|"Don't worry. Going barefoot is|
VERY safe. I'm not going to
get hurt. Really."
My intent is not to turn anyone off to the barefoot lifestyle. I think it's so beneficial and that most people can live better through it. But just as "stuff" happens to our heads in car crashes, our hands when working with power tools or any other countless scenarios, "stuff" can happen while we're barefoot that, unfortunately, is really, um, "stuffy."
Why am I bringing this up? "You shouldn't be talking about this!," you may say. And that's exactly the reason I am.
We can't be ashamed, as barefooters, that we might get hurt doing the very thing we promote to others. Just as with ANY injury to ANY part of our bodies, we must do the best we can to pick ourselves up, brush ourselves off and move on after a foot injury. We must also support those who've gone through such a thing by encouraging them to not shy away from what's best, overall, for their feet.
I had an extensive conversation on Twitter the other day with a woman by the handle of @QuotidianLight. We'll call her Q for the remainder of this post since I don't know her real name. Q shared with me about how she hurt her foot two years ago after falling off her chair at work and slamming her foot into her metal desk. It was just a freak accident, but she ended up with a neuroma that's been tough to get healed and still gives her pain today - so much, in fact, that she can't go barefoot. She was wearing Vibram Fivefingers at the time, but told me, "If I'd been wearing shoes at work that morning... I'd have ran THIS morning."
The main point she wanted to impress on me was that she felt isolated and alone because she believes barefooters never talk about injuries and just hold in guilt when we get injured.
She's right. It makes sense to keep that information to ourselves so that we don't have shoe promoters feeling validated in their assertion that going barefoot is dangerous. But it also doesn't help when barefooters never address the proverbial elephant in the room.
"It annoys me that people think NO ONE get's hurt barefooting and if you do it's your fault so people don't speak up," Q said. She continued later, "I just wish more people would be open about their injuries. *shrugs*"
I pledged to her that I'd write this post.
|Getting a stress fracture while|
running in Vibram Fivefingers
turned my barefoot world upside down
in January 2010.
I've heard it numerous times. Someone loves going barefoot until they get hurt - whether it's a broken toe, bee sting, cut or something else. After that, they get nervous it'll happen again and they hardly go barefoot for the rest of their lives. I know of at least two people in my immediate family who feel this way. It's very real, and these folks need encouragement to go barefoot again.
So there's three points I'd like to make here:
First, we shouldn't ignore the fact that we can - and probably will - get hurt from going barefoot, but we also shouldn't feel ashamed if we do. Understand that your feet ARE more vulnerable when going without shoes or even just minimalist footwear. Resign yourself to the fact that freak things happen sometimes. No matter how an injury to your foot occurs, don't beat yourself up and don't feel guilty or embarrassed about what happened. Just as importantly, let the criticism of shod people roll off your back when they pitch I-told-you-sos in your direction.
Second, don't give up going barefoot because you do get hurt. Obviously, take care of yourself and do what you have to do to get better. Get medical attention to treat and resolve the problem. That may mean a hiatus from going barefoot, but most injuries can and will heal completely. After that's taken care of, remember that you can still confidently go without shoes again. Though risks still exist, the benefits from living barefoot outweigh the risks. Move on a little wiser for the experience. Seek out the support and advice those of us who also go barefoot so that we can encourage you.
Third and finally, support other barefooters who get hurt. Friends, if we find out that one of us has been injured from going barefoot, let's kill them with kindness and not criticism. We need to be wary of pointing fingers and assigning blame when none needs to be assigned or doing so wouldn't help anyway. We want barefooters to stay barefooters, and the only way to do that is to be friendly and understanding with one another.
In closing, both of my brothers used to ride motorcycles on a regular basis. They always had a mantra about the likelihood of having an accident. They'd tell me, "It's not a matter of if you're going to wreck, it's matter of WHEN you're going to wreck." Yet even when they did wreck, they'd fix the bike, heal their bodies and get right back on. Injuries, minor or major, are all but inevitable when going barefoot. It's the mindset we have that determines what we take away from it. In anything we do, we only fail if we give up. Will we let foot injuries isolate us and make us quit, or make us stronger and wiser when we keep going?
Thanks, Q, for your story and inspiring me to write this.
So, community, let's talk about injuries. Do you share Q's opinions? Should the barefoot community be more open and honest about injuries or keep them in the closet? How do we respond to the I-told-you-so remarks from our naysayers? Please leave your comments in the section below.