Sunday, April 18, 2010

REWIND: My Faith and My Feet

The holiday season is solidly in effect and people of various faith movements are celebrating. Whether it's Christmas, Chanukah or other holidays, this is a time of reflection and celebration. I thought it would be fitting during this time to share something that I've thusfar kept under wraps: my faith.

Since this blog is about bare feet, I want to share how my faith and belief in God and His son Jesus Christ has affected my decision to be a barefooter. I'm not trying to actively recruit or evangelize for Christianity. I've never been a fan of shoving religion down others' throats, especially when the context in which they come to me isn't related to religion. If you want to engage in a stirring religious debate, that's not what I'm here for today.

I've written in this space previously that on natural ground coverings (grass, flowers, etc.), I prefer to only go barefooted. It's a matter of respect for the earth, but I also see it as a respect for God's creation. Likewise, I have come to believe that I can be more connected to the earth and nature by touching it directly. Because God created all living things, this is also a way to further connect with Him.

In a different light, going barefooted is generally a sign of my respect for the body God gave me. You might have noticed in the heading of this blog that I write "Enjoy the feet that the good Lord gave you!" By distorting and restricting my feet in shoes, I am making the decision to restrict that which God gave me. He designed my feet a certain way, however they aren't allowed to function in that way while wearing most shoes. This, I believe, is an affront to the Lord.

As a parent, I enjoy seeing my children enjoy playing. I love seeing my two-year old daughter stretch, twist and twirl her body when she's dancing. In much the same way, I'd bet that God takes pleasure in seeing His creation live up to its full potential. He probably thinks it's really cool when we allow our feet to sense everything on which they tread, breathe in the open air and flex in all the many ways that the 52 bones in them allow.

But there are those who would disagree with me. I often hear the rebuttal, "Even Jesus wore sandals," when I mention that I go barefooted into church.

While that's supposed to be a lighthearted criticism of barefooting, I don't believe it's well thought out. You have to remember the times in which Jesus lived. There weren't a lot of grassy lawns in the places He traveled. The roads were very rocky and dirty. Modern sewer systems consisted of trenches along the side of the roadways. People didn't bathe or shower daily like we usually do. It was VERY filthy. That's part of the reason that the story of Jesus washing His disciples' feet was so significant. Their feet were filthy. The fact that He was willing to humble himself in order to make their feet clean meant a lot. The times we live in, in comparison, are much cleaner and more sanitary.

I actually don't have a problem going to church barefooted and I think that God would welcome it. After all, it's scriptural! In Exodus 3:5 and Acts 7:33, Moses had just seen the burning bush. It appeared to be on fire with the Holy Spirit yet it was not consumed. God told Moses to take off his footwear because Moses was on holy ground. The Lord wanted Moses to connect with the earth of Mount Sinai, a holy place.

While we don't all have holy mountains nearby nowadays, we do have our churches and synagogues. We think of them as holy places where we can worship God and learn about Him. As a believer and a barefooter, I think going barefooted into church is completely appropriate. That is where God is, and standing or kneeling before Him with bare feet is a sign of respect for my body and His scripture.

All that said, there will always be some who disagree with me and feel it's disrespectful to go barefooted in church. They say it goes against the idea of wearing your "Sunday best" and offends other parishioners. For the reasons mentioned above I don't share those feelings and I honestly am not concerned about offending other parishioners. I'm there to worship the Lord, not please everyone else. Being concerned about such things is tantamount to being concerned what other customers in Walmart feel about me shopping barefooted. That's NOT what we're there for! If my fellow worshipers are distracted by my feet then they have things to work out with the Lord.

How I worship and am blessed by God is about the spirit with which I come to the Lord instead of the clothing on my body. He will accept, bless and forgive me no matter what. God doesn't care what I wear to church, and He especially doesn't care if I wear shoes. That is why I can't be judgmental of someone who comes in tattered clothing and a less than fresh smell. They are there because their heart has brought them there and God will bless them for that.

I don't intend to stop going barefooted at church anytime soon. I have been blessed, so far, that no one has taken enough offense to approach me. I hope that my friends in Christ will always recognize the spirit with which I come before the Lord: Ready to worship Him and receive His spirit.

