It’s incredible how much is going on below our feet all the time. However, we seldom pay attention to the booming industry of sensation and experience found lying across the face of the Earth. So begin by considering how much information and experience we miss out on by blocking out that sensory input by wearing shoes/footwear.
Now, coming from a long-time camp person where wearing shoes was mandatory at work, I initially never considered working barefoot because the thought of “working barefoot” seemed like such a heinous breach of… something. With a quick reality check I began to rapidly appreciate how enjoyable farming barefoot might be for the vast majority of people that, like me, would never consider it otherwise. I admit that I have yet to work barefoot around the farm (apart from the occasional light duty on the weekends) but was inspired along this track of thought by one of our ‘Wwoofers’. She has been working without footwear all week and appears to enjoy it.
My recent barefoot jaunts to the nearby beach had taught me the #1 most important aspect of walking around places barefoot: pay attention to where you’re putting your feet. SO SIMPLE, yet also incredibly important and necessary. Wearing shoes eliminates the need to pay attention to where your feet are planting themselves. By removing that barrier (and resulting sense of foot safety/security) I found myself very connected to the place I was at any given moment as the information I received from my feet made the ground as much of a thrill as the forest’s edge, the river water, or the clear skies above me. These adventures were part of my undivided leisure time but for the same lessons learned there made me rethink my gut reaction to working barefoot.
Let me also add, that I still firmly believe that working a walk-behind tiller, tractor, or other large machinery without proper footwear is not the greatest idea. By gaia, you can do whatever you want to in tandem with such device. I just don’t feel like experiencing the sensory information related to losing a few toes; at least not right now.
If incorporated into a therapeutic program of sorts I would choose appropriate (and safe) work to be barefoot for. Participants would then engage in the programmed activities barefoot. The only issue I can foresee where exceptions may have to be made are in the case of individuals with extraordinarily sensitive feet who may find greater discomfort/pain in the experience than anything else.