Monday, November 29, 2010
The fear of getting infections by going barefoot is irrational though understandable given the cultural ‘brainwashing’ we receive throughout childhood – doctors, camp counselors, teachers and parents constantly tell kids that going barefoot is dangerous. It’s an irrational fear however because it’s not based in fact or human experience, and I’m starting to get perturbed at chronically-shod people (like Dr. Crane) infecting the populace with erroneous ideas about barefooting. If you really want to know the hazards of going barefoot, wouldn’t it be best to ask a barefooter?
I recently asked several of my full-time barefooter friends if they’ve ever suffered an infection from going habitually barefoot. The answer was universally “No.” Several of them, in fact, became barefooters to rid themselves of continuing fungal infections (e.g., athlete’s foot or toenail fungus). I stress that these people have been living barefoot for years. I have been barefoot 95% of my life for the past three years, spending as much as 6 months continually barefoot, and like my barefooting friends I’ve suffered no ill-effects from doing so; I’ve in fact benefitted from the experience.
Dr. Crane confesses to believing that airports are disgusting. I can only assume she also thinks fast food restaurants are disgusting, hotels are disgusting, malls are disgusting… heck the whole world must be disgusting. I can’t imagine going through life feeling this way. The irony is that one of the most disgusting places you can put your foot is inside a shoe (if by disgusting she means “germy”). Most people are beginning to realize that shoes are incubators for bacteria and fungi, hence the horrible smell of shoes and the plague of fungal infections in the feet.
Let me address some of the specific threats mentioned by Dr. Crane at disgusting airports:
Plantar warts. This virus infection is caused by walking in wet environments, such as public locker rooms and swimming pools. This is another good example of how most of our shoe behavior is backwards. Normally, we go barefoot in the locker room, then strap on shoes and socks for the rest of the day. As I advise in The Barefoot Book, this is the worst thing we can do. Instead, wear shoes in the public shower and go barefoot the rest of the day. Any fungus you perhaps pick up in the wet environment will likely wear off in the following minutes and hours, saving you from infection. By contrast, putting your foot into a shoe only provides a warm, moist, stale environment for the fungus to grow and infect.
Unfortunately, experts like Dr. Crane are still spreading misconceptions about barefooting to the public. In truth, going barefoot is generally safe and is almost always healthier than wearing shoes.
*Dr. Crane's article can be found HERE.
Monday, November 22, 2010
We’ve all heard the oracle: “Everything in moderation.” When it comes to footwear, however, we are far from moderate. With just a few exceptions we wear shoes all day, every day, everywhere we go and for everything we do. Adopting Barefoot Fridays could be a great way to give our feet some sensible barefoot time.
This Friday, go barefoot! When others ask you about it just say, “Haven’t you heard? It’s Barefoot Friday!”
*Liberty University has separate male and female dorms.
Monday, November 8, 2010
• Prints. The skin on the sole of your foot possesses prints. Only the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet possess these tiny undulating folds. The pattern of skin prints on the hands and feet are wholly unique for each person – even genetically-identical twins have unique fingerprints and footprints. Your skin prints are also immutible, meaning they do not change over time. For these reasons fingerprints and footprints can be used for identification. But why do we have these prints on our hands and feet? Answer: To improve grip. The prints on your hands help you to grab and hold objects; the prints on your feet increase traction for walking and running. Like the tread on a car tire, those skin folds augment friction to better enable us to grasp the ground and reduce slipping. Unlike car tires which go ‘bald’ and must be replaced, our skin is self-replenishing, prints and all. Of course, our skin prints are rather useless inside a shoe and many shoe soles are smooth and extrememly slippery by comparison, especially under wet conditions.
• Innervation. The soles of your feet are one of the most nerve-rich parts of your body. The three most highly innervated parts of your body are your hands, your face (particulary the lips) and your feet. Why the feet? The feet (when bare) are the only part of your body that is in constant contact with your environment. With over 100,000 nerve endings per foot, tactile feedback from the soles of your feet provide a wealth of information to your brain about the ground upon which you tread. Whether you are walking or running, that information is used to make adjustments (within milliseconds) to your gait, the goal always being to reduce impact forces on your joints and body. Of course, this information is also used to warn you of dangerous terrain or injurous objects. Unfortunately, most footwear creates a ‘shoe-induced neuropathy’ because the thick outersole and cushioned innersole eliminate sensory feedback.
