Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Top 10 Impacts on Bare Feet in 2010

Since you can't turn on the TV, visit a Web site or read a magazine at this time of year without seeing some recap of the year that was, I thought I'd follow suit, look back and share the top 10 ways that bare feet or going barefooted made an impact in 2010. In this second year of creating this list, some are news items while others are trends or products. You may not have heard of some of the things on my list. Quite honestly, you may not agree with what I've selected or the order in which I've put them. What's important here is that the list is comprised of 10 ways that bare feet became more pervasive and made a name for themselves this year, not necessarily how the public saw them as a whole -- and not necessarily good. The list, in ascending order:


Honorable Mention: The Primalfoot Alliance Begins
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that The Primalfoot Alliance began this year. My brainchild -- but the work of a number of people -- began the process of "Taking Our Feet Back" and advocating for those who choose to go barefoot...even in public. There's a lot more on the horizon for this group. Keep an eye out in 2011.


10. Tiger Woods Likes Them Naked -- His Feet When Practicing, That Is
On the heels of Tiger's respectable #2 finish in my rankings last year for his widely-publicized post-vehicular-crash shoeless nap, he made it known this year that he often practices his golf swings sans footwear. Of his coach Sean Foley, Tiger wrote in a PGA blog, "Sometimes he has me hit shots barefoot, just to work my balance." Cool! So cool, in fact, that there was much speculation ahead of this year's Ryder Cup in early autumn that Tiger would even compete barefoot. Alas, that wasn't meant to be, but kudos to him and his coach for seeing the light shining down on the benefits of barefoot activity.


9. Serena Williams Misses U.S. Open After Cutting Feet in Restaurant
Some barefooters took notice when news broke in July that tennis star Serena Williams cut her foot on a piece of broken glass in a restaurant. As you're likely aware, the threat of broken glass is a common reason for restauranteurs to deny barefoot patrons. This could have ended up as fodder for barefoot-unfriendly folks to continue such discrimination. So was Serena going barefoot at a restaurant? What happened?

Ms. Williams told USA Today that details of the entire event are a bit of a mystery, but that she does know that both of her feet got cut by broken glass while she was wearing sandals and exiting the establishment. She's all better now and back to playing, but the scare left her with a lacerated tendon and a number of stitches.


Wow. It goes to show you that sandals won't even protect against some things, even while they are considered adequate "protection" compared to bare feet by so many naysayers. I think it also is a testament to how footwear "dumbs down" the feet and cuts off some of our senses. I wonder if this would have happened if she were barefoot. Would she have been more aware of her surroundings and, therefore, avoided the glass?



8. Groups Set New Records Sans Shoes
If there's something worth doing, somebody will think it's worth doing more than anyone has ever done it. That applied to bare feet this year as records were made and broken for both walking and running without shoes. Unfortunately, no one in the Western world managed to pull it off...for long.
The Guinness World Record for
Largest Barefoot Walk was
set in China in 2010.

In June, The Barefoot Runners Society made a "run" at the Guinness World Record for Largest Barefoot Race. They set it in early May when 140 of their closest friends ran around an indoor facility in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Their accomplishment was eclipsed in December, however, when 306 runners in Mumbai, India, took part in a barefoot half marathon organized by the Barefoot Runners of India Foundation.

Those who preferred a slower form of shoeless locomotion set their own records this year, too. First, it was 1,141 barefoot people in Chengdu, China, who
walked one kilometer to set the Guinness record for Largest Barefoot Walk in September. The event was organized by Infinitus (China) Company Ltd. as part of their World Walking Day. Not long after their stroll, however, another group of more than 1,900 attempted to break that record in Andhra Pradesh, India, in November. It, however, has not been certified by the folks at Guinness as of this writing.


7. Sesame Street Tells Kids: "Set Your Piggies Free"
Kids love to take off their shoes...and so does Ziggy Marley! The good folks at the Sesame Workshop released a music video on their flagship PBS program "Sesame Street" this year. In short, it reminds kids that shoes don't need to be worn all the time. Aside from a nitpick I have about their implying that bare feet and pavement aren't friendly with each other, it's a cute song. Here's hoping that it helps bolster an army of children who don't fear bare feet on themselves or others as they grow older (and become managers at stores and restaurants). Hey, a barefooter can hope, can't he? Take a look:



6.
"The Barefoot Book" Released by a "Barefoot Professor"
If ever barefooters around the world wanted an instruction manual on the benefits of going barefoot to share with friends, anatomy professor and barefooter Daniel Howell, PhD, released it this year.The Barefoot Book came out in the summer and started making waves in national media by the fall. Within months, Howell began giving interviews with the likes of The Washington Post, MSNBC, NBC, WGN Radio and numerous other outlets. While many of the interviews largely ignored the substantial contents of the book, Howell put a legitimate face on barefoot living and backed it up in writing. I'm excited to see how things progress as Howell continues the interviews in 2011 and The Barefoot Book becomes more widely known.


5. Taylor Swift Performs Barefoot at the VMAs (and Other Celebs Kick Off Their Shoes)
One of the hottest names in music this year was Taylor Swift, and she made waves online when she performed barefoot at the MTV Video Music Awards in September. Her song, seemingly sung to Kanye West, lended itself well to a shoeless performance since going barefoot is often considered a symbol of humility. Afterward, Twitter lit up with all kinds of comments about her lack of shoes. While some were supportive and thought it was cool, many panned her for being so gross, blah, blah, blah. You can read more and see the performance at my blog post about the whole thing.

When Miss Swift wasn't baring her soles, other celebrities made headlines here and there in 2010 for going barefoot, too. They included Michael Franti, Pamela Anderson, Thomas Jane, Diana Vickers and Isabel Lucas, to name a few.



4. Rex Ryan's Foot Fetish Fallout
I was done putting this list together when this bombshell fell out of the sky and I had to bump all the earlier stuff down a notch. Apparently the New York Jets' head coach and his wife like to play "footsie" with each other...and record it...and post it to the Internet. Once the media got wind of it, the Internets lit up with the term "foot fetish," and Ryan had some a'splainin' to do -- or not. "I know you need to ask and all that stuff, but it's a personal matter and I'm really not going to discuss it, OK?" he said in his response to reporters' questions. So sports media folks didn't get any answers and pretty much dropped it. Over and done with, right? Not quite. The media loves a good story and NFL head coaches' foot fetishes make for titillating material, so what's the best way to keep this thing alive as long as possible? Ask sex therapists what they think! Talk about it on The View! And that's just what they did:


Now I'm very clear that I don't consider myself a foot fetishist, but this falls into the "to each his own" category for me. I know that there are many in the barefooting community that DO have foot fetishes, but there are also those who are staunchly opposed to them. I like what the therapist in the aforementioned link said, "It's only defined as a problem when the person or couple define it as a problem." Fair enough. Let's move on.



