Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Risk vs. Reward: The Gloves are Off!

I cut my thumb yesterday. While putting a piece of equipment away at work, I wasn't paying close-enough attention to the location of all the digits on my left hand. I was passing a cord through an opening and slammed the tip of my thumb into the back of a metal keyboard tray rail.

Cut it right open. It wasn't too bad. Although it started bleeding almost immediately it wasn't gushing. Although the cut was apparent it wasn't terribly deep.

So today I have a bandage on it. In a few days it will be healed and I will go on living my regular life. Someday, I will likely accidentally cut my hand again. That's okay, though. That's life.

This weekend our family will be moving into our new house. It will be such a joyous day since we've never owned our own home before! For the move I'll likely wear some kind of gloves to protect myself from chafing from all the cardboard boxes and potentially sharp parts of our appliances. My gloves have rubber pads on them so that I can get a better grip on things. I realize that extra protection for my hands is appropriate. There's enough risk involved to warrant them.

I will also be wearing boots. I would prefer to go barefoot, sure. But I also realize that protective footwear does have a place in this situation. Boots will help protect my feet and give me better traction -- especially when hauling a 320 lb. refrigerator around! The risk of injury is high enough to warrant footwear.

I always find it interesting, though, when people try to make the point that our feet need constant protection. It's like the ground and floors of our world are so littered with sharp objects and disease that the risk of foot injuries is always high.

When talking with others about my barefoot lifestyle, I often hear an excuse that sounds something like, "I don't go barefoot because when I was a kid I cut my foot/stepped on a nail/got stung by a bee."

I think we need to reconsider the idea that our feet need constant protection. When I was a kid, I did step on a nail in my home. It punctured my foot pretty well. When I was a kid I also got stung on my sole by a bee while walking around at the local pool. It hurt like the Dickens. I could just say, "I don't ever want to go barefoot because I might get hurt again."

But couldn't I also say after just cutting my thumb, "I'm going to wear gloves all the time so my hands are protected?" If I did, many might think I have OCD. The risk just isn't strong enough to warrant such drastic measures. Yet somehow we see major risk to our feet in everyday life.

I can tell you from experience that restaurants, retailers, churches and many other publicly-accessible places have pretty clean floors. They are certainly safe enough to go barefoot. Likewise, your average parking lot, street or sidewalk is safe enough, too. I'm not saying that there is no risk whatsoever. I'm not saying there's no possibility of injury. All I'm trying to pass along is that going barefoot to these places holds as much risk to your feet as everyday life holds to your hands.

When we're done moving I will go back to baring my hands in my daily life. Likewise, I will continue living a barefoot lifestyle as much as feasible. Granted, there will be other times where even I will see enough risk of hand or foot injury that I'll don gloves or footwear again. But in general, I see no reason not to bare my hands and feet. Accidents may happen and injuries may occur. When they do I'll deal with them and move on. The overall risk is low compared to the rewards.

So next time you go to put on shoes -- or if you're wearing them right now -- ask yourself, "Do I really need to wear these, or would the reward of comfort and healthy feet be higher if I didn't?"

Monday, August 17, 2009

Why I'm Not Running...Yet.

I've gotten a few questions here and there about my thoughts on barefoot running. They tend to be about my experiences with it and what advice I'd lend.

Just so everyone's clear: I'm not a runner of any kind, however I hope to be again soon. When I do, it'll be exclusively barefoot or in minimalist footwear.

A few years ago I was a casual runner whose crowning accomplishment was finishing a 5K in a little over 30 min. My buddy who was in the Army at the time ran it with no problem wearing combat boots and a rucksack. It was pretty sad, but running gave me something to do to help me feel like I was making a positive difference in my health. I ran around the circular neighborhood and the local hospital's circular track. I ran in a lot of circles. I researched a lot of shoes and GPS stuff and heart monitors and...

Eventually, I started having some issues with my left knee. It wasn't from the running, however the running aggravated it. I had injured my knee years earlier in a sledding wipeout. The pain and uncomfortableness got to be so bad that I had arthroscopic surgery to remove a good deal of scar tissue plica that had built up in the knee over the years.

