The theory is this….barefoot walking trails (aka sensation paths) are made up of stones, or other materials, of different textures. Depending on the exact surface on which you’re walking these can stimulate reflexology points in your feet balancing your system, gently massage your soles, stretch out your feet in ways that realign the muscles or, just give you the chance to feel something different between your toes. I mean listen to the lovely sounding barefoot walk you can go on with walking holiday organiser The Barefoot Shepherdess in Cumbria. On it you walk through dewy mountain grass, dry hay, pebbles in the middle of a babbling brook and a bluebell wood. Idyllic.
So, there I was wandering around Seoul’s Yeouido Park looking at the cherry blossoms when I saw there was a barefoot trial I could play on. Arriving at it, I found a big circular path with feet drawn on it and a sign showing me all the reflexology points I was going to stimulate as I wandered round it.
I was very excited as I’d never tried a Barefoot Trail and this looked very therapeutic. I got ready to join the group of old ladies already strolling – I popped off my shoes and stepped on…..walked about four steps in a confident style, then started to swear. This was one of the most uncomfortable things I’ve ever done, stepping on every single stone was like a shard of glass in my foot. This was not what I was expecting – and I was a tad concerned as to what it meant to my health, after all in reflexology, a sharp pain in a specific area of the foot upon stimulation means there’s an issue of some kind in the area of that body that point represents. What did it mean if everything hurt?
The good news was that once I got off the sharp stone bit of the path, the experience became far more relaxing. It was lovely to feel the coolness of a series of big flat river stones under my feet, walking over a set of bar like stones stretched out my plantar fascia beautifully and these little rounded ones were like the best foot massage ever. When I stepped back into my shoes it was like walking on air. Despite my agonising beginnings I’d firmly recommend it. There’s a few Barefoot Walk trails I know of in the UK – Trentham Estate in Staffordshire has one as does Godolphin House near Helston in Cornwall. If you know of any more please feel free to add details below.
Thankfully, upon returning home, a quick call to complementary therapist Rima Shah from London clinics Calm and Clear, also allayed my fears that the pain I’d experienced indicated an imminent body meltdown of some kind. She told me, ‘If it had just been one or two points that hurt that might have indicated problems in a specific area, instead I think it was just because your feet weren’t used to such intense sensations. The feet have high levels of nerve endings and because we wear shoes they don’t get much stimulation. Also note that if you have flat feet or dropped arches the pain will be greater as the arch is even more sensitive than the rest of the feet.’ As any podiatrists looking at the feet pictures above will spot, I do have slightly less than perfectly formed feet and yes, dropped arches are one of my many issues. So that’s alright then. I’m not just a big, unhealthy, wuss after all.