3. "One Day" Throws the Barefoot Baby Out with the Bath Water
Who doesn't love a great cause to get behind? Nobody! Okay, so there are people throughout the world who don't have any shoes and need access to them sometimes -- emphasis on "sometimes." I can admit that. It's good to have a pair available.

Along comes TOMS Shoes to organize "One Day Without Shoes," encouraging people to nobly go barefoot for a day in April to understand what it's like to live sans footwear. And while you're at it, you can buy a pair of their for-profit footwear and they'll donate a pair to needy children. Huh. Well, fair enough. TOMS claims they knew of more than 250,000 folks who bared their soles for the day for the cause. The theme for this year's "One Day" of bare feet? "It's Hard Without Shoes." Wait, what?

It turns out that to effectively promote your cause of selling shoes to the charitable masses, you have to demonize bare feet -- even though it's the best way to live and most people really can get away with it most of the time. And demonize they did. Folks tweeted and blogged all over the 'Net about how much their feet hurt (which makes sense because their feet aren't used to it) and how they were getting kicked out of some places because of it. Welcome to the barefooters' world, friends. Well, I guess with respect to the last point, it IS hard without shoes...to shop or dine in this country, but I digress. I'll avoid getting into the nitty gritty details of how many things are misguided about TOMS campaign, but will say that it doesn't help the cause of promoting barefoot activity when a company that makes its money from selling shoes can rally so much support for a campaign that primarily is meant to sell their shoes.

On the plus side, at least one young lady decided it
wasn't so hard without shoes that day. She's kept a barefoot lifestyle going since that day. At least there's some hope.


2. Lieberman Study Data Takes "Barefoot" Running to the Next Level
What could get supporters of barefoot running even more hyped about the sport following the success of Christopher McDougall's book Born to Run? (#1 on my list last year) Proof! And that's just what they got in the results of the Harvard study, "Biomechanics of Foot Strikes & Applications to Running Barefoot or in Minimal Footwear" published in Nature in January. In a nutshell -- help, I'm in a nutshell! -- Daniel Lieberman, PhD, et al showed evidence that running with a forefoot strike ala barefoot running creates less force on the body.

Yours truly running barefoot in
the Hospital Hill 5K in Kansas City,
June 2010.
What happened next eclipsed anything we'd seen from Born to Run. Media outlets everywhere picked up on the results and fitness folks all over were talking about it. Podiatrists came out of the woodwork stressing caution. The term "barefoot shoes" started to permeate everyday culture. Enough Vibram Fivefingers got out there that most people had at least seen or heard of them -- possibly through a friend who had a pair.

One event that made waves among the barefoot community was the first ever New York City Barefoot Run, a pilgrimage of sorts. About 265 barefoot runners from all around the U.S. and world, including many of the most well-known, converged on The Big Apple for the event. Though I didn't go, I heard that a great time was had by all. We can expect to see it a second year, and many more similar events spring up all over the place in the years to come.

The barefoot running movement and research on the sport will continue for a long time after 2010. In early December, not one year after the study started making waves, another leading researcher announced that she was leaving her school to conduct research alongside Lieberman. Irene Davis, PhD, a barefoot runner herself, left the University of Delaware to help launch a running center at Harvard Medical School. I think it's safe to say that we've only scratched the surface on what we know about running without shoes. What's more, we should see more studies coming out in the next few years to empirically back up what many of us already know about the benefits of running barefoot.


1. The "Barefoot Bandit" Gets Nabbed
He fought the law, and
the law finally won.
(Cue the "Real Men of Genius" music) Here's to you, Mr. "Barefoot Bandit" Colton Harris-Moore. You jumped all the way from #5 on last year's Top 10 list to the prime spot in 2010. And boy, did you do it in style -- and completely barefoot. (He ain't got no shoes on!) You nabbed our hearts while the police nabbed you in The Bahamas. Nobody else could have evaded authorities for more than a year while robbing places and snatching airplanes on the joy ride of a lifetime. (The BALLOON BOY has nothing on YOU!) While we barefooters just try to avoid getting a talking to from security at the local mall, you tried to see what kind of Cessna was available to steal undetected from the closest airport. (I'll TAKE the one in RED!) Now, we don't condone the illegal things you did... (You can STILL fly as a JAILBIRD!) .. but we have to admit that we admire that you often did it without shoes. That's...pretty...cool. (Mr. "Barefoot Bandit" Colton Harris-Moore!)

All right. Enough antics. Man, can you believe that kid? He started his spree in 2008 and wasn't caught until July of 2010. What's more, he got all the way across the country in that time!


He made such an impact in the news this year that Time Magazine even
named him #4 of their "Top 10 Fleeting Celebrities" of the year. That's why he definitely deserves the top spot here. It remains to be seen what impact his barefoot adventures had on society's perceptions of bare feet, but one writer tried to quickly cut off negative views at the knees by writing a post called, "Not all 'barefooters' are bandits." It actually is worth a read, highlighting a few barefooters of notoriety.

We'll see what happens to Harris-Moore. Maybe he can share with his fellow inmates all the benefits of going barefoot...in the shower...with soap on a rope. :-\



So what do you think of this list? Was there something that you think was a huge omission? What struck you as the top impacts on bare feet -- good or bad -- this year? Please leave your comments in the section below.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Bare Feet v. 'Barefoot' Shoes: The BIG Difference

I've got a bone to pick with some people. When barefoot running, Vibram Fivefingers (VFF) and other minimalist shoes became so popular, the lexicon used to describe how we cover -- or don't cover -- our feet became muddled. Search Twitter or read news articles about the phenomenon, and you hear people talking about "barefoot shoes" or how they are loving running "barefoot" with their VFFs.

As confusing as it is to call something barefoot when it's obviously not, the issue gets even worse when people tell their friends, "Wearing (fill in the blank minimalist footwear) is just like being barefoot." Those of us who subscribe to fully bare feet are often asked, "Why not just wear flip flops? Isn't it the same?" My answer to both of those questions: "No, it's not the same." And let me give an example why.

All of us have cut a finger or had a hang nail in such a way that we've needed to cover a finger tip with a Band Aid-like bandage. It protects the injury and promotes healing, but it also does something else: It screws up our hands! Ever tried typing with a bandage on the tip of your index finger? It's weird. You don't like it. Beyond typing, you automatically adjust how you use your fingers and hands based on that one little bandage. Your index finger may still work perfectly fine. Your fingers may still be able to flex, bend and move just as before. But with a bandage on it's still...different...and wrong.

What's changed so drastically just by adding that small bandage? Sensation. You can no longer feel things with your fingertip. The digit may bend and move like normal, but the cut-off sensation between you and what your touching is difficult to handle.

