Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Barefoot Professor Misrepresented By Shoe Consultant

I had the great pleasure of participating in a roundtable discussion on barefoot running at the recent UKSEM conference in London last week. The conference was a wonderful opportunity to meet hundreds of fascinating coaches, doctors, scientists and athletic trainers from around the globe. The roundtable discussion (titled “Natural Running – Advantages & Disadvantages”) was a memorable opportunity for me as I got to share the stage with experts on barefoot running and shoes. The five experts on the panel were Daniel Lieberman (Harvard), Benno Nigg (University of Calgary), Matthias Marquardt (Natural Running), Simon Bartold (ASICS) and myself. The discussion was moderated by Ross Tucker, a young scientist from the University of Cape Town who is a consultant for Adidas South Africa.

Unfortunately, Ross Tucker and I must not have been at the same roundtable discussion at UKSEM. In his summary of the discussion published on his blog today, Ross managed to completely misrepresent my statements on barefoot running. Let me set the record straight.

Ross started the roundtable discussion with the question: “'Shoes are evil. They do not help, they may even cause injury. Barefoot running is natural, and will help prevent injury, and therefore everyone should be encouraged to run barefoot'. Do you buy or sell this concept?"

Ross says that “only Daniel Howell outright bought the concept.” Unfortunately, that is completely untrue. My response to his “buy or sell” question was “Both. Buy and sell. 90% buy.” How does this translate to “outright bought the concept”?

Ross’ mischaracterization of my position doesn’t stop with this opening remark; he continues it all the way through his summary article.

Ross said in a blog for The Guardian and reiterated in his summary of the discussion that there are likely some “people who simply cannot adapt to barefoot running.” Although Ross Tucker may be “certain of this case,” it is pure conjecture. Neither of us have any scientific evidence on this point, but I say it’s equivalent to positing that some people (living in a hypothetical glove-wearing society) cannot adapt to using their bare hands upon taking their gloves off.

Ross accuses me of not recognizing that “being barefoot as a runner exists in a larger context, and that context includes about 100 things that make us different from our ancestors.  For example, we sit at desks for 8 hours a day, we sleep on comfortable mattresses, we drive, and we "hunt" our food in supermarkets and not in bushlands, we play in shoes (when we're not playing on computer games), and we grow up in them and then at 30, we are faced with a possible change (as a result of this debate).  Not one of those things happened before, but every one of them COULD be a contributing factor to injury risk.  In other words, weakness of supporting muscles and tendons as a result of years of disuse and TV-watching might mean that being "natural" is a more risky option that being in shoes.  There is a real possibility, as stated earlier, that some people need shoes in order to run.” (emphasis in original).

Of course I DO recognize that barefoot running exists in a larger context and I actually stressed this point during the discussion. I said that it’s unrealistic to spend decades growing up in shoes, wear shoes throughout the week, then take them off for a few minutes to run barefoot and expect your feet to perform well. This is one reason why I think we all should be walking barefoot more. Ross seems to be saying that because we eat McDonald’s junk food and watch TV too much, we should abandon doing anything that’s natural for our bodies. Actually, it might seem that Ross Tucker has a bone to pick with me since he quoted a tweet in which I called his above arguments “bull.” But he obviously misunderstands my point; Yes, there is a technique to running barefoot and (as I said in my book) we must be slowly weaned from shoes (i.e., rehabilitated), but unlike Ross I believe that everyone can do it barring some unusual medical problem. It is the suggestion that some people will always need big, bulky running shoes that I think is bull.

Ross also accuses me of making “a very basic mistake” by equating natural with better. He claims that antibiotics are not natural (actually most of them are) yet our lives have been enhanced by them, therefore natural is not always better. Ross clearly thinks he’s making a suitable analogy, but he’s comparing apples to oranges when he compares antibiotics to shoes. For the record, I agree that natural is not always better. There is no doubt that man-made products (or “unnatural” uses of natural products like antibiotics) have benefited mankind, but this doesn’t mean that all man-made inventions benefit mankind. Unlike antibiotics, shoes have a demonstrably negative effect on human anatomy and gait; I’ve written a book detailing these effects.

