Hi. I'm Tina.
Thanks for stopping by. One of my many interests and passions in life is in helping others find their way on their adventure to self discovery. For me, Nia is one of the many ways that I have found to nourish the mind, body and soul. My goal with this blog is to share information about Nia as well as, the wealth of information I have gathered from teachers on my own journey to living a healthful life. I hope you find this blog informative and helpful in finding your own path to well being.

Dare to Bare-Foot

  With summer approaching, sometime soon we hope, it will be time to retire the shoes and boots for the season and haul out the sandals. Since I have been doing Nia (and since I’ve gotten older), I’ve found that I am more often than not, kicking off my foot coverings and revelling in barefoot splendour. I find there’s nothing like airing out the feet, spreading the toes and feeling the earth beneath my soles, especially when the dogs are barking after a long hot day.
  As a result of practicing shoe-less activities my whole life (Nia, Yoga, Dance, Martial Arts) I’ve had the advantage of accumulating a good deal of information on the hazards and benefits of being barefoot. Of course, being barefoot – hiking, running or walking outdoors with nude feet is not for everyone and there are certainly precautions that one must follow when attempting to adapt to a barefoot lifestyle. However, there are numerous benefits and myths associated with engaging in barefoot activities. According to Daniel Howell, who holds a PhD in Biochemistry and teaches anatomy and physiology, being barefoot is good for us. In his book, “The Barefoot Book”, he espouses the benefits of kicking your shoes off more often.

Here are some interesting facts:
  - Contrary to popular belief, it is not illegal to drive a motor vehicle while barefoot. It is legal throughout the United States, Canada and the UK to drive barefoot. The belief is that that driving barefoot increases the risk of an accident if bare feet slip off the pedals. Chances are that heels or flip flops can impede movement of the accelerator pedal.
  - It is not illegal to go barefooted in restaurants or malls. In most cases, it is only a dress code regulation and has nothing to do with any legislation from any Health Department - Federal or Provincial.
  - Going barefoot can actually help prevent vein problems since the motion you get from your unrestricted foot helps the leg muscles pump blood back to the heart. The motion may not be as effective for you if your foot is stuck in a shoe.
  - Here is an excerpt from an article appearing in Women's Sports & Fitness, August 1994:
A recent study demonstrates that the skin on the soles of your feet resists abrasions and blistering and that going barefoot is beneficial to the musculoskeletal structure of your feet and ankles. ... Kicking off your shoes can help prevent a host of foot injuries: bunions, heel spurs, and bone deformities, among others. "Shoes act like casts, holding the bones of the foot so rigid that they can't move fluidly," [Steven] Robbins [MD and adjunct associate professor of mechanical engineering at Concordia University, Montreal] explains. "The foot becomes passive from wearing shoes and loses the ability to support itself." ... - Cheryl Sacra
  - In 2007, researchers at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, published a study titled “Shod Versus Unshod: The Emergence of Forefoot Pathology in Modern Humans?” in the podiatry journal The Foot. The study looked at180 modern humans from three different groups (Zulu, Sotho and European), comparing their feet to one another’s, as well as, to the feet of 2,000-year-old skeletons. The conclusion the researchers came to was that people had healthier feet prior to the invention of shoes. Among the modern subjects, the Zulu population, which often goes barefoot, had the healthiest feet while shoe wearing Europeans had the unhealthiest.
  - The sole of your foot has over 200,000 nerve endings in it making it one of the most sensitive parts of the body. Our feet act as earthward antennae, helping us to balance and transmit information to us about the surface we’re walking on. When we’re barefoot, we can feel the ground and we can naturally absorb the impact of each step with our bodies – these nerve endings sense precisely how hard or how soft our feet need to make contact with the earth. When we wear shoes we underestimate the amount of pressure on our soles and therefore can hit the ground harder.
  - For some with low arches or outright flat feet, wearing shoes habitually, often exacerbates the problem due to weak foot muscles. Forcing feet into shoes with arch supports against their natural shape, can be uncomfortable and sometimes painful. Going barefoot in comparison, strengthens the ligaments and tendons in the feet and helps to counter low arches or flat feet. Some people with fallen arches have reported that, once they allowed themselves to be barefoot on a more regular basis, their arches raised to normal levels. If you can walk barefoot and it doesn't hurt, don't worry about it. (If it does hurt, do see a podiatrist.)
  - Shoes can act as incubators; the temperature in a walking shoe can reach 120ºF/49ºC. They create a dark, moist environment for fungus and bacteria to thrive in....icky!! While a sock worn with a sneaker does help absorb moisture, the foot is still unable to breath and still remains surrounded by its own perspiration. This can cause all sorts of nasty things like, Athletes’ Foot (Tinea Pedis). Since this condition tends to be contagious; the foot now affected by this condition spreads these germs in areas where it is common to go barefoot such as locker rooms (that are also damp). Before you decide to shield your bare feet from the world, relax. A strong healthy sole generally develops immunity to these germs. Air and sunlight are not conducive to fungus or bacteria growth so any microorganisms that your feet are exposed to will die off if you are barefoot. Most viruses and bacteria are introduced into the body through the mouth, the nose, or the eyes – mucous membranes. So....unless you lick your feet.......there's not much of a chance of getting ill from a virus or bacteria you might to walk on.
  - To get feet in shape, go barefoot when you can. Foot muscles, ligaments, your soles and tendons are like any other parts of your body: you have to use them to develop them or they will atrophy. You can build up your feet - baring a medical condition - at any age. You may find that after an hour or so of being barefoot, or after doing a Nia class, the tiny muscles in your feet start to get sore. That’s because they are now moving in a range of motion that they are not used to. Don’t fret, it takes some time, but eventually your feet will adapt to the changes, much like your body gets used to doing a new exercise.
  - If the body was rigid and could not compensate for spinal readjustments, even a small heel of 1.5” would tilt the body forward about 15º. In this instance, about 60% of the body’s weight is supported by the forefoot bones and the load on the front of the knee is increased. In addition to exaggerating the curvature of the spine, an elevated shoe heel keeps the heel off the ground and can therefore cause the Achilles’ tendon to shorten in as little as 6 months. As a result, this can make going barefoot painful.
  - The size and shape of your feet change with age, body weight, and certain diseases such as heart problems, kidney disease, arthritis, and diabetes.
  - Proprioceptors are sensory nerve endings in muscles, tendons, and joints that provide a sense of the body's position in space. Except for the spine, the feet contain the most proprioceptive sensory receptors. Thick, shock-absorbing soles greatly reduce sensory feedback and therefore limit the quality of movement. Want to test how good your proprioceptive senses are functioning? Try balancing on one bare foot and close your eyes. If you must immediately put your hands out or foot down to stop from falling, then most likely, your proprioceptors are not functioning properly. Developing your proprioceptive sense is the first step on the journey towards awakening the skill of natural movement.
  - Did you know that many people don’t walk correctly? Walking incorrectly by slamming the heels (which are rigid) into the ground shocks the legs and knees. Walk by placing most of your weight on the balls of your feet rather than the heels. While you should still make your heels touch the ground first, shift most of your weight forward onto the balls of your feet, rolling all the way through your whole foot to your toes. The balls are flexible and will mould to the contour of the surface you’re on. They also have a wider surface area to distribute your body's weight more efficiently. Also, you should always step down and never slide or shuffle your feet unless when you know the surface you're dealing with.