The muted sensation when wearing a bandage for a cut finger is the same muted sensation when wearing minimalist footwear or flip flops. Sure, your feet may be flexible in VFFs and have no cushioning. Yes, feet are generally exposed to all elements in flip flops. But the key difference between that footwear -- any footwear -- and going barefoot is the lack of sensation between our soles and the ground.

Don't believe me? Try this: Grab a box of cheap bandages and wrap them around the tips of all 10 of your fingers. Next, just do what you normally do. Type on the computer. Use the restroom. Eat a meal. I have a feeling that it won't be long before you're itching to take the things off because you can't "feel" anything. Remember: There's nothing wrong with your fingers. Your hands can flex just as well as normal. They can breathe just as well as normal. It's just that there's no sensation where it matters most. You've put "flip flops" on your fingers.

I'd estimate that ground sensation is at least half of the benefit of going barefoot for me. I do enjoy my feet not being cramped inside stiff shoes and I like the fact that I don't have to rely on cushioning, but no matter what footwear I put on I'm always missing 50% of the experience of bare feet. I like a Tweet that Daniel Howell, PhD, author of The Barefoot Book, posted a little while back. Paraphrased, it went something like this:
"To those who say running in minimalist footwear is like running barefoot, I welcome you to actually run barefoot and then say that it's the same."
The media and others -- including minimalist footwear manufacturers -- need to stop calling those products "barefoot." They're not and never will be. I don't have anything against this footwear as tools for protecting the feet or keeping them warm as necessary, but "barefoot" they are not.

What do you think of calling minimalist footwear "barefoot" shoes? Do you ever go fully barefoot outside your home or do you wear minimalist footwear? Is my comparison between finger bandages and flip flops on or off the mark? Please leave your comments in the section below. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Vote! (with your feet)

Today is a huge day in the United States as voters go to the polls for "mid-term" elections. Voters will decide on all members of the U.S. House of Representatives and 1/3 of the Senate as well as countless state and local candidates and ballot issues. That got me thinking. What if there were a campaign for your feet...
"Senator Shoe sure talks a good talk, but does he walk a good walk? NO! He promises greater comfort and health year after year, but painfully lets us down by promoting Big Fashion and siding with President Ignorance on bunions, corns, fungus, ingrown nails, hammertoes and fallen arches! He says he's making our lives better, but they just get worse and we stay isolated from positive relations with the ground below. Isn't it time for REAL change in Walkington?
"Bare Feet is for less footwear and more freedom. He thinks you should keep more control of your own health and comfort. During his time in the Summer, Bare Feet consistently voted for healthier skin, straighter toes, stronger muscles and giving control back to your own body. He consistently listens to feedback from the ground instead of cutting off communications. If you vote for him this November, Bare Feet will fight for better temperature regulation instead of leaving you out in the cold.
"Bare Feet. Less Restrictive. Healthier. More Comfortable.
"The Take-Back-Control-of-Your-Own-Body Fund is responsible for the content of this advertisement."
Now, I'm no fan of negative ads, but I think this does a good job of illustrating just what feet are up against. Shoes really are NOT in the best interest of our feet. Going barefoot is really the best way to let our feet take care of themselves and ward off all the nasties that are caused -- or at least perpetuated -- by shoes.

Vote for Bare Feet! The more that we go barefoot, the more that society will see it's okay and not harmful to ourselves or others. The more that we advocate for our natural right to keep our shoes off, the more people will see that it's not right to discriminate against feet and force us to wear shoes.

And yes it is getting colder, but if you acclimatize yourself to cooler temperatures then you can go barefoot outdoors in above-freezing temperatures and certainly indoors. For more info. on that, see my previous blog post, "Don't Get Cold Feet About Bare Feet As Cooler Months Approach."

What do you think of this analogy of our feet in an election against shoes? What other campaign promises does "Senator Shoe" make and not keep? Please leave your comments in the section below.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

If Moses Lived Today...

As a Christian, I couldn't help but smirk at this comment left by "Barefoottrailrunner" at an article on the Washington Post Website about my friend and fellow barefooter, Daniel Howell, PhD. So, so true:

God: Moses, take off your shoes. You are on holy ground.*

Moses: But God, do I have to? I mean, what if I step on something icky? Or a fire ant nest? Or a nail, or broken glass? Aren't there health codes? What if I get plantar fasciitis? What if people think my feet look funny?

God (shakes head ruefully): Silly humans. Why, oh why do I bother?


* - Exodus 3:5 and Acts 7:33

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Shoot the Glass!: Is 'Die Hard' Partially to Blame?

I just had a fleeting thought and wanted to write a quick post about it. It boggles my imagination that people think that there's SO MUCH broken glass around that threatens anyone that dare go barefoot. Why is this? Honestly, if people just stop and think for just a moment, they'll realize that this isn't true. But then I got to thinking about one of the most popular action movies of all time.

In 1988's Die Hard, John McClane (played by Bruce Willis) saves the Nakatomi building and all its hostages while totally barefoot. He'd taken his shoes off to release stress by making "fists with his toes," and by the time he realized that major (expletive) was going down, it was too late to go back for footwear.

In the film, he cuts his feet up something fierce. He has to when the bad guys shoot up an office area full of glass partitions in order to intentionally cause harm to him. It's an incredibly memorable part of the movie.

Maybe too memorable.

Has society's fear of stepping on broken glass developed partially from a fictional action story? Do people have an unconscious fear of broken glass in part from this famous flick? What say you, Mr. McClane?

"How is this MY fault?"

Friday, October 8, 2010

Review: Dr. Scholl's For Her Fast Flats

Opening remarks from Barefoot Michael:

I prefer to stay barefoot as much as possible -- even often in public. I find it to be comfortable and even healthy and safe. While my wife, Glenda, is not a "die hard" barefooter like myself, she is accepting of my barefoot lifestyle and tries to stay barefoot as much as possible, too. She doesn't often go barefoot out in public, but still prefers more minimal footwear if she wears shoes.

A new, easily-found minimal shoe is now on the market and targeted to women for wearing after hours in heels. I thought my sweetheart might like to try them as an everyday minimal shoe and asked her to review a pair. The following are her thoughts. Keep in mind that they're from the context of putting them through the paces as a potential everyday minimalist shoe, something that they are NOT marketed as. I'll pop in (with italics) to make little comments or to add more information as necessary.

Dear readers, the lovely Barefoot Glenda:

From Dr. Scholl's for Her
Facebook Page
A while back, my hubby texted me that while at Walgreens I should pick up a pair of Dr. Scholl's For Her Fast Flats. I had seen them advertised on TV, and since I enjoy going barefoot or wearing minimalist footwear I thought I'd give them a try as an everyday minimalist shoe.

Just a little insight into why I don't wear more traditional shoes: About seven years ago I was diagnosed with tendinitis in my toes from wearing shoes that were either too tight or had a heel. The recommendation from the doc was to wear round or square toed flats. I also found as a special education teacher that I needed to be able to wear shoes that I could easily run in. So that is when I stopped wearing most heels and started wear minimalist footwear.

