| Kriss hiking barefoot on his property in Madison County |
Barefoot Hikers of WNC founder and coordinator Kriss Sands is a Western North Carolina native and a resident of Madison County. He remembers fondly as a young child in the ’40s and ’50s being barefoot all summer, as was the norm for most children back in those days. But he never lost his love of going barefoot and has continued to shun shoes as much as possible throughout his life. That has included not only day to day activities outside of his shoe-required employment, but also recreational activities such as barefoot running (including 5K races), martial arts (earning a black belt in taekwondo), and barefoot hiking. Today he is a full-time 24/7 barefooter - the only exception being when he dons special shoes for old-time Appalachian mountain dancing (flatfooting), another of his hobbies.
Having hiked barefoot for many years in several states and a couple of foreign countries, and realizing there were indeed a number of very active barefoot hiking groups in various parts of the country, he decided to see if there might be interest in this fun and very healthy activity right here in these mountains where there are so many great places to hike.
Although Kriss is used to hiking barefoot on all kinds of surfaces and terrain, the trails on which we plan to hike, at least in the beginning, will not likely present a problem to the tender feet of beginning barefoot hikers. We will be looking for places that are generally easy to hike, short (less than 5 miles), and “barefoot friendly.” As some of us get more experienced and our feet get stronger, we may add more challenging hikes (longer, steeper, rougher surfaces). But barefoot hiking is FUN! Our purpose is to keep it that way for everyone who participates.
| Hiking in Modjeska Canyon, California |
If you already go barefoot a lot, your first barefoot hike should be pretty easy. If you never or hardly ever walk around with bare feet, we suggest getting a little practice on your own before starting out for a full barefoot hike. If you’re unsure of whether your feet are up to it, you are welcome to bring some footwear with you, something easily slipped on or off - such as flip-flops. But we are indeed a barefoot hiking group, not a minimalist shoe hiking group, and we ask that everyone plan to at least start the hike barefoot. Feet are much stronger and tougher than most people think, and you may be surprised at how well you do and how much you really enjoy the new and interesting sensations you experience through the soles of your feet. Even if you are an experienced shoe/boot-wearing hiker, your main sources of perception while hiking have only been sight and sound. You will now be adding a sense of touch to the experience, and a whole new world in nature will open up to you that you never knew existed.