  There are those who want to, or need to, wear foot coverings when participating in a Nia class. Of course, if you have medical foot issues, or are already in Orthotics, feel free to wear what is necessary for your foot comfort.

When going barefoot is not an option for you, there are some good minimalist alternatives. Many students find they feel more comfortable wearing socks in class. If you choose to wear socks to do Nia on a bare floor, make sure it’s a gripping yoga sock. There are many types available.

This Gaiam Yoga sock can be found at Chapters Book Stores in your area for about $15.
If you are taking classes outdoors and feel more comfortable with a more solid foot protection, look for footwear that allows the most freedom of movement. The shoe should bend, flex, and twist easily. Some options are better than others; however, it all comes down to personal preference.
I’ve heard good things about Merrell Glove Barefoot shoes selling for about $80.

“Nike Free” versions 3.0 to 7.0 is a somewhat viable option (minus the tall heel). A lower number means closer to "barefoot." 3.0 is the most flexible and least cushioned.

There are also the Vibram FiveFingers shoes.
The Vivo Barefoot Shoe is another natural walking shoe type available.
One Caveat: If you intend to adopt a barefoot shoe or drop your shoes all together while hiking or running it is important that you tone and recondition your feet. Milder pursuits such as walking around the house, Nia and Yoga are supportive activities for foot strengthening. If you have a moment, check out this helpful link, albeit sponsored by a shoe company, http://www.vivobarefoot.com/us/training for tips on easing into a barefoot lifestyle. For articles and videos on treating/preventing Plantar Fasciitis go to:  
From New York Magazine a great article discussing how we hurt our feet – with great pics:
  The design of the feet (The Body’s Way) reminds us that feet are meant to move freely. The 19 muscles in each foot naturally maintain flexibility, agility, mobility, strength and stability through the very movement they create. Moving your feet as if they are hands – wiggling and spreading your toes, grabbing with your toes as if picking up pencils, yawning and stretching your whole foot – keeps your feet healthy and sensory-smart. Feet are truly the hands that touch the earth.

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