Happy Holidays! And really: Enjoy the feet that the good Lord gave you!

I welcome your comments below.

Photo of Jesus washing feet from Barry Dean 4 Christ
Photo of homeless man from New-Think

NOTE: All this week I have been "rewinding" this blog to repost some of my earlier entries that many readers may have missed. This is the final look back for a little while. Much of this information holds true even today and I hope you enjoyed it. This post was originally published on December 16, 2009. The content above was NOT edited from its original entry (though that picture of me leaning against the tree kind of bugs me), so please ignore any typos or less than perfect grammar as I got my writing feet underneath me. What do you think of this post? Please leave your comments below.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

REWIND: Quick Review: Vibram Fivefingers Sprint

My third pair of minimalist shoes (after the Vivo Barefoot Dharma and Aqua styles) came on a significant day in my life. On Aug. 5 of this year my wife and I also welcomed a brand new baby girl into our family. I will be reviewing the former here, because the latter is perfect and needs no review. :-)

As a barefooter, I was very interested in trying on a pair of Vibram Fivefingers and putting them through their paces to see just how good of a "barefoot alternative" they are. I have worn them a lot and for many different uses -- and therefore taken longer to post a review -- because I wanted to find out just how versatile a set of toe shoes can be. The answer? Very.


The Vibram Fivefinger Sprints are like no other footwear...except other Fivefingers. Anyone who has worn these in public knows that they get looks and a lot of comments and questions. What's fortunate is that they're almost always positive in nature. People seem really drawn to the idea of toe shoes. For me personally, I've never been self-conscious while wearing these, though I know others are -- or would be, and that's why they don't buy them. (looking in my wife's direction) I think this line of shoes is very stylish and unique.


The build quality on Fivefinger Sprints is very good. All seams feel very secure, the materials seem to be of good quality, and the shoes even hold up well in the laundry. No complaints here. They may not be as "green" as the Vivo Barefoot shoes, but they're just as well built or better.


Some see the cost of these shoes as exorbitant. To me, $80 USD seems reasonable considering the research that likely went into designing them, the materials used to build them and their overall quality. For all the things you can do with these Vibram Fivefingers -- and I'm only commenting on the Sprints -- and the length of use that you can likely get from them, I believe these are priced at an okay price point.


The Vibram Fivefinger Sprints are very comfortable footwear...for an item of footwear. As for a hat, they don't work so well. But seriously, I like the fact that these shoes are a lot less on the foot than any other standard shoe-styled footwear. I tell people that they kind of feel like a second skin with a very flexible protective sole. If you get the right size -- which the chart on Vibram's site is very good to help you accomplish -- all is well. I would suggest finding a local store, if available, to try these on and get just the perfect size before you plop down your hard-earned nickels and dimes. I think once you get them on you'll be hooked.

Barefoot Sensation/Movement

Going barefoot so much before wearing minimalist shoes spoiled me. Nothing can replace the feeling of bare sole on the ground below, so I have to take a mental step back and review these on their merits: a flexible shoe with an ultra-thin, durable sole.Vibram Fivefingers certainly get closer to a barefoot feel than either of the Vivo Barefoot shoes that I've tried. With your toes able to flex individually and a very flexible structure all around, natural foot movement is far greater than any other footwear I've worn. The open top of the Sprints also helps your foot feel a greater sense of freedom than other shoes, giving this style of Fivefingers a bit of a sandal-type quality. Because they fit so snugly on the foot, they do feel like a sort of second skin, so you sometimes forget that you're wearing them.

This is where I drop in my word of warning: Vibram Fivefingers are VERY good at giving enough sense of going "barefoot" that anyone who's used to regular shoes and wants to try going barefoot would likely stop here if they tried to use them as a gateway shoe. They are that comfortable. But there really isn't anything like putting a bare sole to the ground. I recommend to any barefooter -- or someone who wants to begin barefooting -- to get comfortable with being totally unshod first. Rediscover and get to know your feet and how awesome they feel without anything on them before you jump into Fivefingers. That way you'll be able to know and remember what you're missing even when wearing such comfortable footwear.