• Sweat Glands. The soles of your feet have a tremendous number of sweat glands. In fact, the three ‘sweatiest’ parts of your body are your scalp, your hands and your feet. Although rich in sweat glands, these parts of your body rarely sweat enough to produce dripping sweat; that only occurs under extremely hot conditions or during vigorous exercise. Usually those sweat glands are producing micro-droplets of sweat that quickly evaporate and remove heat from the body. Of course our hands and head are almost always bare and we cover them only under extreme conditions, but our feet are regularly locked away in both shoes and socks. The sweat and heat are thus trapped and the dark, moist, warm, stale conditions inside a shoe become a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi. Shoes are the basic cause of athlete’s foot and the best way to avoid or even cure athlete’s foot is to go barefoot as much as possible. Enclosing the feet in shoes and socks may also lead to difficulty in regulating body temperature, a condition I call ‘hot foot syndrome.’
These are just four ways the skin on your foot differs from skin on other parts of your body. There are other differences, too, but these four illustrate the point that the feet are remarkably designed for their functions – standing, walking and running. The skin works best when the foot is bare and kept bare as much as possible. Constantly wearing shoes weakens and softens the skin, making our feet tender and prone to injury. The lack of proper ventilation in closed shoes and socks keeps the skin moist and makes it more vulnerable to invasion by microbes and infection while simultaneously creating the perfect environment for such microorganisms to grow. Going barefoot is healthy for your skin. Callouses and blisters are frequently caused by shoes but rarely result from walking barefoot. With plenty of exposure to sun and air, the skin on your feet will become healthy, strong and beautiful.
Friday, November 5, 2010
The ‘truss’ of the medial longitudinal arch is formed by the calcaneous (heel bone), the midtarsal joint and the head of the first metatarsal. The plantar aponeurosis forms the ‘tie-rod’ that spans from heel to toes. The attachment of this aponeurosis to the toes beyond the metatarsophalageal (MTP) joints forms the basis of the windlass mechanism.
A windlass is a mechanical device for lifing heavy weights. It usually consists of a spool around which a rope is cranked, the weight being lifted by the rope. A common example is the crank, rope and bucket used to raise water from a well.
In the foot, a windlass is created by the plantar aponeurosis passing beneath the MTP joints, in particular the first MTP joint. When the big toe is dorsiflexed during walking, the aponeurosis winds around the first MTP joint and pulls the heel and toes slightly closer together, raising the medial longitudinal arch and also locking the bones of the foot. It’s an ingenious way of stiffening the foot and converting the supple ‘landing’ foot into a rigid ‘propulsion’ foot.
Unfortunately for shoe-wearing people, none of the above windlass foot mechanics happens in shoes, and this is one reason why shoes are so damaging to feet. Whether you’re wearing a wedge or a sneaker, the foot is immobilized inside the shoe. The toes are kept in a dorsiflexed position by the toe spring (or by virtue of the heel height in a wedge or pumps); the MTP joint does not move at all and windlass mechanics is eliminated. In addition, the constant strain on the plantar aponeurosis likely causes it to weaken (along with associated foot muscles) and this may be a leading cause of shoe-induced flat foot and fallen arches, which is epidemic in shoe-wearing societies.
For proper foot biomechanics… walk barefoot!
Thursday, October 28, 2010
The human foot is one of the most masterfully-designed parts of the body. It is often ignored and mistreated, but it is literally the foundation of the body, the base upon which we stand. It is also the only part of the body (when bare) that is in constant contact with our environment. In honor of this humble organ called the foot, I will embark on a series of blog posts on foot form and function. In this first post of the series, I’d like to take a look at the foot arches.
The Human Foot ArchesThe foot arches are the centerpieces of the foot. There are three arches as defined by the skeleton of the foot: the medial longitudinal arch, the lateral longitudinal arch and the transverse arch. Each arch is defined by a curvature of bones secured in position by a “keystone” bone. Many people think of the arches as rigid structures, but they are actually quite flexible and change shape considerably when unrestricted.
When standing and walking the arches are crucial for proper distribution of body weight. As you walk, the bones of the arches guide your weight from your heel along the outer edge of your foot and then across the ball of your foot to the base of your big toe. (From there, your big toe is used to propel you into your next step). During this process the arches “collapse,” especially the medial longitudinal arch. This collapsing is a normal and natural process for shock absorption. Also, the elastic soft-tissue structures of the arch stretch and retain some of the load energy they experience (up to 20%) and then snap back when you lift off, helping to propel you forward.
Of course, none the above really works that well in a shoe, which immobilizes the natural flexing, twisting and stretching movements of the arch.
Arch “supports” are detrimental to foot arches. Consider this: What other part of the body needs support? We don’t wear neck supports for our neck, or arm supports for our arms. For a time, some factory and construction workers wore back supports, but it was quickly discovered that those supports actually weakened the back and increased injuries. The same logic holds true for arch supports. When a supporting structure is placed under the arch it can no longer stretch, flex, collapse or spring the way it’s supposed to. The result is weakened arches… and flat foot. As discussed in The Barefoot Book, several studies have been done now comparing the feet of barefooters to shoe-wearers. Guess what? The shoe-wearing people have 3x higher incidence of fallen arches and flat foot.
I hope you enjoyed this quick summary of your foot arches. Give your arches a break today; kick off your shoes and walk barefoot!
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
The second edition of The Barefoot Running Book by Jason Robillard is now available. The greatly expanded seconded edition is sure to be the manual for barefoot running. The first edition, at just 68 pages, seemed a bit rushed, but the 188-page second edition is the complete package. Not only does Jason dive more deeply into the science of barefoot running, he added contributions from numerous experts in the field, including Barefoot Ted McDonald and Barefoot Rick Roeber.
Although Jason touches on the biomechanics and science of running, I think the real strength of his book lies in the practical training plans he provides. From the 5k Cheetah plan to the 26-mile Marathon Hyena plan, he’s got one for every runner. Varied-terrain and debris drills will keep your eye-foot coordination at peak performance while you work your way to barefoot running proficiency. Jason’s diary-style race report of the Hallucination 100 Mile Run seasons the book with a personal touch that will inspire you to keep running.
If you’re at all interested in barefoot running, you owe it to yourself to read The Barefoot Running Book. Jason’s book truly is A Practical Guide to the Art and Science of Barefoot & Minimalist Shoe Running.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Erwan is the founder of MovNat, a revolutionary new way to exercise, move and live in your world. Erwan told me that for healthier bodies adults need to move like children move. After thinking about this, I am absolutely convinced that Erwan is on to something.
Have you ever watched children playing on a playground? They climb ladders, slide down slopes, crawl under and over obstacles, jump from place to place. They are constantly on the move and their motions are anything but repetitve. Contrast this to a typical adult trying to get some exercise; for example, a woman at the gym watching the news while she runs 5 miles on a treadmill. She’s burning calories, but her motions are extremely repetitive. She’s using some muscles over-and-over again while other muscles are hardly working at all. Even the muscles that are working are not working well, using the same motor units and the same muscle fascicles and producing the same amount of tension in the same direction. This is not the best way for our bodies to move. Even when we “change it up” by moving from the treadmill to a cycle machine, we’re primarily using the same muscles and our motions are still repetitive.
Check out this amazing video by Erwan. Yeah, I’m definitely going to incorporate some of this into my exercise “routine.” He's working a book right now... I can't wait for it!
BTW, children instinctively pull off their shoes every chance they get, too. We grown-ups can learn a lot from children!
Monday, October 4, 2010
Now imagine that you live in the Emerald City. In this place everyone dyes their hair green. Parents dye the hair of their newborns as soon as it begins to grow. Children and adults are expected to regularly dye their hair to keep it presentable. You yourself have dyed your hair all your life. Maybe you’re a student at Emerald U., or a professor.
Suppose you discover that the green dye used to color your hair is mildly toxic to your scalp, and you just don’t like the color green for hair. You decide to let your hair grow out in its natural color. As your brown roots begin to show, people take notice. They stare at you. They laugh at you and call you names. Businesses refuse to serve you. Reporters and cameramen from far-off lands follow you around and local newspapers do stories on you. All because you want your own, natural hair color. How messed up is that?
Welcome to Oz.
Friday, September 17, 2010
Friday, September 10, 2010
My name is Steph, I'm 20-years-old, and I've been a member [of the Society for Barefoot Living] for quite some time but never really posted much and I slowly fell back into wearing shoes (sometimes it's just hard to stand up to the masses).
Today though, I want to share with you all a story of fears, a small step forward, and what I consider a major success. For many days I've sat in my car outside of my college before class, and I've worried myself to death over what people will think and say [if I go in barefoot]... submitting to fear I eventually slide on the flip flops and walk to class. I'm a socially fearful person- It's been difficult for me to break from what's considered "normal."
A few days ago I broke down and ordered a pair of barefoot sandals... Today I put them on, told myself people would think I had shoes on (and at a glance that's exactly what they do), left my sandals at home, and went for it. I was reading the barefoot book as I walked, distracting myself from hearing any comments. Eventually I ran into a friend from high school. He looked at my feet (knowing me for only wearing flip flops through High School), and said "cheater." We laughed, I showed him my book, and I felt a little better. As I waited outside of class another student looked, looked again, and said "... those aren't flip flops are they? What's on the bottom?" so I showed her my naked foot. She asked about it, I told her about being healthy and comfortable- Busted twice in less than 10 minutes, and if there were any rude remarks I never heard them.
I know many SBLers tell the newbies to just do it, but that's more difficult for some than others. I know barefoot sandals aren't the best solution and I hope to wean myself off of them eventually, but for now their good practice to keeping my cool knowing I have no shoes on, and the good comments are going a long way.
Who knows, maybe my story will even help someone else.
Thanks for reading,
And that, folks, is why I wrote the book. Way to go Steph!!! And oh yeah, I wear barefoot sandals, too. They are great!
Saturday, September 4, 2010
The New London House is a landmark restaurant in the greater Lynchburg area. Shirley Hartman opened the restaurant nearly 40 years ago and since that time the steakhouse has won numerous awards. Their filet mignon rivals the best of the best in town and their ribs are second-to-none. The staff is friendly and the atmosphere is casual - yes, I dine there barefoot! The New London House has a bar, private dining rooms and a patio for those perfect summer nights.
So, if you've never been to The New London House, check them out! They are located at 4312 New London Rd in Forest, VA. If you like surf-n-turf, order the Barefoot Professor (pork BBQ ribs & steamed shrimp) and if the weather is warm sit out on the patio. And oh yeah... kick off your shoes!!
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
This has never happened to me before, but I've run less this summer than in the past 3-4 years (ironically because my book has kept me so busy). I'm training for a 10-mile race in September, so I can't take too much time off. :-( Oh, well... push through it? Erghh.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
I recently saw a news clip* of a British Columbian teen who was left stranded at a bus station late at night because the bus driver refused to let him on the bus barefoot. Thus, the teen, Carl A., is left alone at 11 p.m. watching the bus drive away. He has no cell phone and may find himself walking the 6 miles to his home. He borrows a cell phone (from strangers late at night?) to call for a ride.
So what was the problem with being barefoot? It was dangerous according to the BC Transit Authority. After all, the teen could have stepped on glass in the bus and cut himself, then hold the transit system liable.
Let's talk about safety... and liability.
According the bus driver, it was safer to leave a lone teenager stranded at a bus stop late at night 6 miles from home than to just let him ride barefoot. The floor of the bus is apparently more hazardous than the streets the boy is left to walk upon going home. And it must be safer to walk barefoot in the middle of the night through town then to sit with all those thugs on the bus, right? In my opinion, high heels are so dangerous they should come with warning labels (I'm not kidding), but would the bus driver refuse to take a woman in stilettos? Flip flops are incredibly slippery when wet. Would he refuse those wearing flip flops on rainy days. The issue is not one of safety.
No doubt the bus driver felt the transit authority could be sued if the boy cut his foot on that glass all over his bus. But is the bus system less liable by leaving him stranded? If the teen did manage to injure his foot on the bus, he would not win a lawsuit - after all... he was barefoot! But if this were my son and he was mugged or beaten - or worse - because he was forced to walk home, I would definitly hold the bus system culpable! The boy had even already paid the fare before he was ousted from the bus!
This was a gross lapse of judgement on the part of the bus driver. Carl, I'm sending you a free, signed copy of The Barefoot Book and I hope you can use it to educate the BC Transit Authority! Walk well young man.
*available on youtube here.
Friday, August 20, 2010
Hot foot syndrome (HFS) is "a condition in which covered feet feel intolerably hot and cause the sufferer to feel uncomfortably warm throughout the body." (BFB, pg. 39).
Why do I not like the term?
Well, a 'syndrome' is a set of conditions that collectively indicate a disease or abnormal condition. Although a 'set of conditions' can be associated with HFS (e.g., hot feet, red/swollen feet, a discomfort from feeling too warm, and a feeling of dizziness), those conditions do not reflect a disease or abnormal condition. Indeed, they reflect the body reacting normally to a physical assault - the shoe. I suspect the same set of conditions could be elicited by wearing thick wool mittens for hours on a hot summer day.
The feet, like the hands and head, are made to radiate heat from the body. This is evident from the distribution of sweat glands on the body (the most concentrated number of glands being on the scalp, palms of hands and soles of feet). Thus, it's not surprising that a person could feel uncomfortably hot, have red/swollen feet and feel dizzy from enclosing their feet in shoes and socks all day. Indeed, it's in fact surpising that so few people suffer from HFS - a testimony to the incredible adaptability of the human body.
As for what to call this shoe-aggravated condition (other than HFS), I still don't know. Any suggestions?
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
As an author, I'm flattered when someone not only reads my book but takes the time to write a review of it. As a professor, I receive student evaluations every semester and I've learned to especially appreciate thoughtful constructive criticism because it has greatly improved my teaching over the years. I'm not so naive as to think that every student will like my teaching style, nor do I think every reader will like The Barefoot Book or find it useful to them. However, when a review of my book contains factual errors I feel I must respond.
Amazon reviewer Elise Cohen accuses me of taking citations out of context, but she begins her review by taking my words out of context by quoting the sentence: "Asking someone to wear a sensible shoe is like asking a person to smoke a sensible cigarette." (page 5) and presenting this as a genuine argument on my part rather than the attention-grabber it is clearly meant to be. She fails to mention the follow-up sentence, “Okay, shoes are not as devasting as cigarettes, but for most of us daily shoe wearing will cause chronic foot problems.”
Cohen then asks, “Did I mention the scientific backing? Oh, I didn't; that would be because there isn't any, except a few citations taken out of context (related to historic foot-binding or extreme high heel damage, for the most part).” In chapter 4 alone, I cite
Prosthetics & Orthotics International
Journal of Biomechanics
Journal of Sports Science
Journal of Anatomy
Boston Medical and Surgical Journal
British Medical Journal
Arthritis & Rheumatism
Journal of the American Medical Association
Throughout the book there are roughly 100 references to primary and secondary sources. Ironically, not one of them refers to “historic foot-binding” which is discussed briefly in chapter 1 without a citation.
Cohen goes on to criticize the chart on page 127 which graphically compares the number of shoe-related lawsuits to barefoot-related lawsuits. She complains that “there are no numbers anywhere on the graph at all.” This is true, but as Cohen concedes all of the lawsuits depicted in the graph are listed in the Appendix; one therefore only needs to count them to obtain numbers. Cohen asserts that the Appendix fails to “acknowledge the fact that the shoe-related injury lawsuits related to suing the shoe manufacturers for the most part” but again her assertion is not true; the first five shoe-related lawsuits, for example, are against Cigna Corporation, Home Depot, Grand Wailea Company, Wal-Mart Stores, and Winn-Dixie. Indeed, there’s not a single lawsuit in the list against a shoe manufacturer.
Finally, I have to wonder if Elise Cohen’s review is not biased by negative sentiments for my employer, Liberty University. She opens her review with “When I saw that the author is a professor at Liberty University, my eyebrows raised.” She said that, despite my affiliations, she would give the book a fair shot. Did she?
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
I spent a day at Dollywood last week. The park is truly wonderful with lots of fun rides for kids and adults, and entertaining shows every hour. There's a genuine steam-engine train that takes you on a tour through the park and a new zip line (extra $36) that lets you soar above it all. (I didn't ride the zip line, BTW). Overall, it's a place I would recommend and I’ll probably be going back myself.
The day I was there I was barefoot (surprise). In fact, I didn't even take shoes with me. Admittedly, I "snuck" in by staying deep within the crowd, but after gaining entry I wandered rather carefree throughout the park. For the most part I was not hassled for my free feet (which were plainly visible since I was wearing shorts), and I passed many, many park employees. I was denied entry onto one ride - a water ride at that! And I was informed I needed "to wear shoes throughout the park" by a park employee while I was perusing the museum exhibits. That dictum was clearly not true since there are several rides in the park on which shoes are *not allowed* and a play fountain where kids and parents tromped barefoot in the water. Indeed I wish I had read the parks rules *before* I went because according Dollywood’s website the only footwear rules are these:
“Shoes, sandals or footwear with buckles are not permitted on the attractions. No footwear may be worn on the Mountain Scream, Wild River Falls, SwiftWater Run, The Butterfly or Bear Mountain Fire Tower. Water shoes or similar footwear is acceptable on all other attractions.”
BTW, Dollywood made a big deal about the “no shoes” rule at those rides: Several signs were posted and water was sprayed on the pavement at the rides to keep it from getting too hot (i.e., too hot for tender feet; my feet withstood the hot pavement throughout the park just fine).
So it seems that no shoes are required “throughout the park” and going barefoot is perfectly acceptable. Yeah, I think I will go back, and next time I won’t sneak in!(The statue above is of Dolly Parton).
Monday, August 9, 2010
PS. If you were one of the few people who followed me on The Barefoot Book blog spot, I will now be posting here instead of there. Thanks for following.