So here is what happened when I wore them and how the shoes held up:

Style

The shoes are a cute ballet slipper type. They have a bow over the toe box and have a leathery feel. There is an elastic band sewn into the top of the heel which allows you to put on and take off the shoes easily. The band also helps the shoes stay on without slipping. The shoes look a lot like many of the other ballet slipper types out there, and most people wouldn't know that they're Fast Flats unless you tell them or they have some of their own. I did notice that Fast Flats only come in black. At least, this only color available where I bought mine. That's not really a problem unless your wanting brown or gray or any other color. ;-)


Quality

I've worn the shoes nearly every day since I purchased them. The quality isn't what I had hoped for. I'm one of those people who keeps shoes as long as I can, and if I really like them, I wear them, A LOT! After having them for just a few weeks, I am disappointed in the quality of the shoes. They are showing wear around the toe box where the sole and body are sewn together. In most places it's just the covering wearing off, but at the ball of my large toe, the seem is actually splitting (pictured below). :-(

Michael here: Keep in mind, however, that these shoes are NOT meant to be regular footwear. They are intended as a "club to car" shoe with limited long-term use. That said, it's not overly surprising that they're not terribly durable, but it's worth noting IF you're considering these for more everyday use.

Cost

The shoes are relatively cost effective (at a suggested price of $12.99 USD), but like I said earlier, I like my shoes to LAST! I also like a good bargain and rarely pay more than $20 for a pair of shoes. (Since I often go barefoot, that doesn't tend to be a problem.) The Fast Flats were $12.50 where I bought them in a suburb of Kansas City. M: Other retailers have been found that sell them for $9.99. Dr. Scholl's does offer a money back guarantee if you're not satisfied with the Fast Flats.

Fit and Comfort

Seeing that these shoes are similar to slippers, I expected them to fit well right away. That's not exactly what happened. At first glance, the Fast Flats appeared to be non-foot specific. When my hubby put them on me, they felt awkward right away and the toe box pinched. After I switched them, I realized they are foot specific and the awkwardness went away. Unfortunately, they still pinched my toes and felt too small for my feet. I normally wear between a 4 and a 6 so I bought the 5/6. I thought it was pretty strange that the shoes felt too small and almost went back to the store to buy the 7/8. I decided to wait and see if the shoes began to feel better with time, and I just needed to "break them in." Even now, my toes feel slightly pinched. I did trim my toe nails (they were not exceeding long) and that helped them feel less tight on the tips of my toes. My feet are pretty average width, and I'm not sure that Fast Flats would fit well on someone with narrow or wide feet. There are a variety of sizes, but I didn't see any that were mad specifically for someone who does not have average foot width.

Barefoot Sensation and Movement

The soles on the Fast Flats are remarkably flexible and thin and yet don't pierce easily. My first real trial wearing the Fast Flats was at my husband's work picnic where the trails were gravel. The soles were thin enough to make it feel almost as though I wasn't wearing shoes at all, yet thick enough to not be pierced by the rocks. When we arrived home that evening, my feet hurt and I chose to wear a different pair of shoes the next day that had a thicker, cushier sole. The sole does have traction on the bottom, and sliding has not been problem like with other footwear. They are also thin enough to feel the different temperatures and wetness.

I wore Fast Flats on a Saturday to one of my husband's races. The pavement was quite warm (80+ degrees F outside) and the soles of my feet felt rather warm too. Not really uncomfortable, but noticeably warm. When shopping in the grocery store, the freezer section made my feet uncomfortably cold. I also accidentally stepped in a puddle which made my foot damp. It wasn't too bad, but somewhat irritating.

Extras

Dr. Scholl's For Her Fast Flats come with a small gold purse that the slippers are literally rolled into cylinders to fit into. This is how the shoes are packaged and how they are purchased. It would be difficult to try these on before purchasing, but as noted earlier, you can receive a full refund if you're not satisfied. You would not, however, have a place to put your heels when switching to Fast Flats as shown in the commercial. The gold purse is stylish and has a small pocket inside perfect for your license and cash. I can fit my cell phone, clip on sun glasses case, and a package of Tic Tacs in mine. My wallet and keys are too big, but I suppose I could take my car and house keys off the ring and slide them in the small pocket as well. The purse has a small wrist handle to make it easier to hang onto it.

Final Words

Honestly, I've never been in the club scene. I'm sure these shoes would be good for giving your feet a break while dancing and clubbing and general indoor use. Since I am usually barefoot indoors, I only really wore the Fast Flats outdoors which is probably why they started to wear in just a few weeks. For me, Fast Flats are ideal for a "back-up" shoe in places where I can't go barefoot. I can simply roll them up in the purse and keep them in my glove compartment to use when the need arises. Fast Flats are a fair quality, cute shoe. I'm not sure they're the best minimalist shoe because of the toe pinching and lack of quality when wearing them out doors.

Barefoot Michael's Final Thoughts

I can't thank my wife enough for reviewing these shoes. I've known of this kind of shoe for a while, but none has been as widely distributed or easily attained as Dr. Scholl's For Her Fast Flats.

From a barefooter's perspective, they really do seem like a good "backup" shoe for when going barefoot isn't allowed. I don't think they'd be great to run in, but I do think they'd be great for a lady to have in her purse or bag in case she gets stopped by the "shoe police" in a store or restaurant. If a woman prefers to wear something into a venue and then remove her shoes, these would fit the bill perfectly as well.

I don't think they're durable enough to wear all day every day if a woman walks or stands a lot for her job, but a woman who does minimal walking around the workplace might find value in them.

One last note: After writing an introduction about Fast Flats on this blog, I was sent several messages from the folks at Footzyrolls, a company that makes a similar product. They vigorously promoted their own product and accused Dr. Scholl's of stealing their idea. Pointing fingers aside, the reason I wanted to post a review of Fast Flats is because they are inexpensive and so widely available. Granted, Footzyrolls offer many different styles of the rollable flat, but Fast Flats are available pretty much EVERYWHERE and for less money. Whereas you can go down to your local drug store or Walmart and pick up Fast Flats for just about one Alexander Hamilton, Footzyrolls can only be ordered on their site and start at about twice the cost.

Have you tried the Dr. Scholl's Fast Flats? Footzyrolls? Both? Do you think you'd be willing to go barefoot more often if you could carry these around as a "backup" shoe if needed? At about $10-13 a pop, is it worth it to buy these to use until they are worn out and then buy another? Please leave your comments in the section below. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Terra Plana Shows Off VivoBarefoot 'Ultra' and 'Achilles' Lines for 2011 Release

UK-based shoe maker Terra Plana is beginning to show off what it has in store for it's Vivo Barefoot brand of footwear in 2011. Park City Television, an independent broadcaster in Utah, interviewed Terra Plana head designer Asher Clark in August at the Outdoor Retailer summer expo held in Salt Lake City. He showed off two previously-unseen lines of Vivo Barefoot footwear: the Ultra, a vented shoe that looks like the love child of the company's Evo and a Crocs sandal and the Achilles, a sandal that looks like Terra Plana's Dopie sandal with some covering and a reconfigured strap.

