Benefits of Walking Barefoot in the Sand
The feeling of taking off your shoes and stepping barefoot into sand is one that many people find comforting. It may feel like your feet are getting a massage with every step. However, walking barefoot in the sand isn’t just about feeling sand between your toes, it has also been shown to have positive health effects.
Walking on sand can be difficult. According to one study, navigating through sand can burn 2-3x more energy than walking on hard surfaces which means the body is putting in extra work. The same study shows that walking on sand requires 1.6-2.5x more mechanical work than standard walking and that translates directly to building strength. This means there is a decrease in the efficiency of positive work done by the muscles and it requires more energy output to see similar results. The extra output means we are strengthening muscles between our feet and back, especially in the legs.
Walking on dry sand is harder than wet sand as the foot sinks down trying to gain traction. Therefore, many runners prefer walking and running on wetter sand to maintain proper form.
With all the energy being used to move in the sand, this means more calories are being burned. According to strength and condition professionals, walking or running in the sand can burn 50% more calories than on pavement.
Recent studies show that walking at the beach and on sand has a positive effect on health and general wellbeing. While this isn’t related to walking barefoot, being at the beach and walking in the sand increases mental health and helps people relax.
Exfoliating your feet
Since sand is extremely coarse, walking barefoot through it will exfoliate your feet and make them feel softer by scraping away dead skin cells.
We’ve discussed what a gait assessment is in a previous blog, but to recap, a gait is the manner in which your body moves when you walk. This could be the way you stride or even the way your feet touch the ground. One way to track your gait, especially your running gait, is by running in the sand. Footprints left behind in the sand can have a lot of detail in them. You can tell how your foot strikes the ground by observing the depth of the indentation left or look at your arches by the shape of the footprint. The indentations in the sand can provide insight into how our feet function.
Proprioception is the ability to detect joint motion and limb position when the eyes are closed. Wearing shoes with thick padding can reduce our proprioception by numbing the 3000-7000 nerve endings in the feet. According to the Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine Institute, the instability that occurs while walking in the sand creates an environment that can re-stimulate the neuromuscular activity in our feet and lower legs.
Walking in the sand not only feels amazing but has some serious health and fitness related benefits. So, whether you want to burn some calories, exfoliate your skin or even relax, walking barefoot in the sand can help.