After my surgery I never got back into running. I'm not totally sure why not. I could make a few guesses, though. I had moved since I first started running and there were no circular neighborhoods or tracks around. I couldn't build up the motivation to run the hilly neighborhood. I didn't have just the right shoes. I didn't have a Garmin Forerunner. I didn't have a heart monitor. I didn't have any good excuses, really.

So after I started barefooting in earnest this last year, I started reading up on the positive aspects of running barefoot. I read Christopher McDougall's Born to Run. I got a pair of Vibram FiveFingers. I think I'm almost ready.

Wait. Almost?

Life's been stressful lately. With my wife having such a difficult pregnancy and us getting ready to move into our own home, I have felt this summer like I need to wait. It just seems to me that we need to get settled a bit into our new home before I set up a training schedule and begin. That should happen in early September.

I'm the type of guy that, when I start something, I need to stick with it and be consistent to see success. It's true for me when "they" say it takes 30 days to develop a habit. If I can start and devote a solid 30 days to running and starting a solid exercise regimen I'll be set. I can foresee, however, that starting that right now would be problematic. Late nights packing would lead to mornings where I want to sleep in a little longer and the cycle gets broken.

Maybe that's more excuses, but I'm the type of guy that likes to set himself up for success. Waiting a bit longer -- however jealous it makes me of all you runners -- is the best way to go.

And this time, I won't just run in circles.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Costco Thanks Shoppers For Wearing Shoes

Costco, a retailer known for selling bulk items wholesale, prefers that its patrons wear shoes in its stores.

This author recently saw the below-pictured sign while entering his local Costco warehouse in the Kansas City metropolitan area. The sign states, "Thank You For...Wearing shoes and shirts while shopping in the warehouse." The sign also kindly requests that children be supervised at all times and states that "briefcases, backpacks, etc." may be searched.

No claims regarding health or safety concerns are made in requesting that shoppers wear shoes or shirts. It is worth noting, however, that any business has the right to make limitations and requests regarding the conduct or appearance of its patrons.

This information is shared for the sole purpose of assisting Barefoot and Grounded readers in making their own decisions about where to take their business. The author makes no claim to the quality of products or services of Costco and neither encourages nor discourages the reader to shop at this establishment. For more information about Costco's policies, the author recommends the reader contact their local store and/or corporate headquarters.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

I Had a Dream

I had an interesting dream last night -- and am trying to frantically write it down before I forget the details.

The basic premise was that I ran across a meeting of a barefoot-employees group at my work. They met on a regular basis to socialize with each other and talk about their barefooting experiences. My friend Seth, who is not an employee where I work, was also there for some reason. Interestingly enough, they all had footwear on at the meeting.

I was setting up some audio-video equipment for someone to use -- I don't know if it was for them or the next group to have the room -- and listened in as a couple of people talked. What they were saying sounded familiar. It was the same kinds of things that barefooters would talk about, but with veiled language. At one point I stopped them and asked, "Wait, do you all like to go barefoot?" When they replied in the affirmative I told them that I do too. I joined them and took off my shoes and socks. I'm not sure if they wanted me to join them, but I did. More on that later.

I talked about my barefooting experiences. I told them that I drive barefoot, try to be barefoot as much as possible away from work and that I've been barefoot in public many times. I also said that I still feel a bit uncomfortable going barefoot in restaurants. They agreed with that.

Right as I was talking about that I became aware that it was time for the meeting to end. Everybody thanked me for what I'd said and got up to disperse to their respective work locations. Seth and I began to walk out of the room when I realized that I was still barefoot! I sat down and put my shoes back on (because I have to wear them according to policy) and said something to the effect of, "Wow, I'm so used to going barefoot that I don't even think about it when I need to put shoes on." We left and the dream ended.

I got the impression during the whole "meeting" that they knew about me before and never wanted to invite me into the group. I also thought it was interesting that a group of barefooters would leave all of their shoes on during a meeting. In the end, the group seemed very "closeted," trying very hard to hide their existence from me.

Interesting. Anybody want to take a stab at interpreting it? Is it worth interpreting at all?

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