Finally, Ross neglected to mention that I said there will always be a need for shoes – under the harshest terrain or weather conditions, for example. My philosophy is that shoes are tools, use them when necessary but not otherwise. And when shoes must be worn, choose those that have a minimal impact on foot anatomy and gait biomechanics. What I “buy” is that traditional running shoes with bulky cushioning, elevated heels, arch supports and toe springs are man-made concoctions that have an unnatural impact on human stance and ambulation; they likely cause injuries and can be done without.

So, Ross Tucker, I have a question for you: Misrepresenting your “opponent” is the best way to advance your argument –  buy or sell?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Much Ado About Nothing

If you’ve been following my blog you know that I’m a Christian as well as a barefooter. I’m presently engaged in an email conversation with a young Christian man who wants to go barefoot to church but is facing intense social pressure from the congregation and church leaders. This mystifies me on so many levels.

There is nothing anti-Christian about going barefoot. Indeed, strong biblical arguments can be made that it’s more Christian to go barefoot than wear shoes (Exodus 3:5, Joshua 5:10, Matthew 10:10, for example). There are no dress codes proscribed in the New Testament and, in fact, such rules and regulations are discouraged in the Scriptures and were shunned by the early church. Judging others who come to worship is forbidden in no uncertain terms (James 2).

Okay, we all know that religious people can be nutty and inexplicable. They often embrace weird beliefs for no good reason. But what about everyone else? Even in the secular world bare feet remain a volatile subject.

Bob Neinast recently wrote a captivating blog (as usual) about a librarian who was fired for refusing to post a NO BARE FEET sign at her library. This happened in 1972, but sadly, things have not improved since then. Indeed, things have gotten worse; Bob has himself lost several court cases for simply wanting to use his public library sans shoes. Anyway, the fired librarian, Joan Ford, captured the lunacy of this dispute so exquisitely that I have not been able to shake her words from my head since I first read them:

“There’s something explosive about the issue I don’t understand. It arouses intense passions – especially among the no-bare-feet partisans – as inexplicable to me as was to Gulliver the deadly political strife in Lilliput over whether to break the big or small end of a breakfast egg.”

What is it about bare feet that ignites people so? Mrs. Ford went on to speculate, “Maybe some sexual nuance that escapes me?” I don’t know if that’s the answer (because it escapes me, too), but clearly there’s something. If most of the world has a secret foot fetish it might at least explain the fear religious folks have for baring them. Perhaps passions are aroused because the feet are so sensitive to touch, but then so are the fingers and lips but we have no qualms about exposing those. One might think that bare feet are taboo because they’ve been locked out-of-view in shoes for so long, but sandals and flip flops reveal the feet and are socially acceptable, so that can’t be it either.

The war between Big-Endians and Little-Endians.

A mountain out of a mole hill.

Much ado about nothing.

Can some foot-hater out there explain to us why bare feet are such a big deal to you?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My Scathing Analysis of Foot Experts Misinforming the Public

USA Today published an article recently on the dangers of new "barefoot-like" shoe styles. In the report, podiatrists Kendrick Whitney and Michele Colon actually state that high heeled platforms are better for your body than ballet flats or the Vibram Fivefingers. Why? Because a zero-drop shoe – in their professional opinion – is bad for your legs and feet. In the article, Colon decries a particular type of shoe because “there’s no structure, essentially no sole, they’re too flat.”

Run (quickly… and barefoot) from any podiatrist who claims your foot needs “support.” I cringe whenever I hear a foot doctor say the foot needs support, or that such-and-such shoe is bad because it doesn’t offer enough support. And here we have two podiatrists claiming that ultra-hard, immobilizing, high heeled shoes are better for you than low, flexible shoes that allow for natural foot mobility.

It appears to me that podiatrists like Whitney and Colon do not fully understand or appreciate foot physiology. And I am astounded – though perhaps not surprised – that it takes a non-podiatrist like me to set the record straight. They, like so many other members of the medical community and society at large, are simply brainwashed. They are so culturally-biased that they cannot see the obvious about human ambulation or discern "normal" from "natural."

Can you imagine a dentist who sincerely believes that candy for breakfast, lunch and dinner is the best thing you can do for your teeth? If the dentist was deceiving his patients merely to increase his own profits, I would merely despise him. If he were so ignorant of dental hygiene as to sincerely believe his prescription is best, then…. well, I would be truly afraid to be his patient. So is our situation, however, with many of today’s podiatrists. Crazy.