Like other minimalist shoes, you can definitely feel the ground below better than "normal" shoes. When I went camping recently, my feet felt well massaged as I walked across the gravel and acorns covering the ground of our campsites. In Fivefingers it was fine. Barefoot it was uncomfortable.

Fivefingers are great for those places where bare feet are not usually allowed. I wore them recently to my son's pediatrician visit.

The Final Words

My Vibram Fivefinger Sprints have become my "go-to" footwear when I know I can't/shouldn't go barefoot, such as businesses that have a "No Shoes, No Service" policy. I've literally walked, run, mowed the grass, hiked, shopped and more in these shoes and they've always risen to the challenge. I obviously still prefer to go barefoot, but these are a good alternative if footwear is required. While they may lose "style points" in some peoples' minds, they certainly make up for it in function and comfort.

Twitter: @Vibram5Fingers
Fan Sites: and

Next Review Coming Soon!: Terra Plana Trip Clips

NOTE: All this week I am "rewinding" this blog to repost some of my earlier entries that many readers may have missed. Much of this information holds true even today and I hope you enjoyed it. This post was originally published on Oct. 30, 2009. The content above was NOT edited from its original entry, so please ignore any typos or less than perfect grammar as I got my writing feet underneath me. What do you think of this post? Please leave your comments below.

Friday, April 16, 2010

REWIND: Your Rights are Going to the Dogs (and Other Service Animals)

A fellow poster* on the forums at the Living Barefoot site brought up an issue that continues to poke holes in the notion that going barefooted in public places is unsafe and unhealthy. It also casts serious doubt on the logic used to create such policies.

If going barefooted at the local grocery store or Wal-Mart is unsafe and unhealthy for those doing it and the customers around them, we must address the subject of service animals. They almost always go bare pawed/hooved/footed and yet no one complains about the health and safety ramifications of this practice.

Before I go any further, I must adamantly state that I believe it is appropriate and right to allow service animals to accompany the disabled wherever they need to go. This blog entry is solely for the purpose of exposing ignorant managerial policy of many businesses that require human customers to wear footwear.

Ann Edie and her guide miniature horse, Panda, check out at a Staples.
(Photo courtesy:

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) allows for service animals to accompany disabled people nearly wherever they go. On its Web site, the ADA puts it this way:
"Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), privately owned businesses that serve the public, such as restaurants, hotels, retail stores, taxicabs, theaters, concert halls, and sports facilities, are prohibited from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. The ADA requires these businesses to allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals onto business premises in whatever areas customers are generally allowed."
So the ADA allows for the animals without considering any sort of health or safety ramifications? Well, not exactly. Farther down the page there is a caveat:
"(A business) may exclude any animal, including a service animal, from (its) facility when that animal's behavior poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. For example, any service animal that displays vicious behavior towards other guests or customers may be excluded."
I added the bold for emphasis.

While the ADA's site addresses the issue of "maintenance" or a "cleaning fee" in the event that a service animal makes a mess (in one way or another), no mention is made regarding the business' responsibility to keep the establishment safe or healthy for the service animal. If we are to assume -- because we barefooters are told this -- that a business' floor is unsafe for our feet due to the possibility of stepping on broken glass, sharp objects, germs or any various kinds of spilled items, then we must assume that the same holds true for the exposed paws of service animals.

Interestingly enough, the ADA's FAQ page linked above never addresses a question about whether a business can require service animal to wear booties or footwear. (Doggie shoe photo courtesy: So I called by phone the ADA's "Disability Rights Section." After holding for only a brief couple of minutes, a specialist quickly answered, "No," when I asked if businesses may request or require that service animals put on such footwear. A disclaimer: The ADA's phone system recording made it very clear that information given over such a call is not binding legal advice or opinion, however I have to think that these employees know what they're talking about.

So where does that leave us? It leaves me with the realization that I have fewer rights than many dogs. It tells me that the federal government of the United States of America believes that the floors of businesses should be generally safe enough for a service animal's bare paw/hoof/foot insomuch that said businesses may not request footwear to "protect" them.

