Martl Jung has crossed the Alps – barefoot! Now he offers barefoot walking tours. We tried it out on your behalf
Barefoot guide Martl Jung
His life is a barefoot path. Martl Jung has spent much of his life barefoot, even going to discos barefoot as a teenager. Today the author, photographer and mountain walking guide takes his approach one step further and has walked barefoot across the Alps.
He wants to share that pleasure with others, step by step. However, Jung is treading in some big footsteps: in his day, priest Sebastian Kneipp preached barefoot walking. “When we go barefoot we rediscover many things we have lost: our contact with nature, a natural stride and a focus on the little things.”
You see more when you go barefoot
There are many benefits: “When you’re barefoot you experience totally different sensations, for example you can feel the moisture and condition of the ground beneath your feet.” Martl Jung is convinced: “You just see more when you go barefoot!” And your gait is automatically kinder on your joints as you naturally cushion the impact on the ball of your foot.
Other bonus features: you don’t get sweaty feet or athlete’s foot. Plus: you can’t twist your ankle and you’ll never get blisters again. Disadvantages? “Everything has its limits and barefoot walking should be fun. On a steep descent or when the ground is hard and stony, you should put your shoes back on.”
“When you wear shoes, your feet go to sleep”
Martl Jung seldom does that himself. When he crossed the Alps, a total of 500 kilometres in length and 30,000 metres in elevation from Munich to Verona, he deliberately left his shoes at home: “I knew there would be certain places, and there were, and I didn’t need to have that battle with myself.” His recipe for success: “Like everything in life you have to adjust to the tempo of the conditions, then a great deal becomes possible, including crossing the Alps barefoot.”
Kneipp can be followed always and everywhere!
Many people know the classic Kneipp pools for water treading, but barefoot walking also gives the same cold stimulation. “In nature you are always in contact with a surface that is colder than your foot,” says Jung. This means that with every step, your body has to supply energy, which stimulates the circulation and keeps you alert. “It’s only when you wear shoes that your feet go to sleep in a literal sense,” laughs Jung.
Kneipp is a constant presence for Martl Jung. “I follow Kneipp whenever I’m near water. When I walk my dog, depending on the season, I run straight into the Ammer.” For those who are less sure-footed, he recommends barefoot paths with additional Kneipp options where there are handrails to hold onto.
“You can do some great Kneipp treatments around the lake in Bad Bayersoien or at the Kurpark in Bad Wörishofen. The barefoot paths in Penzberg and Benediktbeuern also offer the popular option of cooling mud, where you can revert to childhood for a while.”
The highest feeling
“I always love the route up to the Hörnle from Bad Kohlgrub,” says Martl Jung. The Hörnle is a grassy hill some 700 metres high. Here beginners can practice barefoot walking, as the ascent leads across meadows and along a woodland path. As a mountain guide, Jung also spends time up in the high Alps. There his feet encounter rocks such as granite, which breaks in beautiful sheets and offers a smooth surface: “It’s a bit like a tiled floor,” explains Jung.
These are not barefoot tours per se, but as a guide he always takes his shoes off when the conditions are right. He also offers this experience privately for companies or as an event, when he may take a group of stressed executives on to the grassy hill. “People feel liberated when they feel the earth under their feet, and are as delighted as small children to be barefoot.”
More about Martls barefoot tours (in German only)
... from Martl
Hike to the High Peißenberg
I live about 200 metres below the summit of the Hohe Peißenberg and I often walk up it, usually barefoot. At the top, below the mast, there are two fixed loungers where you can simply put your feet up and enjoy the view. It’s an amazing view, as the Hohe Peißenberg is far and away the highest point before you reach the Alps themselves. All the other mountains are laid out: from the Benediktenwand and the Zugspitze through to the Grünten in the Allgäu.
pfaffen-winkel.de (in German only)
Fotografisch bin ich sehr gern in kleinräumigen Oasen unterwegs, zum Beispiel im Murnauer Moos. Dort kann man tolle Naturaufnahmen machen, von Insekten, besonders Schmetterlingen, und Kreuzottern etwa. Es gibt auch viele seltene Pflanzen wie den Sonnentau. Barfuß seht ihr auch hier mehr, weil ihr einfach genauer auf den Boden schaut.
murnau.de (in German only)