Barefootin’ about

While we are marking time, awaiting the passing of the Dog Days of summer heat and the beginning of our fall camping season, we continue to step out with our dogs on a healthy exercise program of brisk walks and trots around our local tree-lined lake.  I do this wearing minimalist footwear.  Summer is a great time to go about barefoot or almost barefoot.

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As mentioned in my article, “Footnotes“, I enjoy going barefoot in our Airstream Safari travel trailer and about the house, and increasingly, out in the backyard, so last February I started wearing minimalist footwear, Vibram FiveFingers, on our walks around parks and campgrounds.

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Seen above is my favorite style of Vibram FiveFingers (VFF) footwear, the Sprint.  (See Barefoot Ted run in them here.)

On the advice of a commenter to my “Footnotes” posting, I read with fascination the national best seller, Born To Run – A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen, by Christopher McDougall (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2009).  I continue to be amazed at the growing interest in walking and running barefoot that was sparked by this book, such as this local San Diego article, “No socks, no shoes, no problem?“.  This article includes barefoot hiker and runner Glen Raines’ story and photo (read his article “Going Barefoot“).  See and listen to author Christopher McDougall and The New York Times’ The Roving Runner (and blogger) Brian Fidelman as they run barefoot in Central Park in this New York Times‘ video, “Health: Barefoot Running“.

For Christopher McDougall (hear his Authors@google talk on YouTube), “It all began with a simple question that no one could answer… ‘How come my foot hurts?’”  His book Born to Run takes us on a journey to the Barrancas del Cobre, the Copper Canyons of the Sierra Madre in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, home of the Tarahumara Indians, the Ráramuri – the Running People, the world’s greatest distance runners with uncanny health and serenity, who have few injuries wearing flat sandals cut from rubber tires compared to the sky-rocketing injuries of those who wear modern athletic shoes (invented in 1972).  There he learned their secrets and, with the help of Caballo Blanco (a.k.a. Micah True), Christopher participated in the first 47-mile Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon set up by Caballo Blanco.

For Ted McDonald (hear his Authors@google talk on YouTube), the problem was “Every time I ran for an hour, I had excruciating lower-back pain… It was so discouraging.”  His eureka moment occurred while reading Barefoot Ken Bob’s The Running Barefoot website.  He found by running barefoot, his form improved and he was able to run marathons.  He became one of the most famous barefoot runners in the world and is now known as Barefoot Ted.  He admits that there are some places that require some foot protection, so he brought along Vibram FiveFingers to run the Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon.  While there, Manuel Luna taught him how to make Tarahumara sandals.  Barefoot Ted now has a company in Seattle that makes Luna Sandals inspired by the Tarahumara Indians of Northern Mexico’s Copper Canyon.

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I now have my own Luna Sandals from the first batch shipped in early July.  I tied mine using the Slip-On Tying Method #1.  I did not shorten the leather lace so that I have the option of tying my huarache running sandals in the Traditional Method.

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This week I walked and trotted 4.8 miles in these sandals, which kept my feet cool and comfortable.  Going mostly barefoot since last February, I feel my feet are becoming stronger and healthier, and seem to know just what to do when coming in contact with anything; everything just seems to fall into place naturally and comfortably.

Christopher McDougall tells in Born To Run how the human body evolved as an efficient and exquisite running machine and how modern shoes encase and weaken our feet.  Modern running shoes with cushioned heels entice runners to take longer strides and land on their heels, resulting in more injuries.  He incorporates the foot strike and treadmill studies of Harvard anthropology professor Daniel Lieberman (The Barefoot Professor), who published a new study on toes, which gives credence to the endurance running hypothesis (the Running Man theory) that humans evolved as long-distance runners, enabling them to be successful in persistence hunting and their own survival.

The bottom line for me is that going barefoot can be joyful and fun and healthy (especially since I do not have a medical condition or sensory impairment, such as diabetic neuropathy, which could preclude it).

Barefootin’…  Even a five-year old knows how to do this intuitively.

Comments

  1. insightout says

    One footnote was informational, two footnotes inspirational, and three footnotes will become a yardnote and secure Bill D. a foothold in the Podiatry Hall of Fame.

    If barefootin’ is healthy, will it cure onychomycosis (the dreaded and unsightly toenail fungus ) ? If so, it would be far less expensive than Lamisil AT and Sporanox which are only marginally effective even if used for months.