It makes me think that businesses need to give up several outdated excuses and let me and others go barefooted if we so choose. Service animals already do it, so it seems silly that we humans can't.

Owners and managers certainly have an obligation to protect their own interests. Yes, glass breaks sometimes. But, we should remember that when a jar of spaghetti sauce shatters at the grocery store, somebody quickly cleans it up as well as they can. What's left is typically negligible and is no more a risk to my bare feet than a product display tipping over.

You could argue that service animals shouldn't go barepawed/hooved/footed into a business -- and that's your prerogative and a whole other discussion -- but the law is what it is and most people never second-guess the cleanliness or safety of a business' floor when a service animal comes in. Why, then, should they second-guess my ability to stay safe while barefooted in a restaurant, grocery store, retailer or other establishment? Most only have a fleeting thought about what a service animal may be tracking onto the floor of the business, yet many are quick to assume that my bare feet are slathering the floor with disgusting sweat, bacteria and disease.

Honestly, folks, so long as we keep our "paws" generally clean and off of the merchandise, it's perfectly reasonable for us barefooters to be allowed to go unshod in a business.

* - Thanks to "Rascal" for the idea for this blog entry!

NOTE: All this week I am "rewinding" this blog to repost some of my earlier entries that many readers may have missed. Much of this information holds true even today and I hope you enjoyed it. This post was originally published on Oct. 21, 2009. The content above was NOT edited from its original entry, so please ignore any typos or less than perfect grammar as I got my writing feet underneath me. What do you think of this post? Please leave your comments below.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

REWIND: An Ode to Baby Wipes

Oh, baby wipes,

When first I started barefooting, my feet, they would get so dirty.
And then I discovered the solution was near in a diaper bag.
You -- baby wipes -- you, the very same moist cloths
Used to de-poop my daughter's rear end
Could also cleanse my sole...and the other.

Oh, baby wipes,

How do I love thee?
Let me count the ways:
One, the little piggie that went to the market.
Two, the little piggie who stayed home.
Three, the little piggie who had roast beef.
Four, sadly, the little piggie who had none.
Fifth, and most importantly, you might agree dear wipes
Is the piggie who cried so sadly.
You bring comfort and cleanliness to
The little piggie who went "Wee, wee, wee,"
All the way home.

Oh, baby wipes,

The piggies are but one portion of my sole...and the other
Which you doth clean.
For your overarching cleaning abilities
Do also come to the fore...and the other.
Your heeling cleansing brings completeness
To a troubled, dirty pod...and the other.

Oh, baby wipes,

In your wake lies peace and cleanliness.
In your stead you leave softness.
After being touched by you
I can go on, head held high and
Feet on the ground for
I have been made freshly anew!

And I, baby wipes, am forever grateful.
So many people who shun the idea of barefooting do so on the grounds of not wanting their feet to get dirty. The fact of the matter is, however, that the feet can be easily cleaned if stuff gets on them. While the best way is to clean with soap and water, that isn't always a viable option.

Baby wipes are the #1 easiest way to clean your feet throughout the day while barefoot. There are times where you really want to wipe your feet off because of how dirty they've gotten. It really is an appropriate thing to do when you wish to curl your feet up on a piece of furniture, put them up on a coffee table or any other number of times where you'd like your feet up off of the floor. In those cases, baby wipes are the next best thing to a shower and are essentially as effective at cleaning off the foot. Hey, if wipes work for cleaning all of that off a kiddos bum, wouldn't they work well cleaning dirt off of our feet?

Through my wife's and my bouts of diaper rash with our little ones, we no longer buy wipes with any kind of alcohol or propylene glycol. These products tend to dry the skin out and make such conditions worse. I imagine that the same would occur with the feet. I prefer to buy Huggies Natural Care unscented wipes** (pictured above). They don't contain the above products, are easy to find, reasonably priced, strong and very effective at cleaning off all kinds of dirt and grime from the foot. What's more, I feel like they leave the foot moisturized.

If you're holding off on going barefoot because of concerns about dirt, grab a package of baby wipes next time you go to the store. Go barefoot for a while and bring them along. You'll be surprised at how effective they are at keeping your feet clean, moist and happy!

* - Okay, so it's not an actual ode, as typically patterned in the ABABCDECDE rhyme scheme. It's more of an homage without any real lyrical structure. So sue me. ;-)
** - I do not receive any compensation from Huggies or any of its subsidiaries or related companies. Product endorsement is made solely on my use of the product.

NOTE: All this week I am "rewinding" this blog to repost some of my earlier entries that many readers may have missed. Much of this information holds true even today and I hope you enjoyed it. This post was originally published on October 13, 2009. The content above was NOT edited from its original entry, so please ignore any typos or less than perfect grammar as I got my writing feet underneath me. What do you think of this post? Please leave your comments below.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

REWIND: 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?"

NOTE: All this week I am "rewinding" this blog to repost some of my earlier entries that many readers may have missed. Much of this information holds true even today and I hope you enjoyed it. This post was originally published on August 18, 2009. The content above was slightly edited from its original entry in order to fix odd formatting following the cut and paste into a new entry. All else remained the same, so please ignore any typos or less than perfect grammar as I got my writing feet underneath me. What do you think of this post? Please leave your comments below.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

REWIND: Hippies & OCD: Bizarre Social Stereotypes OR Don't Be Afraid Because I'm Barefoot

In case you didn't know from Facebook or Twitter, I have become quite fond of going barefoot. I'm not talking about just around the house or -- gasp! -- driving barefoot, but going out in public to businesses, retailers and other places without footwear. For more info as to why, see my previous blog post (REWIND NOTE: Referencing the May 20, 2009 entry).

For me, one thing that keeps coming back to the fore when addressing the issue of going barefoot is the whole idea of foot protection. Someone usually says or asks one of three things.

"I don't go barefoot very much since I (somehow injured my foot) as a kid."
"But what if you step on a nail or some broken glass?"

Yes, that's only two things. Just a moment. To those, my reply is always this: "I stepped on a nail and got stung on the sole of my foot as a child. That isn't going to make me wear protective gloves for the rest of my life, though. The same goes for feet and shoes."

The other protection issue is diseases. "You never know what kind of diseases you could pick up off the floor into the bottom of your foot."

So then THAT got me thinking even more:

Each time some sort of flu outbreak makes the news, medical folks always say the same thing. I work in a hospital and they drive it into our minds almost every day. "Washing your hands," they say, "is the best way to prevent the spread of disease.

They DON'T say, "Wear gloves all the time."

But what if someone DID wear gloves all the time? Wouldn't that help prevent the spread of disease? After all, medical people do it all the time when they draw blood, perform surgeries or take part in any number of other medical procedures.

But that doesn't make sense, right? I mean, come on. What would happen if we saw someone walking around the mall or Walmart, touching everything with gloves on?

We'd say they have OCD.

Maybe they're just being extra careful and don't care what everybody else thinks.

What if they came up to us and asked, "Why aren't you wearing gloves?" "Aren't you afraid of getting diseases?" "What if something cuts your hand?"

Seems pretty silly doesn't it?

So like I said earlier, I like to go barefoot in public. I wonder what would happen if you saw me or another barefooter walking unshod around the mall or Walmart, touching everything with bare hands.

You might say we're hippies.

Maybe I'm trying to give the 52 bones and dozens of ligaments, tendons and muscles in my feet a chance to move the way they were intended. Maybe I don't want my feet to get sweaty confined in shoes. Maybe I like feeling the slight variations of temperature and texture on the ground below me.

Never mind the fact that I'm touching merchandise with my unwashed-since-this-morning hands. Now bare feet (that only touch the floor): that's gross!

So when we probably should wear gloves more often because of how many people don't wash their hands and more people should go barefoot because it's better for our feet, our society has somehow evolved our thinking to be completely opposite.

Do you know why we don't wear gloves all the time? Because we're not that worried.

Do you know why I don't wear shoes most of the time? Because I'm not that worried.

