Barefoot walking on grass, whether for exercise purposes or just for a casual stroll, is usually very safe. Most injuries are very minor and insignificant. Minor cuts, bruises and scrapes will occur for sure. But it will be a rare event that you will have any significant injury if you correctly practice these 25 safety guidelines. If you do NOT practice these guidelines, it is 99.9 % certain you will get injured eventually, most likely a strained ligament or a broken toe. When practiced correctly walking barefoot on grass is not likely to be more risky than walking shod (i.e. with footwear), but it does take a substantially higher level of awareness. Like any skill, it takes time to get better and once you get good at it you will most likely never want to wear footwear on grass again.

  1. Watch your step and avoid potential hazards. Scan the path ahead and pick your steps out before you get there.
  2. Step straight down and do not drag your feet. In areas where there are tree stubs, exposed roots or other similar hazards, it is especially important to lift each foot up after each step to avoid toe-stubbing injuries. The foot contact motion can be straight down, heel-to-toe, or front-of-foot first, whichever is more comfortable, but if it is heel-to-toe it should rapidly transfer the weight of the step to the whole foot and should not have a hard heel strike. Also use all of your toes to cushion the step. Try to place the weight on the front of the feet (balls) and not on the heels. Strong arches of the feet will absorb a significant portion of the force of each step but only by walking barefoot can you make use of this natural force-absorbing advantage of the arches.
  3. Avoid running barefoot on areas that you have not previously walked upon barefoot.
  4. Avoid fences, areas where sharp objects may exist, and man-made objects in general.
  5. Step lightly and move slower with special care through areas that are harder to walk on (e.g. due to uneven, lumpy soil) or areas where you cannot clearly see the ground, such as areas with tall grass, leaf debris, etc.
  6. Drink plenty of water. Always bring one or more bottles with you. At least one full 8 ounce glass per half hour should be consumed, and more in hot or humid conditions. NEVER allow yourself to get dehydrated or to out-walk your water supply. If you begin to get dehydrated find a source of clean water or hydrating beverage as soon as possible, i.e. do not put it off.
  7. Brush the skin that was exposed to grass and weeds after the walk to assure that no ticks, chiggers, or other similar pests are on the skin. This should be done after the walk and during breaks, if any. In addition to the brush, use water and a cloth if you have one. During tick season do regular tick checks and use the appropriate tick removal methods that you would with any outdoor activity. Make sure you carefully check your entire body for ticks after the hike the same way you should for any outdoor activity in tick season.
  8. Use a DEET-based bug repellant, as needed, to ward off mosquitoes, ticks, etc. Other repellents such as lemon/eucalyptus-based repellents might be an acceptable alternative to DEET; research this before proceeding with an acceptable alternative.
  9. Treat all injuries after you are done or when they happen if possible. This includes minor nicks, abrasions, etc. as well as more significant injuries. Follow standard first aid practices for all injuries. Always have a first aid kit with you during your entire first year of barefoot walking and after that have it either on you or close by (e.g. at your car or bike). Keep dirt, debris and mud away from and out of any open wounds -- clean and treat them and always use very strong antiseptic cleansers as part of the cleansing process. Do all typical first aid procedures for avoiding infections.
  10. If you have any foot discomfort after the walk, allow enough recovery time such that the discomfort is gone or barely noticeable before doing any more barefoot grass walks. This will typically range from one to two days, but could be three or more days in some cases.
  11. Clean your feet with soap and water after your return home.
  12. Apply a lanolin or aloe based lotion to the feet regularly.
  13. Remove hazards off the path as your encounter them. Always remove any glass or metal debris if possible - you may encounter them again if they are not removed.
  14. The harder you push yourself, i.e. in distance, or pace, or number of walks per week, or challenging surfaces, etc., the more likely you will sustain some soreness or injury. Do not push yourself too hard. This type of exercise should be done in moderation.
  15. Be especially careful if the path is sloped downward and muddy or slippery -- these are amongst the most likely places you will slip and fall if you are not careful.
  16. Most foot bruises are very small and heal quickly. Generally, after you have been doing quite a bit of barefoot walking (i.e. for a few years) you will not get foot bruises. Allow each bruise to heal before taking another walk. If you feel you need to talk a walk with a foot bruise that has not fully healed, wrap it in tape to provide some cushioning on the bruised area.
  17. Get a tetanus shot if you have not done so within 10 years prior to doing any barefoot walking on grass.
  18. Those with circulatory problems, diabetes, dermatological problems, etc., or other health issues or foot ailments that prevent barefoot grass walking, should not do so. Certainly if a doctor had specifically said not to do this activity, do not do it.
  19. Avoid areas that have dangerous hazards such as poisonous snakes, quicksand, fecal or industrial waste, Africanized bees, construction debris, broken glass, sharp objects, etc. Avoid areas that have used pesticides or herbicides recently that have not been washed into the grass and soil by rainfall, and areas that regularly use these potentially toxic materials. It is advisable to check up on the pesticide or herbicide materials that are used to be sure that walking barefoot on them is okay.
  20. If you have a serious medical condition (e.g. heart disease, asthma, etc.), check with your doctor before doing this activity.
  21. If you are allergic to bee stings (or other allergy that could cause anaphylactic shock), be sure to bring your medicine for the possibility of that event.
  22. Walking at night without sufficient lighting is not recommended. If you must do this, it should be an area that you are well familiar with and have walked barefoot over many times during the day. The risk of injury is always higher if you cannot see the surface.
  23. Always keep in mind that you are barefoot and devote part of your conscious mind to the soles of your feet and the sensations that you feel. Experienced barefooters often develop an intuitive sense that helps them where to step and where not to step.
  24. Generally, the best temperatures for barefoot walking are 13 C (55 F) and above, with about 13 C to 30 C as the optimum range. Limit barefoot walks to temperatures of 8 C (46 F) and above, or whatever temperature you feel comfortable with. This may need to be higher if the grass is wet due to the chilling effect of wet grass. Do not take barefoot walks at temperatures or wind chills below 4 C (39 F) even if it is dry except for short distances (0.8 km or less) unless you are very experienced at barefoot walking and are used to those cool temperatures. Avoid walking in the rain or in stormy weather to avoid the danger of lightning. The risk of being struck by lightning is probably only slightly higher than if you are wearing insulated footwear, assuming all things otherwise being equal. The same precautions that you should follow (with footwear) for avoiding lightning must be followed. Those procedures are not included here but can be found at various websites on the internet such as NOAA.
  25. Limit the number of days that you do barefoot walks to what your feet can handle. This will typically be 3 to 6 walks per week in good weather. Allow at least one rest day per week for your feet, even if they are not sore.

Disclaimer -- while diligently following these 25 guidelines will reduce the chance of injury or other negative health effect of barefoot walking on grass surfaces, there is always a chance of injuries and health hazards with any outdoor activity. While these guidelines work well for the author (who has used them for over 9,000 miles of barefoot walking and hiking), there is no guarantee that they will work for you. Significant injuries such as strained ligaments or broken toe bones can occur and are likely to occur if you do not watch EVERY step you take. Your health and safety is ultimately your responsibility. There is no assurance that these guidelines are complete. There is also no implication by this article that anyone will be able to assure total prevention of injuries and other negative health and safety consequences of barefoot walking on grass even if all of these guidelines are followed.