Lose the shoes!

10 July 2018

Be honest, when was the last time you walked barefoot? And I don’t mean at home on your nice smooth floor, I mean out in the woods, over grass, or across pebbles. It’s time to kick off your shoes and get back to nature! 

A trip up to the Brunni, 1,860 metres above sea level, is always a wonderful experience. A stroll along the barefoot path around picturesque Lake Härzlisee makes it even better. Those bold enough to slip off their shoes and tramp along the 220-metre-long path will be refreshed and energised by the cool water and the various surfaces underfoot, like pebbles, mud, woodchips, and sand. This unusual walk in beautiful natural surroundings is a treat for your feet, and your soul.

Healer Sebastian Kneipp (1821–1897) was among the first to notice that water and walking barefoot promote health. The barefoot path around Lake Härzlisee was created according to Kneipp’s principles. “Water contains healing,” he once said. “It is the simplest, cheapest and – if used correctly – the safest remedy.” His hydrotherapies, including walking through cold, shallow water, are still very popular today, and Kneipp’s back-to-nature philosophy fits in well with the current mood, when people are looking to nature in their search for health and wellbeing. 

If taking a turn on the path around the lake isn’t enough, you can also walk barefoot from the Hüttismatt up to the Brunni mountain hut. This barefoot hiking trail opened two years ago. The pinecones, stones, and sand under your feet will reinvigorate your senses, and balancing along logs and tree stumps brings an extra sense of achievement. The walk takes around 30 to 45 minutes and has a profound impact on those who choose to do it. Yes, you might do a fair bit of wincing initially as your feet simply aren’t used to such an intense haptic experience, but by the end you are struck by the realisation of how rarely we walk barefoot in our everyday lives and what a shame that actually is. 

Someone who loves to go barefoot as much as he can is Thomas Infanger of the Engelberg Trail Hotel. He is often to be found out and about on Engelberg’s hiking trails, alone or with hotel guests. Of course he usually wears shoes then, but he is certain that his regular barefoot perambulations have given him the strong foot muscles that help him on his treks. He takes off his shoes after every hike, and he frequently walks the barefoot trail to the Brunni mountain hut. Next summer, he hopes to offer guests a special wellness programme for feet. “It will include walking barefoot in the Brunni area, special foot exercises, and foot reflexology massages.” That certainly sounds like something to make your toes curl with delight!

Written by: Andrea Hurschler
Photos: Engelberg-Titlis Tourismus