And you needn't be either. I wash my feet.

NOTE: All this week I am "rewinding" this blog to repost some of my earlier entries that many readers may have missed. Much of this information holds true even today and I hope you enjoyed it. This post was originally published on May 28, 2009. The content above was NOT edited from its original entry, so please ignore any typos or less than perfect grammar as I got my writing feet underneath me. What do you think of this post? Please leave your comments below.

Monday, April 12, 2010

REWIND: Bare Your Sole While Driving to Save Gas

I've recently discovered something quite wonderful and amazing about going barefoot. It can save you money and help out the environment. I'm not talking about the benefits of minimized shoe wear and tear by going unshod more often. This blog post is all about driving barefoot.

I'm an active user of the micro-blogging site Twitter. On there I'm known by almost 200 followers as @barefootmichael. Because I'm a fan of going barefoot I'm always interested in what others have to say about the subject, so I use Twitter's search feature to follow the terms "barefoot" and "bare feet." Sometimes it results in very interesting posts, or "tweets."

One tweet caught my eye in May. It was from user @kenman345 and read: "Checked out the fuel consumption on my car and I've been getting better gas mileage driving barefoot...awesome"

Really? Could exposing your bare soles to the brake pedal and accelerator cause your engine to be more fuel efficient?

Then I got to thinking: I have noticed my car being able to drive much farther on a tank of gas lately (Up to 360 miles from around 300 miles per fill-up). I'd never thought very hard about why that was, but then I realized the savings began about the same time I started driving home barefoot from work each day. I did some rough calculations and found that my car now gets about 24 mpg versus the 19 I was getting before. Big difference.

I have no scientific proof that driving barefoot helps you get better gas mileage, but the idea makes sense. Each foot has 26 bones, numerous joints, and dozens of muscles and ligaments. It is attached to a very versatile joint at the ankle. Combine that with the high concentration of nerve endings on the sole of the foot and you get a very sensitive part of the body, capable of subtle, calculated movement.

It would then make sense to presume that driving barefoot gives you a fuel advantage because you have direct contact with that which makes a direct impact on the car's movement. Instead of using your ankle and limited foot movement inside a shoe to feel the pedals and make not-so-subtle changes in acceleration and braking, the bare foot is capable of tiny, precise operations. We tweak one muscle or another to add just a little more or less pressure on the pedals as necessary. In the end, a much more efficient operation of the vehicle is taking place.

For more information on this topic, do a Web search for "driving barefoot gas mileage." You'll find lots of resources for saving fuel and lots of mentions of hypermiling. While it's hard to find true scientific evidence that driving barefoot saves gas mileage, the anecdotal evidence is overwhelming.

"But Michael!" you shout. "Driving barefoot is illegal!" Actually, it's not in the U.S. except for motorcyclists in the state of Alabama. So no worries.

Give driving barefoot a chance for a while. The summer is a perfect time to do it since so many people wear flip flops and sandals that are easily removed and stowed on the floorboard near your seat. See what kind of distance you get out of a full tank of gas. Your mileage may vary.

(Photo from Flickr, user angela b.:

NOTE: All this week I am "rewinding" this blog to repost some of my earlier entries that many readers may have missed. Much of this information holds true even today and I hope you enjoyed it. This post was originally published on June 9, 2009. The content above was NOT edited from its original entry, so please ignore any typos or less than perfect grammar as I got my writing feet underneath me. What do you think of this post? Please leave your comments below.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Coming Next Week: The 'Barefoot and Grounded' Rewind

Every once and a while I look back through my earlier blog posts and find that some are still pertinent and contain information that I care very deeply about. Unfortunately, because of the nature of a blog, many of those blog posts are likely never read anymore.

Keeping that in mind, I've decided to do a "rewind" next week. I'd like to repost seven of your and my favorite blog posts since I started this thing last year. After next week, I'll occasionally repost others as time allows.

