Tuesday, August 31, 2010

First Barefoot Running Injury?

I may be suffering from my first bf running injury since I started running bf in 2007. I just got back from a short 3-mile run. Throughout most of the run - and even more now - my tibialis anterior muscle on the right leg is killing me (well, it hurts). The left leg is fine.

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.

Barefoot Hiking is Awesome!

If you have never tried barefoot hiking, do it! Hiking along a well-worn nature trial in your bare feet is one of the most delightful things I've ever experienced. For me it's a spiritual experience. On such hikes I often think of Jesus walking barefoot through the gardens in and around Jerusalem, or Adam and Eve exploring Eden. The oneness you feel with nature just makes it easier to feel more connected to God. Maybe that's one reason God told Moses to take off his shoes in His presence (Exodus 3:5)!

Sure, if your feet are tender and fragile from wearing shoes it will take time to adjust to the new sensations under foot, but not long. Newbies that join me on hikes move quickly past the fearful tip-toeing around to walking naturally within a mile. Once your feet are toughened up you can explore nature freely, enjoying the touch of the earth but not fearful of the next "ouch." You can even run through the trails with the ease of a deer.

Yeah, I'm going out for a hike... see you later!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

An Issue of Safety? Really?

warning: I was a *tad* angry when I wrote this!

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

In The Barefoot Book, I discuss a condition I call "hot foot syndrome." Even though I coined this term, I don't particularly like it. Before I explain why, let me first describe what it is...

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

The Medical Community Is Coming Around...

I've been hearing reports - many of them - from friends and students about doctors recommending barefoot activity. Not just tolerating it, but actually recommending it! Obviously, I think this is fantastic. Some of these reports come from local friends and the doctors might be familiar with me as the local barefoot professor who wrote "the book." BUT, several other reports have come my way from students in various states where - I'm quite sure - the doctor doesn't know me from Adam and has never heard my name.

This is very exciting to me because it clearly indicates that doctors and podiatrists are no longer resisting the barefoot movement but are embracing it. This is how it should be, given the plethora of scientific evidence in favor of natural (i.e., barefoot) walking and running. Still, the idea of going barefoot was resisted by the medical community for many years (as Dr. William Rossi could attest if he were still with us). As medical specialists continue to promote barefoot activity, social acceptance will surely increase. And I am all in favor of that!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Author's Response to Elise Cohen

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
Clinical Biomechanics
Journal of Anatomy
Boston Medical and Surgical Journal
British Medical Journal
The Lancet
Arthritis & Rheumatism
Journal of the American Medical Association
and more.

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

Barefoot at Dollywood

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

The Barefoot Book: Barefoot Running Injuries

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The Barefoot Book: 2010 Barefoot Book Tour Complete

The Barefoot Book: 2010 Barefoot Book Tour Complete: "The book tour is finished! I traveled to 15 cities, passing through 20 states in 21 days and covered 5412 miles. I met a lot of wonderful p..."

The Barefoot Book: Crime & Punishment... the barefoot way.

The Barefoot Book: Crime & Punishment... the barefoot way.: "Imagine a young couple driving out on a date. The young man, more fixated on his girl than his driving, finds himself going 60 miles per hou..."

The Barefoot Book: What's up with Missouri?

The Barefoot Book: What's up with Missouri?: "Missouri seems to be one hostile state to barefooting. You are probably aware that a family was ejected from a Burger King last year becaus..."

The Barefoot Book: Links to my recent TV appearances

The Barefoot Book: Links to my recent TV appearances: "Here are the links to my recent TV interviews: http://www.todaysthv.com/video/default.aspx?bctid=129097539001#/News/Being+shoeless+is+nothi..."

The Barefoot Book: Amazing Restaurant Experience

The Barefoot Book: Amazing Restaurant Experience: "I just had the most amazing restaurant experience. I stopped at Olympia Steaks & Seafood in Blytheville, Arkansas for dinner. I was hesitant..."

The Barefoot Book: So yesterday instead of an interview with Wess (th...

The Barefoot Book: So yesterday instead of an interview with Wess (th...: "So yesterday instead of an interview with Wess (the sports anchor) I did an interview with Stefanie Bryant at KTHV in Little Rock. She was ..."

The Barefoot Book: TV interview on KTHV in Little Rock

The Barefoot Book: TV interview on KTHV in Little Rock: "On Thursday evening I will be interviewed by Wess Moore on KTHV TV in Little Rock, AR. I will be giving a presentation of The Barefoot Book ..."


Welcome to The Barefoot Professor blog spot! Here is where I (with you) will discuss issues related to footwear, foot health and going barefoot. It is becoming clear to a growing number of people that shoes are unhealthy and going barefoot is a better option, but there are social hurdles to overcome before 'barefooting' will be commonplace. For several generations we have been told that shoes are a modern necessity - both physically and socially. In most circumstances they are not a physical necessity and our society's 'shoe rule' is one that can be changed through education and bold leadership. Let's discuss it!

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.