The Ultra

Though not intended for release until sometime in 2011, FitnessFootwear.com actually has a listing for this model. Their posted description: "The Vivo Barefoot Ultra is the first fully molded, amphibious, barefoot running shoe.With functional plug-in tongue and laces for maximum fit and performance, the Vivobarefoot Ultra is lightest amphibious barefoot running product on the market. Made with eco friendly EVA, the Ultra is ideal for beach side runs or splashing through trail streams."

As I mentioned earlier, the Ultra looks like an Evo made of the same material as Crocs sandals. Clark said of the shoe, "It's just impossibly lightweight" and "a great and legitimate running shoe in it's own right," but that it's also good for activities around the water because it easily lets water in and out. A laced shoe, the Ultra is also somewhat convertible. The wearer can choose to don it by itself or also with either a removable tongue or mesh "sock" (pictured above) with puncture-resistant sole.

Clark announced no pricing for the Ultra, but Fitness Footwear's listing had it listed for £59.95, roughly $95 USD. There was also no word on color options that will be available. While Clark showed off a white model, it's reasonable to assume that multiple colors will be available at release.

The Achilles

The Vivo Barefoot Achilles will be replacing the Dopie sandal in North and South America in 2011 according to email correspondence I've had with Terra Plana's Sabra Ellingson. She pointed out that because the Dopie isn't on the Vivo Barefoot sole and has some arch support, they wanted to "do better" at making a minimalist sandal. Enter the Achilles.

The Achilles shares the same unique split-toe characteristic of the Dopie, but the similarities pretty much end there. Clark mentioned it's made out of a "fully molded" soft-compound TPA material, but it appears that the sandal also has an inner sole made out of Terra Plana's infamous puncture-resistant material for greater protection. It has a few new design characteristics as well as new compounds. As you can see from the photo, there is material that comes over the top of the foot similar to the way a flip flop's straps would, but it remains to be seen how that translates into the feel or function of the sandal. A unique strap looks like it loops through either side of the Achilles before going over the top of the foot and around the back of the heel.

Clark said the Achilles is inspired by the "Tarahumara running sandal" but brings it into the 21st century. The strap, according to Clark, "locks your foot in place" for more effective running.

There was no mention of a price for the Achilles and I was unable to find any online retailer that had it listed as of this posting.

Now, the video (discussion of the Ultra and Achilles begins at about 1:45):


Conclusion

The Ultra and Achilles look like interesting new products for the Vivo Barefoot line in 2011. While they seem more than adequate for just "kicking around" in them, I'm curious to see how they hold up with running. More importantly, I'd be curious to get other runners' reactions to how the models treat their feet over long distances. It would be nice if the Achilles was a little more "minimal" than they appear to be, but I fully understand that Terra Plana would design the sandals for a wider audience than just the die-hard barefooters like myself.

I *should* be getting a pair of Achilles to review when they're released. If I do, I'll be sure to let you know what I think.

What do you think of these new models from Terra Plana's Vivo Barefoot line? Would you be interested in wearing them? Do you think they are "minimalist" enough to be an adequate shoe for barefooters? Please let me know in the comments below.

Monday, October 4, 2010

An Interview with a Podiatrist and 'Barefoot Advocate,' Dr. Steve Bloor

While there are many of us lay people out there who embrace unshod living, it's rare to find people in the medical profession who are supportive of such activity. Medical providers like podiatrists and sports orthopedists tend to have a very shoe-centric way of thinking about the role of feet and our locomotion.

A while back I ran across the Twitter account of Steve Bloor, DPodM, SRCh, HPC, a podiatrist in the United Kingdom. Using the Twitter handle @NaturalFeet, Dr. Bloor was posting "tweets" that promote barefoot activity as a way to have healthy feet. How refreshing! After getting to know him a bit, I asked if he'd be amenable to an interview on this blog. He graciously accepted.

The following are his responses to my questions. I think they offer an interesting insight into the field of podiatry and how it approaches feet and barefoot activity. (Note: Responses in large type are emphases added by me.) Enjoy:

Tell us a little about yourself, your education, certifications, etc.
I am 46 years old and been in Podiatry for 25 years. I am married to Liz and we have 4 children. Two boys and two girls. Our oldest is 18 and youngest 10 and they keep us young. I trained to degree level back in the mid-80s and after graduating in Podiatric Medicine specialized in Musculo-skeletal Podiatry dealing with orthopaedic lower-limb and back problems associated with poor biomechanics. About 12 years ago a Podiatry colleague and friend, Andy Horwood, and I were the lead designers of a range of customisable foot orthoses which are widely used in the UK and also other parts of the world. We both regularly lectured and taught workshops, throughout the UK, on the biomechanics of lower-limb function and the prescription and fitting of functional foot orthoses. As founder members of the British Podiatric Biomechanics Group we helped to set-up what is believed to be the first Masters Degree programme in the world in Clinical Podiatric Biomechanics. Andy went on to become one of the main lecturers on this Masters Programme which runs at Staffordshire University, England. I continued to lecture around the UK as guest lecturer for Healthy Step UK and Bailey Instruments who are major suppliers to the British Podiatry Profession. Our customisable foot orthotic devices are now used by over 80% of UK NHS Podiatry Departments as well as many private practices.

What made you want to get into the field of podiatry in the first place?
My initial interest in Podiatry as a profession came through my own personal experiences with running injuries. I realized that my own legs and feet were extremely important to my running career and since I was injured I could empathise with injured athletes. So it became a personal mission to help other athletes to run without injury and help injured athletes overcome their injuries wherever possible. I became fascinated in the single most complex human activity - human gait. Of course I also enjoyed treating non-athletes too. I developed my clinical practice to the point where I could specialise exclusively in Musculo-skeletal Podiatry; one of the first to do so in the UK.

In your schooling and training, what was the general philosophy behind the practice of podiatry? What role did feet play in the body's overall health?
In my schooling as a podiatrist and at post-graduate level there was, and is, a general understanding that our role in foot medicine and surgery is to help the patient ambulate, in footwear, without pain. To assist the body to function in gait as near to the optimum norm as possible. Normal gait is always considered to be with footwear.

Although we knew that our job was to negate the damaging effects of shoes, never once did it occur to me, nor was it ever discussed, that the patient could ever choose between barefoot and shoes.