If you're a long-time reader, is there an article here that really spoke to you and still comes to mind? Was there something I talked about that you think everyone needs to read again? If you're a newer reader, go back and look at my archive toward the bottom of the links on the right. Is there anything that you think should be bumped back into the forefront? Please leave your recommendations in the comments section below. Thanks!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Another Day Without Shoes (No Purchase Necessary)

Thousands of people across America went barefoot Thursday, April 8, to support a worthy cause. While this news would normally make me extremely happy, I can't help but be a bit disheartened. While I wholeheartedly endorse people supporting charitable programs while baring their soles and rediscovering their own two feet, I believe that the message of the campaign was somewhat misguided.

College students, business employees, stay-at-home moms and many others made Thursday "One Day Without Shoes," a program organized by TOMS Shoes. The goal was to bring awareness about children who must live barefoot in undeveloped countries because they have no shoes. By going barefoot here, the participants got a sense of how "hard" it is to always go barefoot through life.

On the surface and to most people, TOMS' ongoing efforts are an incredibly worthy cause. The company points out that many people in Ethiopia suffer from a debilitating disease called Podoconiosis. It's essentially elephantiasis of the feet and lower legs that's caused by walking barefoot on volcanic soil. Chemicals in the soil get absorbed into the skin and cause lymphatic blockages which result in extreme swelling of the lower legs and feet. The company also shares that some children are not allowed to go to school without shoes and that cuts and sores can lead to serious infection. By bringing awareness to these situations, TOMS encourages people buy a pair of their shoes. For each pair purchased, the company then donates a pair of shoes to the unshod poor.

TOMS' efforts are certainly worthwhile and the campaign is a good way to raise awareness of these problems. It's good that a company is finding ways to put shoes on the feet of people who really need them. I obviously wholeheartedly endorse people in developed countries like ours going barefoot because I do believe that the places in which we live are friendly to such a practice.

Unfortunately, I do take issue with the way TOMS markets their products and the One Day Without Shoes campaign. This year's ODWS theme was "It's Hard Without Shoes." On the site, TOMS stated:
"Food, shelter, AND shoes facilitate life’s fundamentals. Imagine a life without shoes; constantly aware of the ground in front of you, suffering regular cuts and scrapes, tending to infection after each walk, and enduring not only terrain, but heat and cold. The problem is large, but the solution is simple. Wearing shoes and practicing basic hygiene can prevent both infection and disease due to unsafe roads and contaminated soil. By imagining a life barefoot, we can all contribute to the awareness of these conditions."
If you read that and look around their online resources, you will find that the overarching message in TOMS marketing is this: Being barefoot is bad and everybody needs shoes in day-to-day life.

As someone who goes barefoot very often, I disagree. Yes, there are situations and areas of the world where going barefoot is ill-advised and yes, it's good that TOMS is helping those people. But I believe that TOMS needs to adjusts its messages to promote overall foot health, and many times that means going barefoot.

The fact of the matter is that going barefoot in developed countries is usually very safe and healthy. Our sidewalks, streets, floors and grassy areas tend to be free of dangerous objects that may harm us. Many people from "average Joes" to medical professionals see lots of benefit to overall foot health in building up strength in the feet and avoiding restrictive footwear. Reflexologists recommend going barefoot as a way to stimulate the central nervous system and provide balance to our physiology.

I recommend that you find the opportunity to go "Another Day Without Shoes" for yourself. Rediscover your feet and let them be free of restrictions. Kick off your shoes, heels, flip flops or whatever else to really feel the ground below you and reconnect with your mind the thousands of nerve endings in your feet. Walk on the ground instead of above the ground. Remember that you were born with your feet for a reason and that they are not ugly, gross or weak. They are a vital part of your body and they should not be neglected.

As President of The Primalfoot Alliance, I pledge that the organization will be reaching out to TOMS in the year ahead. They do run a wonderful business, but it's appropriate for them to give feet more credit. I think they can still sell plenty of shoes and make lots of difference. Hopefully together we can build a partnership for supporting healthy, primal feet instead of demonizing our very soles.

What do you think of TOMS One Day Without Shoes? Did you participate this year? Do you own a pair of TOMS? I'd love to have you comment below. Thanks!

Photo: TOMS Shoes

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Forming an "Alliance," Part II: What's in a Name?

