Thursday, July 30, 2009

Barefoot in the Grass

It's amazing. Three days ago I hadn't heard a thing about the research showing that shoes are actually crippling our feet in Western society, rather than protecting them. Suddenly I'm running into articles about going barefoot every time I turn around.

First I saw an article in our local paper, the Wichita Eagle, on Tuesday. It was based on an interview with author Christopher McDougall, whose book Born to Run has apparently become a recent bestseller.

Later that day I saw a blog entry about the benefits of going barefoot on a blog by Rebecca Clay Haines that Ienjoy and occasionally check on.

Now today a good friend of Qkslvrwolf has a blog post about running barefoot for the first time, plus she links to a New York magazine article from the NY Times on the same subject. (The article is excellent - I highly recommend reading the entire thing. The trompel'oeil paintings are just awesome, and the copy's pretty good too.)

That seems an awful lot like serendipity to me! Serendipity is becoming my new red flag, signalling something I need to try out or explore a bit more.

When I was a kid, I went barefoot all the time. I prided myself on how well I could walk on REALLY hot pavement or gravel. I only wore shoes when I had to. My feet were often dirty, but I don't remember them being particularly calloused or problematic in any way.

So this morning I decided to try doing a little walking in the yard while barefoot. I don't know why this seemed so adventurous, but somehow it did. The grass was rather chilly and wet from the dew, but it felt soft and good. I decided to stay barefoot while I did a little light gardening work.

Now, I know this sounds rather "woo-woo", but as I spent the next 30 minutes handpicking blister beetles off of the potatoes and tomatoes, I seemed to be much more in sync than usual with the process. At times it even felt like the beetles were offering themselves to me! I hadn't picked blister beetles in almost a week so there were plenty to pick, but I hardly missed any of the ones I saw. (As a predator avoidance technique, blister beetles quickly drop to the ground and get lost in the leaf mulch when they feel threatened.) By the time I finished finding all of the beetles I could in the garden this morning, I could literally count on one hand the number of blister beetles I had "lost". Normally, I'd say I lose about one out of every three beetles that I spot, so this was a much higher success rate than normal.

Of course, it could be that the temperatures were a little cooler than normal (maybe by a few degrees) and that, combined with the damp air, made the beetles a little less agile than normal.

I prefer to attribute my success to my connection with the Earth this morning, though!

In about an hour of roaming the garden and yard with nothing between me and the Earth, I only had one brief "ouch" moment - when I accidentally stepped on a weed with a thorny stem lurking in the straw mulch between our raised vegetable beds. Sorry to say, that is purely my own fault because I noticed that sucker about a week ago and didn't follow my own advice to pull it out as soon as I saw it.

It's going to be interesting to experiment more with this barefoot stuff. I'm not sure I'm ready to walk the prairie paths yet, due to dual fears of accidental poison ivy contact AND accidental snake contact. I find I'm not nearly so brave about those hazards when I don't have shoes and even long pants between me and them! (There is, after all, a fine line between bravery and stupidity.)

On the other hand, I've had low level foot problems off and on for many years now, and I chronically have trouble finding comfortable shoes. Maybe magic shoes aren't really the answer; maybe the answer is going barefoot as often as I can. It's sure worth a try.


Unknown said...

Okay, that's it. You've really inspired me now. Off with the shoes and outside. Love your blog!!

Gaia Gardener: said...

Just got my new Vibram Five Fingers! Other than the fact that they look like gorilla feet, I love them. I'll blog about them - and the experience of wearing them - soon.