Barefoot walking

© Prés de Hem
Renowned for being healthy, barefoot walking is becoming increasingly popular. Several parks have created paths where you can put your feet on various materials and have fun with games related to the five senses.

[ Practical ]

Ferme Aventure
15 côte de Hardémont, 88240 La Chapelle aux Bois
- Opening dates and hours
From July 4th to August 30th, every day from 10am to 7pm.
- Rates
€11,50, €9 for under 13.
- Information
Sentier Pieds Nus du Lac Blanc
Station du Lac Blanc, 68370 Orbey
- Opening dates and hours
From May 1st to July 3rd and from September 4th to 29th, Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday and bank holidays from 1pm to 5pm.
From July 6th to September 1st every day from 10am to 6pm.
- Rates
Adults : €6.50.
Children up to 16 years old : €5.
Families : €18.
Tel : 0389712872
Forêt d’Acrobates
Base départementale de Bessilles.
Route de Montagnac, 34530 Montagnac.
- Opening dates and hours
From May 1st to June 30th and from September 1st to November 3rd, Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday and bank holidays from 1pm to 6pm.
From July 4th to August 31st every day from 9.30am to 6pm.
- Rates
Adults : €10.
Children 4 to 12 years old : €8
Families : €28.
- Information
Tel : 0607134380
Prés du Hem
7 avenue Marc Sangnier
59280 Armentières
- Opening dates and hours
From June 4th to September 1st, Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 6pm, till 7pm on Sunday.
- Rates
Adults : €8.
Children up to 12 years old : €5.
Families : 24 €.
- Information
Tel : 0320631127
Loisirs Loire Valley
Domaine de la Pépinière
41150 Chouzy-sur-Cisse.
- Opening dates and hours
June, September and October : Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm.
July and August : every day from 10am to 7pm,
- Rates
Adults : €10.
Children 3 to 15 years old : €5.
Under 3 years old : free.
- Information
Tel : 0667988341
Base de loisirs de Buthiers
Rue des Roches, 77760 Buthiers
- Opening dates and hours
From July 4th from 1pm to 6pm.
- Rates
6 €.
- Information
Tel : 0164241287
Jardins de Brocéliande
Les Mesnils
, 35310 Bréal-sous-Montfort
- Opening dates and hours
From March 31st to June 30th and from September 1st to November 3rd : Tuesday to Saturday from 1.30pm to 6pm, Sunday and bank holidays from 1.30pmm to 7pm
July and August : every day from 11am to 7pm.
- Rates
Adults : €9.80
Students, Children 6 – 18 years old : €5.50
Families : €21.50
- Information
Tel : 0299600804
Take off your shoes and walk barefoot. It’s likely this suggestion is going to make your kids happy. However, there is no way to walk like that in the street but in parks or on paths especially created for this purpose. Very popular in Austria, Switzerland and Germany – where it was born a dozen years ago -, this activity attracts a growing number of people as it brings pleasure, well-being, relaxation and health benefits. Some doctors indeed claim that it strengthens our feet and allows them to fulfil their role in stabilising the whole body, that it might have some advantages for balance and coordination by reactivating signals between the feet and the head and by developing the sense of touch.

© T.Joly
 Deep relaxation
Besides, walking barefoot might help reinforce the immune system and fight off chills better even by cool weather because it stimulates the heat production of the body. Lastly, the foot’s reflex areas are massaged on a natural way providing deep relaxation.
Parks or paths, all places dedicated to this activity have in common to give visitors the possibility to walk on many different kinds of materials and surfaces : wood shavings, tree bark, pine cones, fir tree needles, round and sharp pebbles, earth, mud,… Of course, sensations vary from one to another and are at first more or less enjoyable because nowadays our feet are used to be protected by shoes and so are very sensible. But, after a few minutes pleasure usually predominates and it’s very interesting to feel different textures under his feet.
Far behind Germany and Switzerland, France boasts only a handful of places especially created for barefoot walking but new ones open every year.

© Ferme Aventure
 Ferme Aventure
All are equipped with lockers or clothes lines where you can leave or hang your shoes and at the end a footbath gives you the possibility to wash your feet.
Located in the Vosges, near Epinal, the Ferme Aventure is the oldest and the largest one. It offers funny and educational activities for old and young alike who can wander together through this park that can be visited only barefoot. The sensory footpath itself is two km long and is made up of many different materials : pebbles, gravels of all sizes and shapes, sawdust, pine cones, sand, peat, tree bark, glass,… It also includes more natural and funny sections : earth, mud, hanging bridges,.. Visitors can also get through five labyrinths created with big stones, cypresses, pieces of wood, ditches,.. In addition the whole park is dotted with sculptures done by a local artist and games whose themes are mainly related to the five senses, the identification of trees and animal footprints.

© Sentier du Lac Blanc
 Sentier du Lac Blanc
Also in the Vosges mountains, but in Alsace, the Sentier Pieds Nus of the Lac Blanc mountain resort opened in 2009. 1,2 km long, it winds through the forest and hikers walk on natural soil, gravel, stones, pebbles, sand, small wood logs, lawn, straw, spruce cones, various tree barks,… as well as in a river bed. On some spots, each foot touches a different surface providing a strange sensation. In addition, the path offers nice viewpoints over the Black Forest and fun activities using the five senses : Trying bird call, following animal prints, identification of plant smells. On some days, counsellors also teach kids how to create works of arts with materials found in the forest such as leaves and moss.

