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It's a lovely feeling, removing your footwear on a warm summer's day at the park or on the beach. Most of us love the sensation of the grass or sand between our toes, too often insulated by layers of plastic and leather. But did you know according to some, when you do this you "knock down (and even knock out) chronic inflammation and reduce and eliminate associated pain, making it the most natural and powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-aging remedy around!"? Apparently when earthing, or grounding, (when your bare feet or skin comes in contact with Mother Earth) free electrons are taken up into the body and according to published papers on this: 'Connecting the body to the Earth enables free electrons from the Earth's surface to spread over and into the body, where they can have antioxidant effects. Specifically, [the authors] suggest that mobile electrons create an antioxidant microenvironment around the injury repair field, slowing or preventing reactive oxygen species (ROS) delivered by the oxidative burst from causing "collateral damage" to healthy tissue, and preventing or reducing the formation of the so-called "inflammatory barricade"'. Convinced?

Almost all scholarly articles on this are published by The Earthing Institute who produced a steady stream of articles and testimonials promoting earthing as a treatment for pain, inflammation, and a host of other vague conditions. Most of the papers have been widely criticised. As Steve Novella points out: 'The studies are typical of the kind of worthless studies designed to generate false positives – the kind of “in house” studies that companies sometimes use so that they can claim their products are “clinically proven”'. The Earth itself is neutral but locally it may be positive or negative, the air around us is generally positively charged and the surface is generally negatively charged (Lightening is the positive air discharging to the negative ground). The idea that we can change our negative or positive charge in some way by coming in direct contact with the Earth is ridiculous and the fact that electrons flow to and from us through everyday contact is made apparent by static electricity. If you ever got a shock from touching a car, then you experienced the transfer of electrons.

On top of this, the use of antioxidants in supporting their claims is a big red flag. Almost all alt-med claims that use it, wildly exaggerate the effects and impact they have on the body's systems in support of their hypotheses. This does not stop a myriad of woo websites however, selling grounding mats, footwear, socks and tights, sheets and pillows, body patches, special plugs, mouse mats, footpads and a host useless, unnecessary products. Even the woo-queen herself, Gwyneth Paltrow, gets in the act with articles on 'Earthing: How Walking Barefoot Could Cure Your Insomnia & More'. Let's be honest; in your home, or when wearing normal shoes walking around outside there is a constant flow of electrons between you and Mother Earth. Rub a balloon on you and see how quickly the charge wears off as the effect quickly diminishes. Go barefoot if it makes you feel good but don't fall for the pseudoscience.

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