Our goal was to advise the patient to choose "sensible shoes" so as the foot could work at its optimum. We also believed that at least 70% of the world's population had poor bio-mechanical function of their feet and legs and therefore needed our podiatric foot orthoses. That most people are born with "broken feet". That evolution/creation made a big mistake and we function best in footwear. Never once did we consider that the human foot could cope on its own. We believe that we, as podiatrists, have the answer to most people's foot and lower-limb problems. One eminent paediatric podiatrist even went so far as to openly advise that all children should wear foot orthoses to optimise foot and ankle development. We believed that the foot developed better if supported in a correct alignment by foot orthoses and supportive "sensible" shoes. It is believed that only a few very special people have "perfect biomechanics" of their feet and legs, and these are the only ones who can run without supportive running shoes, the majority of us needing stability shoes and orthoses in order to prevent injuries. We believed the foot cannot and should not support itself or it would suffer long-term damage. Amazingly, we never studied true natural, barefoot, primal gait. We only ever studied shod gait or the barefoot gait of people who have always worn shoes, which I now realise is different from true natural gait.

Our medical philosophy is based around the foot playing a very important role in the health of the rest of the body because of its unique position as the first and only part of the body to hit the ground. It is therefore believed that like a tall building, whatever the foundations do affects the rest of the body. So every part of the body is affected somewhat by the foot due to its mechanical function as the structural foundation. We acknowledge also the fact that other structures distant from the foot can likewise affect the foot. So abnormal muscle function farther up the leg and back can cause compensatory motion in the foot. We assess the mechanical function of the pelvis and lower-limb joints and muscles all the way down to the foot joints looking for abnormalities. We assess stance and gait looking for structural and functional abnormalities and their compensations. Of course, we also assess neurology and circulation to the lower-limb as well as checking the health of skin and nails.

Would you consider yourself a barefoot-friendly podiatrist? Why or why not?
I now consider myself not just a barefoot friendly podiatrist, but a Barefoot Advocate. I now believe very strongly that most feet, given a chance, can support themselves. That feet function best without the hindrance of shoes. I believe that every shoe compromises foot function and that with chronic, long-term wear they damage the muscles, joints, nerve pathways and other structures within the foot. I now believe that supportive shoes, and orthotics when worn, create a dependency which worsens with time. I now advocate, and actively promote, barefoot walking and running as a preventative as well as a rehabilitative tool. I am proud of being a Barefoot Podiatrist, both in action and word. I promote barefoot walking and running to my patients by a "Barefeet Welcome Here" sign in the clinic window, folders of Barefoot news articles and research papers in the waiting room as well as copies of The Barefoot Book by Daniel Howell for patients to read whilst waiting for their consultation. I sell The Barefoot Book and the book Born to Run as part of the treatment advice to patients. I teach rehab exercises to strengthen the feet and ankles and have a barefoot website www.naturalfeet.co.uk to give my patients further advice and encouragement. I also sell 'Minimalist Footwear' for those patients who will not, or cannot go the whole way to becoming completely barefoot. I sell therapy products for bare feet like moisturising creams and rough skin files to smooth any rough dry skin on heels. And finally I walk and run barefoot 24/7 to set the example (apart from at church where I cover my feet out of respect for my church leaders' requests).

Have your approaches to podiatry and the way you treat patients changed over the years? How so and why?
My approach to treatment has changed dramatically over the last few years as I have incorporated more rehabilitation into the treatment programmes and not relied so much on orthoses for continued postural and functional control. However, over the last 6 months that change has become a massive paradigm shift in thinking as I now believe the foot is well designed for supporting itself and the rest of the body if it is given a chance to do so without being hindered by footwear.

I also believe that most people do not have significant bio-mechanical mal-alignments, but rather weakened muscles and poor postural control due to over-reliance on footwear.

Most osseous bio-mechanical problems are irrelevant in barefoot walkers & runners. So I now place most emphasis on rehabilitation rather than orthotic control and also encourage my patients to walk & run barefoot as much as possible. I will often mobilise or manipulate stiff joints to improve foot and leg function then teach patients exercises to maintain and increase that movement, along with barefoot exercise. Sometimes I will tape the feet to encourage better function. As we live on a beautiful peninsula jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean I prescribe barefoot beach walking and running to strengthen weak foot and leg muscles and to mobilise stiff joints. I also refer patients to our clinic physiotherapist and personal fitness trainer where needed to aid rehabilitation. I still prescribe foot orthoses sometimes, though only temporarily when tissue stress relief is required to aid healing the injured structures and to re-educate the muscles by improving postural alignment.

How do your patients react when you recommend barefoot activity? Do they embrace it well or are many hesitant to bare their feet for better health?
Surprisingly, quite a few patients (mainly over 40 years of age) used to walk barefoot as children and are very accepting of the concept. Because we live in a coastal area with lots of seaside resorts and beaches most people here are okay with barefoot walking in these areas and around their houses and gardens. Most do not want to walk barefooted in public areas in town or shopping centres. I have very little problem persuading patients to go for barefoot walks up & down the local sandy beaches as part of their rehabilitation exercises. The majority of my patients are really excited to discover that they won't have to wear orthotics for the rest of their lives if they strengthen their feet. Some prefer to wear minimalist shoes like Vibram FiveFingers and Vivo Barefoot shoes to help with strengthening the foot during walking and running. None have become barefooters to the extent they go out in public except at the beach, though in time that may happen as a few people have been keen enough to buy Daniel Howell's The Barefoot Book and Born to Run. I have only been practicing Barefoot Podiatry for about 4 months. It took me a couple of months to come to terms with barefoot walking being better than shod and rethinking all my old podiatric bio-mechanical theories of gait. During that time I had many sleepless nights whilst I adjusted my thinking. Some days I even began to believe I would have to give up working in my profession because it didn't fit with my new beliefs about barefoot gait. I have now become comfortable with my new Barefoot Podiatry paradigm. And am excited to have a new professional focus. I feel I am on a mission to help other health professionals understand the barefoot gait paradigm. At the end of this month I will be lecturing to podiatrist in our county and in November I am lecturing for 7 hours at the British School of Osteopathy on Barefoot Podiatry.

If someone were interested in more barefoot activity, what recommendations do you have for them to get started?
When a patient is keen to do some barefoot walking or running I tend to start them off with foot strengthening exercises first, because most of my patients are already injured (I reckon 90% of patients attending podiatrists' clinics are injured by the chronic wearing of shoes). I warn them to be cautious about getting carried away with enthusiasm and advise a slow, careful transition into barefoot activities by going for short walks at first and gradually increasing the time spent barefoot walking. I also prescribe barefoot beach walking or running, and encourage them to walk barefoot around their home and garden. If they are amenable to the idea of barefoot hiking I get them to do that too. Some of my patients buy The Barefoot Book &/or Born to Run and I advise them to use my naturalfeet website to learn more about barefoot activity. For those patients who believe in the barefoot concept yet won't or can't go barefoot, I advise and sell them Minimalist Footwear.

