Barefoot walking does your body good.
Walking is free, convenient and easy for most healthy adults. It's also great for boosting your health and fitness profile. Brisk walking -- especially if you sneak in 30 minutes a day, most days of the week -- helps prevent disease, increases energy and stamina and improves balance and coordination. Walking barefoot in the sand offers a unique subset of benefits, so if you've got access to a beach, get out and get moving.
Sand provides resistance, so walking on the beach is inherently more demanding than walking on concrete or other hard surfaces. With every step forward, your foot sinks into the sand and your foot and leg muscles work extra hard to push you up and propel you forward, according to exercise physiologist Steve Rhyan. That extra effort -- plus the fact that your bare foot moves through its full range of motion -- translates into more intense strength training for your arches, ankles and leg muscles.
Because sand is an uneven surface, beach walking qualifies as a proprioceptive exercise. In other words, stepping across sand challenges and develops your ability to know where your feet are without looking at them. In this way, sand walking is similar to standard proprioceptive exercises, such as balancing one-legged on a cushion with your eyes closed. Proprioceptive exercises teach your body to react instantly to changing surfaces, which can do wonders for your balance, coordination and agility.
Walking in sand -- with or without shoes -- burns more calories than walking on pavement. Walking on dry sand requires 2.1 to 2.7 times more energy-expenditure than walking on a hard surface at the same speed. That's awesome news if you're looking to burn more calories when you walk. According to BerkeleyWellness.com, when you opt for seaside walking, you can expect to use up to 50 percent more calories than you would walking at the same pace on a firmer, more stable surface.
Aesthetics and Stress Reduction
Shedding your shoes and socks does wonders for rough, dry skin on the soles of your feet. When your feet have repeated, direct contact with the sand, the sand serves as a natural exfoliant, gently rubbing off dead, unwanted skin. The happy result is softer, more supple, more attractive skin on the heels and balls of your feet. Walking barefoot is also relaxing and energizing. Freeing your feet from restrictive shoes allows the sand to massage the bottoms of your feet, which increases circulation. The feeling of sand beneath your feet and between your toes also awakens your senses, which can be relaxing, soothing and rejuvenating.
Reminders and Concerns
Before your walk, warm up by marching in place and doing a set of slow ankle circles with each foot. After walking, do basic leg stretches to prevent muscle tightening and soreness. Avoid beach walking in the middle of the day, when the sun is most intense, and watch for sharp or jagged objects in the sand. Stay hydrated and apply sunscreen to exposed areas of your body, including your feet. Note that walking in dry sand -- which shifts as you move -- requires more effort and concentration than walking in wet sand. You might like the greater intensity of dry-sand walking, but the unstable surface increases the risk of injury, especially in the ankle. If you've injured your foot or ankle in the past, or if you have a history of ankle instability, your doctor might advise against walking barefoot.