every type of activity. This blinds us from the process of earthing, where we become closer to pacha mama by directly interacting and feeling her, letting her feel and interact with us at the same time. On a personal level, the medicinal and health benefits to walking without shoes are new revelations and don’t particularly fuel my fire. I’ve always enjoyed how walking barefoot has forced me to be so present with every footstep. You can’t really afford to take a wrong step without shoes, so you literally need to look where you are walking with every step you take. And I love how the practice slows everything down. You can only walk so fast without shoes, especially when going over rocks or tiny pebbles. Just as in meditation, we bring attention to each inhale and exhale, with barefoot walking, we connect with every left step and right step. This forces you to appreciate everything around you. It forces you off of auto-pilot. Suddenly, every step counts and because these steps happen so slowly or carefully, you stop and take notice of your surroundings. I want to see this beauty, which is why earthing is how I choose to live my life. The invitation is open for you all to join me at Wanderlust Whistler. I’ve got some amazing games and activities planned for our barefoot hike (including barefoot dancing in the forest!) and look forward to everyone taking one step forward to a healthier and happier life. For more information on Wanderlust Whistler, click here. Learn more about Cory through his website. — Cory is a corporate lawyer during the day and traveller/group fitness instructor in the mornings and nights. He spends his time meeting new people, exploring new places and trying to have fun all the time.