What role do you believe footwear should play in our lives, if any?
I believe footwear should play an important, but infrequent role in our lives for protection just like we use gloves for our hands. And just like gloves we should remove the footwear as soon as the purpose for them as been achieved. There are times when we need to protect our feet from extremes of cold and heat just like when our ancestors first started to wear leather shoes thousands of years ago. And of course when carrying out jobs where there is a risk of physical injury to our feet. Some people, though not needing them for physical protection, wrongly will need to wear shoes for their employment due to cultural expectations of their employer or clients. In these cases I would advise they wear minimalist shoes to reduce the negative effects on their feet and of course go barefoot whenever they can. In saying that shoes may be needed for protection, I believe this is actually very rare. Most barefooters become more aware of their physical surroundings by being barefooted and so are naturally more careful. It seems that the sensory perception of the surrounding environment is enhanced by being barefoot so most of the risks of physical harm are never actually realised, just like we don't routinely hurt our hands during the day even though we may place them at risk of harm during the course of our work or recreation. So I actually think most people could go barefoot more than they at first believe. I believe the biggest barrier to barefoot activity is psychological!

Are there any types of people for whom you believe barefoot activity is inadvisable or a lost cause?
The biggest barrier to barefoot activity is psychological! Some people will never enjoy barefoot activity because their minds cannot or will not accept it. On the other-hand there are sadly a few people who would like to enjoy barefoot activity, but cannot or should not try to walk barefoot much or at all, especially outdoors. These few people would find it difficult or impossible because of physical disabilities within the foot and leg. Some of these disabling problems are minor & others more serious. There are some people who have weakened or damaged their feet so much through chronic overuse of shoes that their feet have become dependent on footwear. Some of these problems include atrophy (thinning) of the plantar fat pad , arthritis of the foot joints (particularly mid-foot joints) & damaged muscle tendons through chronic flat-footedness. Other people may have muscle disease which affects their ability to rehabilitate, or a neurological disease which inhibits their tactile sensory perception, like diabetic neuropathy. I would like to make the distinction here between those who have diabetes mellitis with no sensory neuropathy and those with damaged nerves in their feet; the former are perfectly safe to carry out barefoot activities whilst the latter are obviously at risk.

Many podiatrists seem very hesitant to recommend barefoot activity due to concern over liability if patients end up cutting their feet or otherwise getting hurt by it. There are also arguments that recommending barefoot activity goes against "best practices" and that there's no scientific evidence to back up such a recommendation. How would you respond to that?
In the UK patients are not as litigious. They view barefoot activity as a risk they take upon themselves. When I explain how we are evolved/created to walk and run barefoot and I explain some of the anatomical features which make barefoot activity natural, they see the logic in it and they can very easily understand and believe it. Very few see the logical need for shoes, though most are reluctant to walk barefoot in public due to social stigmas and cultural expectations. As far as being in compliance with best clinical practice, in the UK currently the vast majority of podiatrists preach that supportive shoes are required, but there is no 'Best Practice' policy of which I am aware. I would have no qualms about defending myself if anyone did take issue with me preaching the barefoot line.

There is more than enough scientific research to back up our barefoot position and very little if any to back up the shod position as being healthy!

You just have to look at the references in Professor Howell's book to see that. In fact, I believe it is the podiatrists who preach that shoes are required for maintaining healthy feet that are in a difficult scientific position. This is part of the reason I have taken my barefoot stance because I was unable to defend that position any more. Rather like the Tobacco industry should have been more open about the risks of cancer from smoking cigarettes, I feel that as a podiatrist I need to warn my patients about the risks from shoes. I believe in doing what is right and letting the consequences follow!

Finally, as well as believing that natural barefoot gait should be the norm I tried the experiment myself. I was challenged by a physiotherapy friend to do what I believed. So in July I did. I have been barefoot 24/7 ever since (apart from a couple of times at church out of respect for my church ministers wishes -- but he now understands and is more accepting -- and also when I perform nail surgery in order to protect my feet from blood and chemicals). I am now barefoot at work in my clinic, out hiking through the woods and on the cliff paths. I have also started running again after 20 years, this time barefoot. I have run up to 3 miles so far, with none of the problems which stopped me running when I wore running shoes. The personal experiment has worked for me and is working for my patients too. What is so satisfying is having the ability to heal my patients from injuries which have resisted treatment with orthotics and shoes prior to introducing barefoot strengthening exercises, but now they are doing well.

Final thoughts?
The future is exciting for barefooters. It is wonderful to see the growing acceptance of people in our modern shoe-oriented Western Societies beginning to realise the fallacy and misuse of footwear. It is great to see some enlightened shoe manufacturers starting to make shoes which allow more of the natural function of the feet with minimalist footwear. The ball has been cut and is rolling, it is gathering speed and cannot be stopped. It is a blessing to be involved in this great cause! To be able to improve people's health through enlightening them of the dangers of the overuse of shoes. For the first time in my 25 year career I feel I really understand the cause of foot problems and now have a tool to cure people. Primal Gait! Let's sound the warning cry to the world to "Eschew Shoes!"

I thank Dr. Bloor for his enthusiastic willingness to participate in this interview and his very interesting, informative responses. Please understand, however, that his answers should not be used as medical advice and Dr. Bloor and I waive all liability from your use of the information in his responses. I personally recommend that my readers seek out medical advice from their own medical providers to make sure that you are physically fit enough to begin barefoot activity and to rule out any other diagnoses that otherwise could complicate or detract from a barefoot lifestyle -- or even be aggravated by going barefoot.

What do you think of Dr. Bloor's responses? Does this give you a new outlook on barefoot activity? What, if anything, have your medical provider(s) said to you about barefoot activity? Please leave your responses in the comments section below. Thanks for reading.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Don't Get Cold Feet About Bare Feet As Cooler Months Approach

Many people are open to the idea of going without shoes in the summertime, but get "cold feet" about the idea of baring their feet in the fall and winter months. It's true that we humans would typically prefer to be warm instead of cold. That said, there are still ways that you can get yourself -- and your feet -- more comfortable with the idea of going without shoes as the days get shorter.

Among questions regarding broken glass or fungal infections, another concern that we barefooters regularly hear about is cold feet. "Don't your feet get cold?," one person may ask. Another may state, "I'd like to go barefoot more often, but I can't stand for my feet to get cold," or "My feet get cold really easily."

For someone who truly is open to the idea of going barefoot in the cooler seasons of the year, my top advice would be this: "Get used to it." At a glance, that statement could come across as calloused and uncaring, but it's meant with all respect, sincerity and kindness.