© Jardin de Brocéliande
 Jardin de Brocéliande
Near Rennes, the Jardin de Brocéliande is a floral garden where are recreated different types of gardens and natural areas : French, English and Asian gardens, Brittany forest, aquatic area,.. Named “Réveille tes pieds”, the sensory footpath consists of no less than 45 materials with soft and prickly sensations coming one after the other and they are related to the area of the garden being crossed. Barks of different trees, pine needles, fallen tree, wood mulch in the wooden areas, shells and sand near the pond, hemp and buckwheat husks near cultivated areas,… It also includes funny attractions such as a hopscotch made up of glass plates of different colours, distorting and magnifying mirrors placed at the centre of a plant labyrinth, an apple arbour equipped with a water sprayer, a river crossing with rope safeguarding. In addition, there is a 200 m long itinerary named “Active tes Sens” that you have to do eyes blindfolded. Along the way, gravel crunches, resonance of materials, noises of animals, scents, sloping floors, humidity and hurdles make you use your five senses.

© Monkey Forest
 Monkey Forest
In addition, there is a 200 m long itinerary named “Active tes Sens” that you have to do eyes blindfolded. Along the way, gravel crunches, resonance of materials, noises of animals, scents, sloping floors, humidity and hurdles make you use your five senses.
Also in western France, near Nantes, the Monkey Forest leisure and adventure park boasts a nearly one km long barefoot path drew in a pine forest that one covers shoes around the neck. Tubs containing various materials such as stones and pebbles of all sizes and shapes, sawdust or strings are placed every ten meters and separated by sections of natural soil or synthetic carpet when pine needles are too numerous. These materials are chosen and aligned in order to stimulate the senses by creating contrasts ; wet / dry, prickly / soft, crumbly / hard,…

© DR
 Loisirs Loire Valley
To make the path more entertaining, here and there are found games and exercises challenging your sense of balance. In the Loire valley, the Loisirs Loire Valley park boasts a barefoot path of approximately one kilometre made up of thirty different materials like wood chips, sand from the Loire, rope, slate, coal, limestone, sawdust, bark, gravel, tuffeau, the stone once used to build the famous castles standing along the river. It also includes playful activities. Sections asking address and balance where you have to walk on a log or jump from one plot to another. Workshops intended to make you use the five senses where you must identify materials through touch or recognize animal footprints, flavours and smells. At the end of this footpath, the cleaning of the feet is done on a dry way.

© Base de loisirs de Buthiers
 Base de loisirs de Buthiers
The nearest barefoot path from Paris is located in the Fontainebleau forest, in the Buthiers leisure centre. One km long, its consists of sections of natural soil of the forest (earth, sand, rock) and tubs filled up with various materials such as clay, pine cones, pebbles,..). It also includes wooden staircases and causeways, the crossing of a man-made little waterfall and of a hanging net as well as passages testing your balance skills. In addition, it goes through a hut kept dark where you have to guess on what you are walking. It is also lined with aromatic vegetal species and sound canons to develop your senses as well with explanatory boards about the fauna and the flora. The path indeed matches the general philosophy of the camp which is to raise the environment awareness of the visitors. Open all year round – the only one – it can also be done accompanied by a counsellor that gives further information about plants and animals.

© La Forêt d’Acrobates
 La Forêt d’Acrobates
Situated in Hérault, the Forêt d’Acrobates just opened a new barefoot path called “O Pieds Nus”. One km long and bathed by cicadas’ sound, it goes through four areas depicting the typical landscapes of this part of France : vineyards and scrubland, forest, coastline and mountain. Boards giving information about the local history, heritage, flora and fauna are placed all along the way and materials laid on the ground are related with these four ecosystems : wood shavings, pine cones, sand, mush, stones, ropes,.. Hikers also have to go through a wine barrel, a ship hull, a net and sections requesting the sense of balance. Besides, senses of taste and smell are stimulated by scent boxes containing specific plants of Southern France such as thyme, rosemary or fig and by four candies whose taste are related to each area.

© Les Prés du Hem
 Les Prés du Hem
Water being scarce in the region, here too, the cleaning of the feet is done on a dry way by passing successively on three different materials : sand, a synthetic turf and a linen carpet.
Also opened this year, “A la poursuite des Vas Nus Pieds” is a km long barefoot path set up in the Les Prés de Hem leisure centre situated in Armentières, near Lille. Starting between two hedges of wild flowers, it gives the opportunity to walk on more than 50 different materials split in several thematic areas. The garden section features lawn grass, compost and so on. Moss, wood shavings, heather, peat and others aim to recreate unspoiled nature. Sand and shell powder are found near a pond. Wheat and barley straw, linen fibres and tow evoke farming. Bricks, coal, tiles, rubber, glass, tiled floor and marbles remind of the industrial past of the region. The admission fee also gives access to all activities offered in the leisure centre.

May 16, 2020
Thierry Joly