In Part I of this series, The Vicious Cycle of Shoes & Spinning Our Wheels, I shared how I came to really see the need for a unified organization that can advocate for feet and educate on how good it is to let our feet be feet. This would be a way to press back against the opposition that's built up over the years by those who believe shoes are so necessary to our daily living.

I floated the idea in November to my wife, obviously, and a barefooter that I trust very much: Barefoot Moe (Twitter: @BarefootMoe). He is a long-time barefooter who has seen it all and been asked on numerous occasions to don footwear when he felt like going barefoot. I asked him if this could even work. I definitely wanted to know if he saw a benefit to this -- if it really could make any difference compared to what he's experienced and seen over the last couple of decades. He thought it would and so we pressed forward.

MANY names surfaced as worthy candidates to identify this brand. The first was -- no kidding -- "People Encouraging Healthy Barefoot Living." If you make that long name an acronym, it becomes PEHBL, pronounced "pebble." Cute and catchy, but the full name was too long. No one would ever remember it and, quite frankly, it didn't really grasp the message we were looking for. Moe and I both thought that the name needed to be shorter and have more "umph." We considered using a strong word that showed we were many supporters brought together as one. We considered words like "coalition," "cooperation," "alliance" and "society." Some names that were floated were:
  • Go Barefoot
  • Barefoot Life
  • Barefoot People
  • The Cooperation for Barefoot Health
  • The Alliance for a Barefoot Life
They were all great names, but something never totally felt right about them. Finally, we settled on the word "alliance." It sends a message that, although we may all do our own thing, we're together behind this cause. Up sprouted the name "The Barefooting Alliance."

That was THE name for quite a while. I used that for most of the prep work prior to the "soft" launch. I made a Facebook Fan page for it. I set up a Twitter account. I explored domain names for it. Then, I had an epiphany a couple weeks before we went live.

Using the term "barefoot" was great for talking about going completely barefoot, but it's always troubled me that people use it when talking about wearing minimalist shoes. Since the organization would be supporting people who receive discrimination because of their minimalist shoes, using the term "barefooting" didn't seem quite right. Even calling minimalist footwear "minimalist" always seemed to send the wrong message, because there are boots out there that let a foot function more naturally than some flip flops.

The point of all this was to advocate for those who wanted their feet to be feet. The group will heavily promote going barefoot but leave open the window for those who just can't bring themselves to do it or find that footwear really is necessary for whatever reason.

I began exploring options for a completely new word to describe the state of allowing feet to function as they were first meant to, whether that be barefoot or in "minimalist" shoes. The term had to be all-inclusive, working just as well in describing going barefoot as a very flexible, thin-soled boot. A few words came to the fore:
  • First
  • Nature
  • Birth
  • Paleo
  • Core
Then, I stumbled onto the word "primal." I liked it because it was based on something being original and instinctual. It really resonated with me, but at the time it seemed like it could come across as too "caveman." I asked around on Twitter and Facebook for people to share the first thing that came to their minds when they heard that word. I got back responses like, "instinctual," "wild, raw, natural--from the very core of me," and "Origins, first ... prime. He was called Optimus Prime because he was #1, not because he was a caveman." The word really fit the concepts I mentioned earlier and accurately described the message we were going for: Letting feet be feet first. Prime.

So we almost had a finished name. I say "almost," because the name was still slightly different than what it is now. Until close to the very end, the group was the "Primal Foot Alliance," with three words instead of two. After some further reflection and comparison to the word "barefoot," we settled on the idea that the adjective should be "Primalfoot" as one word describing who we are as a group of people.

And so the name has remained "The Primalfoot Alliance." I think it works well. It accurately describes going barefoot and wearing "primal" footwear -- shoes that allow the feet to act as feet -- and avoids confusion about what a "minimalist" shoe is or how someone can run barefoot while wearing footwear.

What do you think of the name? Do you feel like it gets across the idea of letting feet be feet first without restrictive or gait-altering shoes? I welcome you to leave your comments below.

Next: Part III: The Complexity of a Simple Logo

Pebble photo:

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