    And by the way, my wife thinks your feet are quite attractive….is there a career in foot modeling ?

  2. Bill D. says

    Thank you Dr. C. (insightout) for your hand notes and for sharing your wife’s keen observation. Kindly remind her that I am retired.

    The link below states that “fungi that cause onychomycosis thrive in warm, moist environments”, such as found in tight fitting shoes. It also lists ways to reduce the chances of getting onychomycosis, such as avoiding walking barefoot around swimming pools, locker rooms, and other (moist) public places (such as campground showers).

    http://www.doctorsofusc.com/condition/document/96750

    The link below states “by going barefoot, the perspiration from your feet evaporates… your feet then remain cool and dry in the open air. The fungus (of Athlete’s Foot) can not survive under these conditions.”

    http://www.barefooters.org/faq/13.html

  3. Bill D. says

    Thanks BFT. My neighbor also said to me, “Cool looking sandals”, when first seeing them.

    Indeed they are cool in more ways than one!

  4. Bill D. says

    John Durant, founder of Barefoot Runners NYC, states on his blog:

    “More runners are realizing that fancy running shoes do more harm than good. Barefoot or minimal sole running leads to a more natural and healthier stride.”

    Christopher McDougall, author of Born To Run, and John Durant have set up an epic barefoot run from Harlem to Brooklyn, followed by a runners picnic in the park, on Wednesday, August 11th. See details on John Durant’s Barefoot Runners NYC Blog:

    http://barefootnyc.com/post/904660593/august-11th-8-mile-barefoot-run-with-christopher

    Read more about John’s urban-paleo adventures in The New York Times article, “The New Age Cavemen and the City”:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/10/fashion/10caveman.html

  5. Bill D. says

    Daniel Howell, PhD, in his recently published book, The Barefoot Book – 50 Great Reasons to Kick Off Your Shoes, Hunter House Publishers, 2010, explains how chronic shoe wearing negatively affects our health, and yet our modern day cultural code of conduct insists “that shoes be worn at all times – from the cradle to the grave.”

    I am currently reading this timely and clearly written book with many illustrations, notes, and resources, which explores the health benefits of going barefoot, while dispelling myths surrounding legal aspects of going barefoot in public and the dangers of not wearing shoes.

    Read more about this book and author here:

    http://www.thebarefootbook.com/

    See an interview and video of the author on barefootandgrounded.com’s “Reflections on a ‘Barefoot Book’ Tour: An Interview with Author Daniel Howell”:

    http://www.barefootandgrounded.com/2010/07/reflections-on-barefoot-book-tour.html

  6. Bill D. says

    An update to comment #5 above:

    Christopher McDougall announced in his blog today that everyone who makes the BTR Barefoot Run on Wednesday will be admitted to the reading at Word Bookstore that night for free, waiving the $25 charge… “and for one day only, one store in New York will be shoes-optional. Live it up.”

    Perhaps the beginning of a modern day “shoes-optional movement”?

    http://chrismcdougall.com/blog/2010/08/btr-barefoot-run-pt-iii-word-loves-your-dirty-toes/

  7. Bill D. says

    See CBS News report on this week’s Born To Run – Barefoot Runners of NYC Barefoot Run from Harlem to Brooklyn with Christopher McDougall and John Durant.

    Also see the video at the end of this report, which shows some of the sights and sounds of this event, along with the reminder of the importance of running the right way by landing on the soft mid part of the foot (rather than the heel first), taking shorter strides, and yet still allowing the heel to come down to the ground:

    http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2010/08/12/nyc-group-touts-the-benefits-of-running-barefoot/

  8. Bill D. says

    Last week Barefoot Ted completed the 2010 Leadville 100 Trail Race for the third time, and this time, he was able to run the entire race with his Luna Sandals and in bare feet.

    This 100-mile ultramarathon run, aka “The Race Across The Sky”, occurs annually in Leadville, Colorado, situated at an elevation of 10,152 feet, the highest incorporated city in the United States (per Wikipedia).

    This was also the venue for the American debut of the legendary Tarahumara runners, as discussed in Christopher McDougall’s book, Born To Run.

    See Barefoot Ted’s Race Report with photos:

    http://www.barefootted.com/index.php?q=/2010/08/2010-leadville-100-trail-race-report.html