Muskoka’s “crazy barefoot lady” promotes going shoe-free — in the snow

Closeup of bare feet on snow Photo courtesy of YouTube/Barefoot Adventurer

Sue Kenney believes that walking barefoot can change your life.

It has certainly changed hers. Since being downsized from her corporate telecommunications job in Toronto and her subsequent decision to walk 500 kilometres barefoot along Spain’s Camino hiking trails, Kenney’s worldview and career have been transformed. She’s now an author (her book, My Camino, tells the story of her physical and spiritual journey on the trails), a screenplay writer (she sold the movie rights to her book soon after its publication), and a barefoot guide in Muskoka.

In her second book, Wear Bare Feet, Kenney writes about the physical and mental health benefits of walking barefoot. “You have to take your shoes and socks off and put your feet on the ground and move. That’s all. It’s simple, it’s free and it’s accessible to anyone in the world. But by doing it, I believe, every person can become stronger, healthier and more flexible, have better posture and be more balanced.”

Sue Kenney, barefoot, in Spain
Sue Kenney has taken her barefoot philosophy to trails at home and abroad. [Credit: Sue Kenney]
Kenney took a barefoot training specialist course with podiatrist Dr. Emily Splichal, and she said it taught her a lot about the ways walking barefoot benefits us. “I discovered how 200,000 neurotransmitter receptors in the soles of my feet were sending messages via a neural pathway to my brain about the terrain under my feet so they could work in harmony with my entire body,” she writes in

Wear Bare Feet.

As a guide, Kenney now teaches people about going shoe-free in cottage country. But since bringing her barefoot lifestyle to Muskoka, she’s had to content with a new challenge: snow.

“This is the great mother in her cold state,” Kenney told Muskokaregion.com, “and what she gives us in that state is . . . a chance to release emotions, to release trauma, to stop fear, to induce our auto-immune system. The benefits of it are mind blowing.”

Linda Connolly, a participant in one of Kenney’s guided snow hikes, said she was hesitant to at first to remove her shoes in the snow, but once she did, it gave her a whole new appreciation for her feet. “I feel like my feet are alive, like they are part of my body,” she said. “[. . .] You take your feet for granted and they ground you, they are the root of your body.”

Asked if she would do it again, Connolly said she “absolutely” would. “I’m aware of it now,” she said. “I never thought I would do this until the opportunity presented itself.”

As for Kenney, she says that spending time in nature and among trees has changed her view of what matters. She sees now that a connection to the natural world as vitally important. “It isn’t seen in society as valuable. But it is incredibly valuable,” she said. “That’s why I teach it. We as a society have to stop and remember those trees.”

These days, she can’t imagine returning to the corporate lifestyle she once led. “It took me an entire lifetime to really understand what makes me happy and what my work is in the world.”

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