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.

Related from LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails