Sunday, April 27, 2008

Tiptoe through the Tulips

OK... don't tiptoe, but walk, run, hike, and frolic... and do it barefooted!!!

Most folks think the thicker and more supportive their shoes are, the more comfortable they will be. But the opposite is true. By using your super supportive shoes with inserts, pads, and specially designed soles, you are using them as a crutch, and your feet (and back, knees, neck, and joints) are going to pay for their dependence on that crutch later in life. If you are a lady who wears those Byzantine-like torture devices we call shoes that contort your feet into unnatural shapes and pay scant attention to human anatomy, you are asking for problems down the road.

I always recommend that folks go barefoot. Alot. Through the house, into the yard, and if you can, go walking or hiking barefoot. Make sure you are looking where you walk, and allow your feet to mold to your environment. Rocks, sticks, leaves, and trails take on a new feel, literally, when you use your feet as part of your sensory system.

You won't ruin your feet, or develop rock hard skin and callouses, in fact, your feet will be nicely shaped and smooth, and will feel energized and alive. Instead of referring to those 'tired old dogs' you'll be following your dancing feet everywhere.

Walking with shoes on takes away from the natural sense of balance that is built into your feet. You recompense for this misalignment by walking 'abnormally', which puts stress on your bones, ligaments, spine, neck, hips, knees, and feet. Walking barefoot allows the 20,000 some sensors on your feet to send signals to your body to allow you to walk correctly, no matter the terrain.

If it hurts when you walk barefoot, you are walking wrong, and probably conditioned to do so by the shoes you are wearing. We were not supposed to walk with the heel first, but instead with and on the balls of our feet. Cushioning our heels (ala today's shoes) causes us to slam our feet down much harder (on the heel first) in order to get sufficient stimulation for balance. Your feet get more abuse from hard surfaces in shoes than barefoot.

Padding your feet is in a sense, gagging them from telling you are walking wrong ... and causing your body to adjust to walk incorrectly. This can manifest itself through spinal sublixations, stiff shoulders, headaches, backaches, knee and joint disintegration, and a malady of foot problems.

I know... it seems counterintuitive to leave your tender pads, heels, and toes open to the harsh, rough terrain that we encounter each day, and one might remark that it would hurt to walk down the street or pavement, or even across your yard, without the comfort of shoes. But it doesn't, and you'll quickly find your body... realigning itself to walk correctly.

While I recommend you go shoeless, don't start out running the marathon barefoot. Start slow and ramp it up over the coming weeks and months. Spring and summer times are perfect for conditioning your feet to get used to going barefoot, and foot soaks and conditioner, as in the form of balms, lotions, and oils to keep feet from becoming dry and cracked, are also requirements to having them stay strong, yet soft and attractive.

I try to make my children go barefoot as much as possible. Yes, their feet get dirty... we found baths work great to remove dirt and mud from the feet. And in situations such as public restrooms and bathhouses, creek beds and lakes, I purchased those swimming/hiking shoes from Teva that are uber comfy and easy to slip on quickly. Some places require you to wear shoes, such as stores, work, or church. For those situations when you cannot go barefoot, take a look at some of these shoe styles to help:

Good ol' Converse. Yeah, bo bo's. Flat sole with minimal padding. If you play sports, you know how strong your feet feel when you play in bo bo's. I just got rid of a pair I wore in high school!!!

Cheapy flip flops. Flat. No sole. ($5 - $15) Perfect for keeping feet from injury or for shopping, church, etc...

Vibrams- don't you dare laugh until you try a pair on. I don't have them, but my capitalist cravings say BUY!!!

Birkenstocks- classic and comfortable. Costs much but worth it. Still have two pairs over 15 years old each!

Nike- Free if you run, hike, or exercise and want to have a good training shoe, Nike- Free is the shoe to have. The shoe is designed to simulate barefoot action, and is used extensively in sports training to build stronger feet muscles and coordination.

For those of you who are hiking barefoot, check out how to sneak up on wildlife by walking like a fox. It really works and can mean the difference on your being able to get close to an animal to sketch or photograph, or just enjoy it.

How to Fox Walk


A site with a bunch of information on the environmental benefits to walking barefoot in the woods is the Barefoot Hikers site. If you are wildcrafter like me, you should be walking light... no compacted soil, no imprint to offend or impede vibrant ecosystems, and more...


The Parents for Barefooted Children website is an awesome place to visit if you need more information. Podiatry reviews, where to's and where not's, and more.

UPDATE: I have found my new workboots from heaven. The Lord knows I've been praying for a pair... mine are currently fourteen years old and still kicking, albeit they look like they are holding together with a thread...

Having two pair of Doc Martens during my punk heyday, I can remember how durable and comfortable they were. I traded both pair to a friend when I was 19 for a used guitar she had acquired. I think I got the short stick in the deal...

But alas... check out the boot that is on top of my list. These are rugged, durable, with a touch of flowers. How awesome is this????


Carla Lynne


Holly said...

Ah, Carla. I know that you are right! That's why we don't really do shoes for kids until they are two...unless we are headed out to church (and even then, not for babies) or the store...

And yet, for me...have you any idea what I step in daily? Or what plops upon my foot? Ewww.

Since nicer weather is here, I am known to be barefoot most of the time inside or out. But in the winter, I wear my boots. When pregnant (which is, what? at least fifty percent of the time?) my feet HURT!

I think those shoes with the toes are cute! Seem to make sense....I bet they catch on. (Or maybe they already have and I just don't know it yet. I don't get out a lot.)

earth heart said...

I have been saying barefoot is best for years. My favorite shoes are moccasins because they give your feet some protection with the barefoot effect.

I really enjoy your blog.

annie said...

Ahh...thank you for this wonderful information! I am constantly, always barefoot and love it. My daughter (almost 11mos) is too and will continue to be. Both my parents have horrible problems with their feet and they blame it on wearing rubber flip-flops growing up, but I think it has more to do with forcing their feet into "support" shoes once they entered adulthood. I'm hoping to avoid those problems by staying as natural as possible with my shoes. Thanks for all the information and the recommendations for those times when shoes are necessary!

Carla Lynne Klimuk said...

Yes, me too Holly! no shoes until they are two... and did you ever notice that kids/toddlers walk 'right' on their feet, while we adults slam our feet down on the heel. Check out your kids walking...especially the young'uns... and watch and learn...

and i agree Holly, those shoes are sooo cute...

Earth heart... i used to have a pair of knee high moccasins in high school... wish i had them again. you've inspired me to look for another pair... those were the MOST comfy shoes i ever owned...

Annie...i'm so glad the links and suggestions helped... ;-)

Connie Peterson said...

I was born barefoot and will die barefoot! Unfortunately I am not allowed to go barefoot outside anymore because of the chance of bees in the grass (very good chance here) so I wear those cute little lightweight sandels that are so popular in wild colors while outside. In the winter, it's socks and mocaosin style slippers inside, in the spring and summer and fall, it's totally barefoot.

I have a dishpan in the bathtub to soak my feet at night when I am barefoot - using sea salt or epsom salts and lavander oil for neat smells.

Love you ......... keep out of shoes!


barefoot hiker said...

I love barefoot hiking. In fact, I hike 3-4 miles several times a week barefooted. Folks who haven't tried it, really don't know what they are missing. I enjoy the constantly changing textures, contours and temperatures beneath my feet. I have a blog devoted entirely to barefoot hiking. Drop by for a visit.

harry said...

Spring has sprung and now is the perfect time to hit hiking trails. We are going for hiking next month and got boots from Teva.