When I was researching our trip to Switzerland, I found many mentions of Kneipp applications, including spas, nature trails and pools. I was confused. Kneipp is also a popular brand of herbal wellness and bath products, but both the bath oil and the nature trails go back to the philosophies of one man.
A priest from the mid-1800s, Sebastian Kneipp was looking for ways to cure his tuberculosis and found a “water cure” that he believed healed him. He created a system of wellness that focuses on diet, exercise, hydrotherapy and other holistic methods. All all over Europe, you can find products and places dedicated to his beliefs.
Off with your shoes!
I really wanted to find one of the “barefoot trails” I had read about, and discovered one place, not far from our home base of Solothurn. The idea is simple: Follow a small path while walking barefoot. The idea is that you will experience various sensations and textures, give your feet a massage, improve circulation, and enhance the benefits of the hydrotherapy that the Kneipp water pools provide.
Walking on broken glass
There were several sections of various texture, temperature, and moisture to experience. It started with pea gravel, cool and moist and moved to small stones, warm and smooth.
Then there was a section of wood slats, followed by wood chips which also had signs for different types of stretching to add to the walking, and then an area of soft grasses.
There were also covered sections of the path where you could lift up the lid and walk through. One featured a knee-deep pit of pea-sized clay balls. They felt amazing, but I was not prepared to sink down so far!
The next one was small pieces of crushed glass, which looked jagged but felt smooth, kind of like sea glass.
The final dip
At the end, I walked through the traditional Kneipp foot bath. An L-shaped wading pool with a railing down the middle, the idea is to walk through the cold water–meant to revitalize your legs–and then dry them off, put on warm socks, and be on your way. The water was really cold. I think I stepped through much faster than I was supposed to. I admit after I was done, I really did feel good: refreshed and full of energy. We continued on a hike up the hills afterward and my feet thanked me the entire time.
I will certainly be searching out Kneipp facilities in the future–and I think the barefoot path could easily be created at home. Perhaps a little path in the backyard or at the cabin….