Have you heard about earthing? Depending on who you ask, it’s either a treatment for all that ails you or more useless hippie nonsense in the vein of tinfoil hats and “climate change”.

There’s nothing I enjoy more than some good old-fashioned investigative journalism, and I am always game to offer myself up as a guinea pig, so I thought I’d lay out the basic arguments for and against earthing and then conduct a little experiment for myself.

First of all, what is it?

Tiptoe Through the Grass
Image courtesy of Morgan.

Well, earthing refers to the process of connecting your body directly to the earth, either by removing your shoes and going barefoot, or by buying any number of specially designed earthing pads, sheets, mats, and blankets.

Proponents of earthing claim that it can “… reduce inflammation that can lead to chronic diseases, ease pain and prevent tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome,” and a cursory Google search will turn up hundreds of testimonials about benefits varying from a husband who stopped snoring, to bones healing faster.  How, exactly, does being barefoot accomplish this?

To use the most simplistic explanation I could find, “[w]hile humans are positively charged with electrons, the Earth is negatively charged and brimming with free-flowing electrons that balance out our bodies as we absorb the negative electrons.” (same source) By “plugging in” to the earth via our soles or skin, we become part of the flow of electrons and this, apparently, heals us. The idea has gained a widespread support base, with earthing kits used by many athletes, including those participating in the Tour de France.

Seriously?

As for the skeptics, they cry foul and demand research studies to prove these claims. While studies on earthing abound, they are admittedly small, and those critical of earthing doubt their accuracy and methodology. One such skeptic is Steve Novella, who writes

“[Earthing founder Clint Ober] distorts this concept, claiming that the earth is a source of electrons that gently flow into the body curing whatever ails you. A further premise is that simply by wearing shoes with rubber soles we are so thoroughly isolated electrically that our bodies cannot reach their natural electrical homeostasis. Our bodies, according to Ober, must be craving electrons, but simply cannot get them from the environment without a special connection to the ground.”

It’s all about me

Nature is dancing in the spotlight
Image courtesy of Lucas ().

After perusing the vast annals of the Internet for far too long, I decided that there was really only one way to get to the bottom of this earthing debate. I grabbed my daughter (who is always happier barefoot) and headed out to our backyard. It was a beautiful sunny day, I had already hung our clothes on the clothesline, and there was nothing left to do but stand there and be healed!

I walk barefoot a lot in the summer, growing up on a lakefront cottage sort of breeds that into you, and I can’t say that I’ve ever noticed any directly correlated health benefits from it.  But hey, perhaps I just haven’t been paying attention!

I sat on the warm grass with my feet flat on the earth and tried to tune out my daughter’s shrieking and tune into the electrical currents of my body. I felt warm from the sun, drowsy because I live with a crazy toddler, and deeply content. But, perhaps unsurprisingly, when the recommended 30-minute earthing session was up, I still had both my chronic kidney condition and that weird little bump on my finger I’ve been obsessing over for weeks (is it a spider bite? Did a spider lay eggs in me while I slept? How could I not feel that? What’s wrong with me?) Earthing, it seems, did not cure me of these two ailments.

But here’s what I was thinking as I lay there in the sun with my girl:  websites shilling hundred-dollar earthing pads aside, this is some hippie mumbo-jumbo I can wholeheartedly get behind. I mean, think about it, what’s the harm in earthing? What is this movement really asking you to do? Go outside for half an hour and take off your shoes.  Can you really argue with that? Who wouldn’t benefit from bare feet, nature, fresh air and warm earth?

For me, walking barefoot feels as good as swimming naked – and I’m not sure I really need meticulously-conducted double-blind research studies to prove it.

Feature image courtesy of Daniel Novta

By Madeleine Somerville

Madeleine Somerville is the author of All You Need Is Less: An Eco-Friendly Guide to Guilt-Free Green Living and Stress-Free Simplicity. She is a writer, wannabe hippie and lover of soft cheeses. She lives in Edmonton, Canada, with her daughter. You can also find Madeleine at her blog, Sweet Madeleine.