Barefoot parks are parks designed for barefoot walking and playing. Sometimes called barefoot trails and barefoot walks, the public spaces provide people the opportunity to feel the ground and other various materials with their bare feet, said to help strengthen foot and leg muscles. Most barefoot parks are located in Europe, with Germany and Austria having the highest number of the quirky attraction.
Walking barefoot, sometimes called earthing, is the process of walking on natural substances like grass, sand and mud. Not only does walking and engaging in light athletic activities with bare soles increase circulation and help strengthen foot and leg muscles, it is said that when the feet come into direct contact with the electrons present on the Earth’s surface, the electrons can influence the body’s bioelectrical process, thereby decreasing stress and increasing overall wellness.
Additionally, many podiatrists and foot experts agree that wearing shoes can actually be detrimental to foot health and cause foot problems and deformities like Achilles tendonitis, bunions, calluses, corns, gait problems, hammertoes and flat feet. The reason is because shoes interfere with a person’s natural way of walking, running and jumping, and the muscles in the feet and legs actually weaken and begin depending on shoes for strength and support. Going barefoot helps train the muscles in the legs and feet to work as they were naturally intended to work rather than being dependent on shoes for support. And believe it or not, this can actually dramatically reduce back, knee and hip pain. (For more information on how barefoot activities can improve bodily health, check out our article on Barefoot Running.)
Furthermore, walking barefoot on various types of surfaces can provide a (free!) stimulating massage for your feet.
Barefoot parks — called Barfußparks in German — provide the perfect playground for safe, healthy barefoot walking. They normally provide a foot washing station for both before and after the experience, as well as several barefoot attractions laid out like an obstacle course. They include:
The average cost of entering a barefoot park is usually $2 or under, with many being free. The best time to visit is between May and September.
Most barefoot parks are located in Germany and Austria, but they can also be found in Denmark, France, Hungary, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Some of the most famous barfußparks in Germany include Barfußpfad Bad Sobernheim, Barfusspark Dornstetten Hallwangen, Offenburg Zell Weierbach, Todtnau Muggenbrunn and Gutach.