Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Barefoot Life

I prefer a barefoot existence.  It is what feels best to me.  It isn't always practical where I live, but it is my preference.  I put on shoes to walk to the co-op this morning because of the cold, but kicked them off--along with the socks--the second I was back in the door.  
It all started with my sister, Lisa, and this book she insisted that I read.  Despite my hesitation to pick up a copy the book ended up being every bit as life-changingly awesome as she'd said.  And thus began my love affair with my feet. 

They really are a marvel you know--your feet--if you stop to think about it.  The tiny bones, the subtle flex of muscles and tendons that creates balance and movement, the countless sensitive nerves that can tell you so much about this world if they aren't penned up in shoes.  Even my Fivefingers--barefoot shoes--are still just shoes.  After a summer of bare freedom they make my feet feel closed in, clammy, sweaty, dark--just like a shoe.  I wear them still, but only as a second choice to the real thing used for situations that are dangerous for the truly bare feet...broken glass, cactus fields, fiery hot blacktop.
Once my feet were freed, as it were, from shoes I became fascinated with observing the changes in them.  They grew tough enough to withstand the world surprisingly quick.  They became tan and smooth.  Thick, almost like shoes in a way.  My toes felt stronger and longer.  My balance better.  Callouses sprung up on the pad of my foot, near my toes.  A slim crescent of a callous formed high on the outside of each heel and I was surprised that that part of my foot should even touch the ground enough to form a callous.  I'd have figured it would have formed more squarely on my heel, but, I was learning all sort of things through my feet.  They felt like new feet.  Or rather, having spent a lifetime paying little attention to my feet at all, I was blown away by all the awesome information I received once I actually started to pay attention to what they were up to all day. 

Over this past summer my feet grew hard until I could walk on gravel with a nearly normal gait.  I can remember an older woman's shocked comment when she passed me on a gravel path at the Headwaters State Park.  At Chokecherry Festival I bought a few homemade dish scrubbies from Kathy Walter who, looking down, told me I should also use buy one to use on my dirty heels as well as my dishes, that they did that on the colony all the time for stained summer feet.   Matt, with his tender feet, was horrified that I should try to stand on a garden shovel to push it further into the earth and demanded I at least get sandals on.  I did, but the shovel edge hadn't hurt.
Even when my feet are cold as ice, and Matt touches them in bed with his own warm feet and asks why on earth I  have not put socks on I don't care to do so.  "Oh, I suppose they ARE cold.  Hmmm.... I hadn't noticed."  Certainly, I will wear socks at a point, but despite the cold, or for that matter the heat, or roughness of surface I just like how just about everything feels better bare.  The damp of the grass on a spring morning.  The silky, cool dirt of the garden in summer.  The crunch of dry leaves on a walk home in the autumn.  The smooth, cold, cement basement floor when I am hanging up laundry inside due to the snow outside in the winter.  I want to feel it all with my toes.  I can't really explain it.  It just feels good.  It feels right.  Like this was how I was meant to move about on this planet...how I was supposed to know it.

5 comments:

  1. I hate shoes with a passion. And, I love going barefoot. I feel in tune with the rest of my body and do have better balance. The only house shoe I will wear is a thin, cheap Dollar General or other Dollar store brands. I bought expensive cushy ones a few years ago, but I could not keep my balance.

    When I was a child, we lived barefoot and hated having to put on shoes and wash our feet beforehand...lol. We could walk on asphalt. Okay, it was quick walking that soon ended up in running to get home fast.

    Since I am allergic to grass, unfortunately I have to at least wear a sandal. Otherwise, the soles of my feet itch so that I must wash them. This was not true when I was a child.

    In the winter I still prefer sandals. If I could get over the bump in the toe area of Birkenstocks, I would wear those. Shoes make my feet want to scream. They get sweaty and claustrophobic.

    When I met my husband, it was so funny because I could walk on gravel with a perfectly normal gait while he hobbled and complained for all 14 years we were married. The children laughed at him because they could walk barefoot on gravel as I could.

    Neither my feet nor my three children's feet were calloused at all.

    I feel at peace with the earth when I go without shoes! My mood is better. Shoes just annoy me.

    Good post that hit home with me.

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  2. So it isn't just me! (I never really thought it was, but it is nice to hear of your own love of bare feet!)

    Ha! Yes, running is the only other way to deal with the hot asphalt issue besides footwear!
    : )

    As to the callouses, they popped up mostly from running barefoot on the sidewalk. Perhaps because there is more force or friction involved than just when walking? Hmmm....I don't know.

    As to balance: In Born to Run the author talks about how our feet are designed to seek stability. When we wear highly cushioned shoes it is harder for us to gain that stability. It made sense to me and from my personal experiences seems spot on.

    Have a great day!

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  3. I read an article (or maybe it was a book review) about _Born to Run_ and thought it made a lot of sense. As I recall, it emphasized allowing children especially to go barefoot as much as possible. I was a cross country runner in high school and part of college, but suffered many stress fractures in my shins. Good running shoes and orthodics never seemed to help. Wish I would've known then to just go barefoot :)
    -Jaime

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  4. Balance--Walking on grass even with shoes greatly enhances the ability to keep my balance and keep back, shins, knees, and even my shoulders from aching. Of course, at the slightest hole, I turn my ankles! Or, I just sway like a drunket bicycle, veering here and there in an effort to not fall down...lol. My yard has numerous holes made my chipmunks and squirrels.

    Running barefoot--Don't heel strike. Let the ball of the foot hit the ground first.

    I was encouraged to put my children in hard-soled, high-top, lace up shoes as soon as they pulled up. That was in the 60s and early 70s.

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  5. Jamie, especially as a former runner I bet you'd find the book quite interesting. It is like an onion of a book. Layers upon layers. One second you are learning about persistence hunting (running after an animal until it cannot run anymore which I found fascinating and unbelievable) in Africa the next about a super-marathon in Colorado and the next superhuman athletes hidden away in Mexico who can run hundreds of miles without stopping during annual celebrations. All the while learning how to run better too!

    Linda, it is nearly impossible to heal strike barefoot in my experience. It feels wrong and hurts! We only do that in shoes, where the padding makes it not hurt...until you injure yourself and it hurts immensely.

    And isn't it funny how much advice changes? I look forward, with amusement, to looking back on the advice given today. I love to collect old medical and etiquette books because of the changes. I have one that goes on about how left handed people should be "corrected" to be righties and that you must also correct "mouth breathing." Or step-by-step instruction on how to determine if a hot or cold bath better suits your temperament. Or that olives should never be eaten in one bite. Ah, it is interesting stuff.

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Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and ideas. I value the advice and friendship that you share with me!