You do not need shoes. In fact, your feet, knees, hips and spine would be stronger and healthier if you wore shoes less. That is fact based on human anatomy and physiology. I invite Whitney, Colon and their shoe-touting colleagues to show me ANY scientific data that supports a daily necessity for shoes – specifically the shoes they hype with elevated heels, arch supports, cushioning, etc. In The Barefoot Book, I provide many, many references to the primary scientific literature exposing the hazards of shoe use. Whitney and Colon do not tell readers of USA Today that elevated heels unnaturally shorten the Achilles tendon, putting strain on the arch and ultimately causing the arch to fall. They do not mention that narrow toe boxes on shoes cause hallux valgus, bunions and hammer toe. They neglect to inform that arch supports, elevated heels and toe springs immobilize the foot and halt the windlass mechanism, which is so crucial to natural walking. They also forget that athlete’s foot and toenail fungus only infect us when we encase our feet in warm, moist, closed-toe shoes. And maybe they don’t know that the leading cause of knee arthritis (probably) is elevated shoe heels (elderly women get knee arthritis 4x more than elderly men). All of these problems are caused by shoes and rarely seen in barefoot cultures, but suggesting that we go barefoot more seems unimaginable to them.

Here’s a quote from the article: “Best everyday option for most women: “Something with a 1- or 2-inch heel” that’s well constructed and fits well, Colon says. “You’re giving the foot a little bit of an arch. It puts the body in a normal position for walking.””

URGHH. Do you know WHY you’re giving the foot “a little bit of an arch”? Because you are locking the windlass mechanism in the “engaged” position. (Please see my video description of the windlass mechanism). And walking in a 2-inch heel may be “normal” (meaning it’s accepted by the masses), but it is not natural.

Going barefoot is natural and healthy; wearing shoes is unnatural and by-and-large unhealthy. In the ideal world you should employ shoes the same way you employ gloves… only when necessary. In my own life I have found that I actually need footwear less often than I need hand protection, even in winter. So, shoes are unnecessary in most situations and going barefoot is unquestionably healthier, but if you’ve been wearing shoes all of your life you do need to transition out of them slowly. Shoes create a dependency on shoes. Our feet have been debilitated by them and they must therefore be rehabilitated (by walking barefoot). Like any rehab, the process may be uncomfortable at times, but if you complete the requisite physical therapy you will be stronger and healthier in the end.

Rant over. Thank you.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Mean People Suck: RIGHT BACK AT CHA

I’ve been blogging for about 1.5 years now and one of my most viewed posts is Mean People Suck (which is also one of my personal favorites). In the original post I kept my responses to a minimum, but in this updated post I reply to every comment. I hope readers of this blog recognize the lack of critical thinking exhibited by the commenters and the logical fallacies they employ.  The comments are also rather mean-spirited. Clearly, these are frustrated people who can only talk this way under cover of anonymity. If you read the original post, enjoy the comments again, and my replies this time. :-)

My comments are [in brackets].

1. Another idiot academic heard from. Go walk on broken glass, MORON. Does this jerk have a Piled higher and Deeper degree? [I do have a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Va. Tech. I then conducted biomedical research at Duke University Medical Center for 4 years and McGill University for 2 years prior to joining the faculty at Liberty University in 2003. I have a box of broken glass in my office; sometimes I demonstrate barefoot walking on glass for students and visitors.]

2. Maybe he should just return to the planet of the apes, where shoes are not a necessity. [That is a TV show; there is no such planet. I prefer to live in reality, not TV world.]

3. The professor should get himself checked for hook worms. They may be affecting his mind. [Hook worms were a serious concern throughout the southeastern United States in the 1800’s and early 1900’s. The parasite has been basically eliminated by the use of indoor plumbing – and yes, shoes. Shoes are no longer necessary, however, because everyone uses indoor plumbing and the contamination cycle has been broken. In order to acquire hookworm, a person must step on fresh feces (less than 5 days old) dropped in damp soil from an already-infected person. The likelihood of acquiring hookworm in the United States today is extremely low – like winning a lottery.]

4. He'd like to put tens of thousands, who make shoes, out of work. Mainly very poor people in India. Never mind the sock makers. What a loser! [And just think of all the poor tobacco farmers and sellers we put “out of work” in the past decade. Perhaps they could build windmills are something useful instead of body-harming products. It’s okay… everyone wins in the end.]

5. if he gets his way, it will put all the women who are making a better living for their families in Africa out of luck. Let's just tell 'em: "Go back to being barefoot and pregnant!" [See comment #4]

6. This is why the Educational system in America is so much a failure. Calling wearing shoes an "addiction" is just silly and unworthy of academic inquiry. It is not even worthy of a 3rd grade mentality. I suggest that the "professor" stop smoking pot, get a real job and try to contribute something useful to society--if he actually has the ability. The so-called 'university" is a sham to even allow this embarrassing nonsense to go public. CERTAINLY A LEFT WING NUTCASE TOO. [I typically vote Republican, though I’m fed up with both major parties. I don’t smoke pot, I do have a real job that often requires 60 hours per week or more of my time and I’m trying my best to contribute something useful to society. Shoes are unhealthy; at least 90% of our foot problems in this country can be traced back to our shoes, including athlete’s foot, toenail fungus, hammer toe, bunions, hallux valgus, flat feet, corns and blisters. Shoes are an addiction in the sense that people feel they cannot live without them. If *you* think *you* can live without them, try it for seven consecutive days. The addiction is not just personal, it’s primarily cultural. If you choose to go seven days barefoot, please tell me about the experience.]

7. This IS a health issue - a mental health issue for this wingnut. Parents beware of where you send your children. "University" is the new pseudonym for "indoctrination camp" that exposes young, dare I say it, inadequately prepared, minds to this sort of idiotic "new-age" blather. Don't know much about Liberty (People's Revolutionary Right-Mind Camp), but if they have instructors like this with tenure, well ...  [Liberty University does not offer tenure. I agree that most schools today are “indoctrination camps,” especially public schools. Children are indoctrinated, for example, to believe that wearing shoes is a modern necessity; that going barefoot is harmful and often illegal. My goal is to end the shoe-indoctrination. BTW, private schools – like Liberty University – are generally less ‘politically correct’ and have less government intrusion, making them more open to the free exchange of ideas.]

8. I invite this nut job to retrieve my mail in July and August from my mailbox next to the asphalt road fronting my house. Next, I invite him to discuss his penchant for barefootedness with his automobile insurance company. Next, he's welcome to talk to a podiatrist or two about the obviously complete fallacy of arch support for some individuals. How about a Metro ride at rush hour? I could go on, but...why are these people invariably found in universities? (Other than easy life, little or no pressure, taxpayer funded/supported jobs, etc.). [I can easily walk on hot pavement in summer while barefoot ; I have done so even in Houston in July. No insurance carriers require drivers to wear shoes while operating a vehicle – do the research yourself if you wish. I have ridden a metro barefoot. The biomechanics of the foot arch is explained in my book and many podiatrists around the world are realizing that immobilizing the arches in shoes is harmful. Of all the commenters I list here; you mouth off the most about things you know nothing about.]

9. Have you ever stepped into a fire ant hill in bare feet, professor? Have you ever walked on pine needles? I could go on and on. Shoes protect our feet from all kinds of hazards as well as keeping any cuts or scratches from being exposed to dirt and germs. Just another loony liberal. [I have not stepped onto a fire ant hill barefoot, or in shoes. I very much enjoy walking on pine needles and even pine *cones* if that’s what you meant. Shoes are incubators for growing germs which is why is much less “germy” to go barefoot. Cuts and scratches do happen rarely, both on my feet and my hands. I am not a liberal; I’m a conservative.]

10. Maybe the post should have a regular feature where they profile a "professor" from Liberty "university". It would be more entertaining then the funny papers. (except when you consider all the morons who pay money to go there) [One definition of moron is ‘stupid people.’ Stupid people speak of things they know not. You do not know Liberty University.* Therefore, you are a moron. *(You’ve never been on the campus, talked with students or professors, read the assigned textbooks, etc. You probably don’t know that LU is a fully-accredited institution with a law school, engineering school, aviation school, award-winning debate team, etc., and is the 8th largest university in America.) You also don’t know the difference between “then” and “than.”]

11. Sounds like one of the loonies from woodstock.the good old days no bathe,no shave,mary jane,drugs and rock n a professor,this is an american success story [I was born in 1969 so I’m a little too young for Woodstock. I’ve never endorsed the “hippie” behaviors you describe]

12. I know there's gotta be a connection to the earth only being 6,000 years old and the "professor's" bare feet.... [I don’t think there is.]