Going barefoot when it's cooler is really an exercise in preparation and acclimation before the thermometer dips. Just as Rome wasn't built in a day, you can't expect to be able to walk barefoot outside on the chilly sidewalk and immediately feel all right about it. Preparing your feet for the winter months and acclimating them is the best way to stay barefoot as much as possible until Spring springs forth again next year.

Now obviously, a lot of this is dependent on where you actually live and what the thermometer is doing. The longer and colder that your winter is, the harder this is going to be. You also must realize that there will be times when going barefoot just isn't smart. Just as there are occasions when you feel it's best to wear gloves outside, there will be occasions when you should wear shoes outside. These factors are so variable depending on your geography and personal tolerance to cold that I will leave much of this to your personal discretion.

Here is some general advice on how to stay barefoot as long as possible during the next several months:

Go Barefoot NOW

To successfully go barefoot in winter, you must work your way into it. Barefoot runners don't start off running marathon distances and you shouldn't start going barefoot in winter. The sooner that you adopt more barefoot activity, the more likely it is that your winter barefooting will be successful.

I truly believe that the more an individual goes barefoot, the more comfortable they become with the sensations from going barefoot. That goes not only for what's underfoot (i.e. concrete, carpet, toys, rocks, etc.), but also the surrounding temperature. The more your feet get used to experiencing all the sensations of going without shoes, the better they will be set up to get through the winter as bare as possible for as long as possible.

Keep Going Barefoot Outdoors

Find opportunities to go barefoot outside while the weather is still generally warm right now. Walk in the grass. Play in the dirt. Stroll along the pavement. As the thermometer begins to fall over the coming weeks, KEEP going barefoot outside. Your feet will adapt to the cooler ground temperatures over time. The trick is to be consistent. You can't expect your feet to react as you'd like when you haven't prepared them for new sensations.

Stay Active

The winter months are often attributed to higher rates of deaths, outbreaks of the flu and even the occurrence of a seasonal depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). These are all caused by -- or at least attributed to -- the fact that people are more sedentary in winter. It makes sense. If it's cold outside, you do more things inside. If you're inside more, you tend to sit around and do less.

Keep your bare feet warm by increasing the blood circulation in them via activity. If you own a treadmill, use it to at least walk barefoot. Run if you can. Exercise regularly to keep your whole body feeling healthy. Give your feet regular massages -- or better yet, have your partner do it for you -- to keep the blood circulating better in your feet and your muscles warm.

Wear Socks If Preferred

My purist barefooter friends may frown on this recommendation, but I give it as an alternative to keeping your shoes on inside the house all the time this winter. Socks will generally allow you to move your feet as freely as going barefoot while still adding a layer of warmth to them. Toe socks are the best for this. Avoid the temptation to put on big, thick, tight and/or fuzzy slippers. They often alter your walking gait and can even be as restrictive as shoes.

Cover Up When Sitting Down

I'm all for a warm, snuggly blanket and see no problem with covering my lap, legs and feet with one while I'm sitting around in the winter. The advantage to barefooters doing this is that it keeps our feet warmer without having to do a whole lot of work. Keep blankets around where you regularly sit in your house and tuck your feet inside to keep your piggies free, but toasty.

Wear Minimal Footwear When Necessary

Again, I'll probably have some disagreement with me on this one, but the last thing you want to do is turn yourself off to going barefoot. When it really is too cold or uncomfortable to bare it all (below the ankles, friends), minimal footwear can often provide just the right amount of warmth or protection to get you through to the next opportunity to go unshod.

For example, I usually wear flip flops out to the car when the temps dip below freezing -- even with light snow on the ground. While my feet might get a bit chilly for that short trek, I always remember that my car heater works well and that the floorboard will get nice and toasty very soon. The flip flops then might get worn into wherever I'm going but quickly come off once I'm back indoors.

If wearing sandals outside in the winter is a bit too adventurous for you, choose minimal footwear instead of big winter boots when there's no heavy snow cover on the ground and you'll be outside for short periods. Keep your feet as flexible and free as you can while keeping them just as warm as you'd like.

Don't Worry About Your Feet

Some might think that going barefoot in cooler temperatures is dangerous. I can assure you that if the thermometer is indicating temperatures above freezing, you WILL be okay to go barefoot. If the air isn't freezing, your feet can't freeze either.

Dry, cracked feet are a concern for some in the wintertime. Just as shoes cause many ailments of the feet due to their warm, moist conditions, they also do so in the winter. Sweaty feet in the colder months can lead to cracked skin once shoes are removed. If your feet are regularly allowed to breath and not sweat inside shoes in the winter, they'll be that much ahead of the game. Now, the drier months of the year do increase the risks for dry feet. To alleviate this problem, regularly use a moisturizing cream on them. Notice I said "cream" and not "lotion." Creams are thicker and contain less alcohol than lotion. The less alcohol, the better.

--

Again, this is all subject to personal comfort and the climate in which you live. Certainly do what YOU feel is best for YOUR feet. I'm not responsible if you do something stupid or get hurt because you pushed your limits too far. That said, I do think that taking this advice will help you stay barefoot as much as possible while we wait for the warmer temperatures to return in Spring.

Do you plan on going barefoot this winter? Have you gone barefoot in wintertime before? If so, what tips would you add to this list? Please leave your comments in the section below.


Photos: Thermometer: http://hillsteadblog.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/thermometer.jpg; Autumn Leaves: Image: Arvind Balaraman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net; Flip flops in the snow: http://nikkigsblog.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/flip-flops-in-snow.jpg

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bare Feet Cause Higher Floor-Cleaning Costs?

I recently ran across a curious paragraph in an article reporting on the decision of a library board to uphold their policy prohibiting bare feet. While they predictably chose to continue discrimination against bare feet, one of their reasons for doing so left me scratching my head. The paragraph:
"Board member Jameson Campaigne pointed out he researched the subject, finding that bare feet could increase floor cleaning costs."
REALLY? I've heard the excuse that bare feet make a floor dirtier than shoes -- partially because of our own natural oils that are allegedly transferred from our skin -- but I've never seen that excuse extrapolated out to the costs of cleaning the floors. And where did he research this?

I don't deny that bare feet could deposit dirt or even bodily oils onto the floor, but I hardly believe that there's nearly enough prevalence of barefoot patrons to make this a real problem above and beyond what shoes already do to the floors. In fact, I'd imagine that bare feet generally do less damage to floors because feet are cleaned more regularly and are not as harsh on surfaces like shoes are to carpet.

Honestly, haven't we all seen how faded and worn carpet gets in high-traffic areas of businesses? I know I can see the "tracks" where people regularly walk along the carpeted corridors of my workplace.

Are bare feet a real threat to floors? If so, are there enough potential barefoot patrons to be concerned that they would raise cleaning costs? Sound off and let me know what you think about this being a partial reason for the library board denying patrons without shoes. Please leave your comments in the section below.

Image: Suat Eman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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