In the opening moments of the classic action movie Die Hard, which turns 30 years old this year, a visibly anxious John McClane (Bruce Willis) gets some sage words of advice from the guy sitting next to him on an airplane: “You want to know the secret to surviving air travel? After you get where you’re going, take off your shoes and your socks, and you walk around on the rug barefoot and make fists with your toes…. Better than a shower and a hot cup of coffee.” Of course, as soon as McClane gets to Nakatomi Plaza, he takes off his shoes and socks, makes fists with his toes… and ends up barefoot for the entire movie, which proves to be quite inconvenient for him.
But were those words of wisdom from his anonymous seatmate, credited as “Businessman” and played by actor Robert Lesser, actually any good?
To find out, we reached out to experts in both Western and Eastern medicine — Dr. Ernest Isaacson, a New York-based podiatrist; and healer and creator of WAMBI (Wisdom through Awareness and Mind Body Integration) Hanson Tse.
“Being barefoot is a great way to feel one’s way around new surroundings, and by removing the protective covering of our shoes it also establishes a level of trust to the new digs, which is comforting, relaxing, and just feels good,” Isaacson told us. “Walking barefoot takes us back to our primordial roots, and allows the many nerve endings on the bottom of the feet to make contact with the ground, thereby establishing a real tactile connection to our new surroundings.”
Tse agreed with Isaacson, and took it one step further. “There are several interrelated reasons why being barefoot in a new space can help someone to feel more relaxed, and they are associated with the senses, the functioning of the nervous system, psychology, subtle energies like chakras, and even the forces that travel through the body,” he told us. “Keeping our feet bound and covered with socks and shoes prevents us from receiving sensory stimulation and isolates us from our own bodies and our surroundings. Wearing shoes can protect us from harm but it also diminishes us and our experience and separates us from the world. On levels of the conscious, non-conscious, physical, and energetic, it encourages us to trust our world and our place in it.”
Tse also noted that “the feet are associated with the root chakra which is related to safety, grounding, support, earth, and survival. Physically connecting with the ground fully reassures us that we are in a place that is solid and safe.”
So it turns out that “Businessman” was actually onto something: Taking off our shoes and socks when we reach our destination grounds us and helps us acclimate to a new environment quicker, and it also relaxes us and connects us to the place on a spiritual level. As to whether it’s better than a shower and coffee, however, that may be a little less certain. They’re both great ways to relax, though!
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