13. Shoes are required in places of business not for health reasons, but for liability. Should he step on something and injure his unprotected foot, the business is liable. This guy is an idiot. [I have not found a single insurance policy that requires footwear of patrons in a business open to the public. Find one and prove me wrong.]

14. Professor Howell's undergraduate education in biology should have included a course in parasitology. Hookworns, roundworms, whipworms, etc. - all can be acquired by walking barefoot in contgaminated soil. [Perhaps *your* undergraduate education should have included such a course. Sheesh.]

15. And this nutty professor has tenure. [Why do these people think I have tenure? I have never stated that I do because Liberty University does not offer tenure. Well, you know what they say about “ass-u-me.”]

16. HELLO! Read the last sentence. He's selling a book! This is not "news," it is self promotion. [Self-promotion is promoting yourself. I did not write the article you commented on; the Washington Post did. Sheesh.]

17. As a Liberty University graduate, I can assure you that there is no requirement to sign or state that one believes in Creationism. Also, I can tell you that most people at Liberty likely think this guy is as much of a nut about the barefoot thing as those who do not go there. [Yep, I am hated on both sides of the aisle.]

18. I had a real professor at a real college whom didn't wear shoes. But comparing RIT to Liberty is like comparing an educated Harvard law scholar to a dingbat from Alaska. [Liberty has a law school (founded in 2004) that is already one of the best in the nation. In 2010 Liberty was the only school to achieve 100 percent bar passage rate in the state of Virginia: Washington & Lee was at 90 percent; George Mason, 84.8 percent; University of Virginia, 75 percent; and the College of William & Mary, 73.3 percent. On the whole, LU is not comparable to Harvard, but neither is RIT. Finally, I’m not sure what you have against Alaska; I’m from Virginia.]

19. I hope the professor gets plantar fasciitis and then see how he does with out shoes. [Going barefoot is the best way to strengthen your feet and *cure* plantar fasciitis. However, PF may occur during the rehabilitation stage when you first start barefooting.]

20. Nuts! What's this clown going to do during winter time? What is he accomplishing other than to show what an eccentric he is? He's a narcassist! What a waste! [Winters in Virginia are pretty mild, so I can usually stay barefoot. When we have deep snow I wear shoes, just as I wear gloves, coats, hats, etc., to keep warm. As I say in The Barefoot Book, a shoe is a tool; use it when you need it. But shoes should not be worn all day every day.]

21. Acadmia has truly become a safe house for the crazy, couched in the guise of intellectualism. As bad as it was fifteen years ago, acadamia seems completely awash in, make that saturated, with those not fit for the mainstream workforce. Besides math and science, it is now important to prepare our children for college by instilling in them skeptisism for every word uttered by the "learned." This is particularly so for humanities and fine arts professors. [I am a science professor, though I do have a love for the humanities and the fine arts. Students (indeed everyone) should have a healthy dose of “skeptisism" especially toward “acadmia", but smart people have minds open to new ideas.]

22. As a physician, I think undergraduate university professors in general are unsightly pieces of waste material whether we are talking Liberty U or Harvard. [Honestly, I have similar feelings for MD’s, but not DO’s.]

23. C'mon hippie, put on your shoes already for Christ sake. You look like a frikin idiot!. [As a Christian, I sincerely hope that everything I do is for Christ’s sake, but he told Moses to take off his shoes (Ex.3:5) and sent out his disciples barefoot (Matt. 10:10), so I don’t think Christ is opposed to my barefoot-is-best mentality.]

24. This "Barefoot Porfessor" is the perfect example of the professorial personality: No Commonsense! [If by commonsense you mean “conventional wisdom” then I confess to be a skeptic. The wisdom of the masses is often nonsense. ]

25. If this is not proof that these professors are just useless. Hey have this idiot walk on some glass or on a Phoenix sidewalk when the temps are 115. To think it costs thousands and thousands of dollars to send a child to college to be taught by fools like this. Not sure it is worth the money. [As I’ve stated in previous responses above, I can walk pretty comfortably on both broken glass and hot pavement. College is very expensive and (for some majors) may not be worth the investment, but then colleges do not exist to be job-prep houses, they exist to insure an educated populace; a crucial component for any democracy.]

26. What a worthwhile endeavor. This will surely enrich our society. I will now crusade against the evils of sunglasses and all will be well. [I’m not aware of any “evils” or harm caused by the use of sunglasses, but shoes are responsible for the majority of our foot problems in the USA. Good luck on your crusade.]

27. As A Biology professor, does he realize he takes a very large risk of contracting hepatitis C from going barefoot??? [Blood transfusion and intravenous drug use are the leading causes of HCV infection. Going barefoot is never listed as even a minor cause of HCV from every source I’ve checked, so… NO, I don’t realize that I’m taking a “very large risk” of getting HCV by going barefoot because, well, I’m NOT. I hope *you* are not a biology professor.]

28. Just what America needs, another leftwing loon. [You obviously know nothing about Liberty University, founded in 1971 by the Reverend Jerry Falwell. I am a rightwing loon.]

29. And these crazy nut job "professors" are teaching our next batch of Democrats. No wonder we are in such bad shape. [As stated above, I teach at Liberty University, a conservative Christian university. The majority of our students are pro-life, pro-gun, pro-family rightwing Republicans.]

30. Hey Danny Boy, Amen and Amen, but first we need to ban the use of neck ties. First things first. What do you do in winter? [I hate neckties almost as much as I hate shoes. On mild winter days I go barefoot. On very cold days or in deep snow I wear shoes.]

31. If you want to walk around with your feet sticking out, go to the jungle or the desert where this makes some sense. Otherwise, in modern paved society, civilized humans who have fully evolved wear shoes and socks. Forcing other people to see and smell your feet is not civilized behavior. [Only about 200 milliseconds of thought are needed to see that the paved streets, sidewalks and polished or carpeted floors in America are much more conducive to barefooting than a jungle or a desert, but you may not be capable of that much sustained thinking.  Our civilized society has an unhealthy obsession with shoes and socks and that’s precisely what I’m trying to point out. Feet do not smell; shoes smell because they are incubators for bacteria and fungi (okay, *your* feet smell because you stuff them in shoes all day). Are people who wear flip-flops “forcing other people to see” their feet?]

32. The reaon for shoes is to keep the feet warm and protect them from injury. For a professor, he appears to be ideological and not realistic or "smart". [Yes, the “reaon” for shoes is to keep the feet warm and protect them from injury. Gloves are used for the exact same purpose for the hands. Do you wear gloves all day, every day?]

33. The term 'whack job' comes to mind. [I guess I have no response to this.]

34. The professors opinion on going barefoot will abruptly change one he gets planters warts on the bottom of his feet. [The virus that causes plantar warts may be picked up by walking barefoot, but those who *stay habitually barefoot* are at very low risk of contracting infection. Those who put on shoes are at an increased risk of infection because the shoe is a warm, stale, dark, moist environment that inhibits the anti-microbial nature of the skin (and the desiccating effects of wind and sunshine).]

35. Quite silly. One hopes that he is not paid on the tax payer's dime. He should come up here to Canada and walk through the snow barefoot. That should clear his head. [I work at a private university and do not receive taxpayer money. I lived in Montreal for 2 years.]

36. I am not surprised! I have a suspicion that being infected with hook worms affects the brain. I thought it only effected southern evangelist preachers. Now it seems it has spread to collage professors to. [Hook worm has been essentially eradicated from the USA, and hookworm infection does not affect the brain.]

37. Even the Dharma Initiative wore shoes. And they were on an island with a nice beach. They were a lot more sensible than that Daniel Howell fruitcake. BTW, could he be related to Thurston Howell III? If I recall correctly, even Thurston wore shoes while on Gilligan's Island. [The Dharma Initiative? Gilligan’s Island? Dude, you live TV-land. Turn it off and come back to the real world.]

38. Walk barefoot if you want and leave us alone! Yet another self-appointed people-annoyer... [Oh, the irony. I have often been kicked out of malls, restaurants, etc. for being barefoot. I would LOVE to walk barefoot and BE LEFT ALONE.]

39. Who do you think that this wacked-out person voted for in the last presidential election? Now you know why this country is screwed. [It’s really none of your business who I voted for, but it was *NOT* Barrack Obama.]

40. I wonder if he's ever flown on a commercial flight and had to use the restroom? Moonbat. [I have flown on commercial flights barefoot. I have also been kicked off of commercial flights barefoot. I guess you missed my discussion of this on the TODAY Show. I usually can avoid public restrooms and I won’t use one barefoot if it’s so dirty I wouldn’t use it shod. Many public restrooms are actually clean; they don’t pose any hazard.]

41. Seems all the nutjobs aren't in politics after all.[That is correct, there are nutjobs everywhere. I think there may even be one where you work.]

42. Why even give this clown faux legitimacy with an article about him? It boggles the mind. My cat is more newsworthy for the fact that it cleans its netherregions each day. Professor Stoogotz, as my grandmother would have called him, comes from the same class of folks who hailed Obama as the new Messiah. We see how well that one turned out. [One more time, I’m a conservative Republican; I did *NOT* vote for Obama. I do wish that going barefoot was a non-issue and un-newsworthy.]

43. Yeah, I want to see his filthy feet in a restaurant or classroom... yet another hippy moron teaching our kids.... Dogs also don't wear shoes. Maybe this guy was raised in a small village in Kenya... [A small village in Kenya? I have some excellent students from Kenya; your remark would probably strike them as racist. I guess you also hate to see feet in flip-flops in a restaurant or classroom?]

44. It's the public health, stupid. One small step for bare footers, and a giant leap for diseases. Shoes are like foot condoms in the public health field. If you walk among strangers and defecating animals, then friends don't let friends do it bearback. Not that there is anything wrong with diseases and worms. [There is a very low incidence of bacterial and fungal infections in people who habitually go barefoot. By contrast, athlete’s foot and toenail fungus are rampant in the shoe-wearing population (just browse the foot care products at your local pharmacy).  Bare hands *are* a public health hazard; I think you should wear gloves all day to protect me from your nasty hands that you used to pick your nose with.]

45. What a poser. Until he gets out in the wilderness, including desert and snow and ice, like that barefoot hippie minimalist survival guy Cody Lundin, this guy's done nothing. [I’ve been living barefoot for years and hiked/traveled on many different terrains barefoot, so I do have something on Cody.]

46. It is telling of the smug personality type of those taking up seemingly Innocuous Lifestyle Choices to eventually become hectoring proselytizers. Same with about 90% of vegetarians. It's not about them "doing their own thing," but trying to convince the rest of their moral one-upmanship. Give it a rest. [Again, oh the irony. I would love it if *you* and everyone else would let me walk barefoot and *leave me alone.*]

47. I guess the idiot never heard of hookworm. [I have heard of hookworm, and –unlike you – I actually understand its epidemiology.]

48. Howell tells us how to solve the problems of the world, problems he avoided by becoming a professor. I seriously doubt that he would go barefoot in a New York taxi cab. [I have been barefoot in a New York taxi cab, on my way to my interview on the TODAY show].

49. A kooky suggestion today, a serious one tomorrow, a demand the next, and after that, Obama takes over the shoe industry and shuts it down. That's how the liberal mind works.I've said it before and now is a good time to repeat it: The bastards want us all to walk to work everyday on dirt paths in our bare feet. [I don’t know why everyone thinks I’m a liberal, but from the way these apparent conservatives behave, maybe I’ll become one.]

50. [And finally…] The article doesn't allude to the prof's politics, but I suspect that he's just another kooky hippie leftist. He's not content with just doing something different and going about his business. He has to preach at people that EVERYBODY should be doing it! They're not content to simply mind their own business, drive their Priuses, forego deodorant, avoid eating meat, live in their eco-huts, etc. etc. etc. Seriously, why do the hippies think they have to compel everyone else to do things their way?  [OH THE IRONY. All I’ve ever wanted was to go barefoot and be left alone].

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Lightsome Life Reviews The Barefoot Book on YouTube

Check out this VIDEO review of The Barefoot Book on YouTube by thelightsomelife. A video review! What a brilliant idea. She gives her favorite 10 reasons to go barefoot... what are your favorite reasons?

Tamarah Bartmess, a.k.a., thelightsomelife, is a Certified SimplyHealed™ Practitioner who seems to specialize in weight loss strategies and affirmations. According to the dictionary, lightsome means "carefree and happy and lighthearted" and "full of light." Tamarah says that as a SimplyHealed™ Practitioner, "It is my job and honor to help you ignite the brilliance within you."

Check out her website, and don't forget to watch her book review.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Shoes & Psychology

This week marked the beginning of a new school year. Over 13,000 students have flooded onto the campus of Liberty University and more than 200 have found their way into my classroom. A few of these students knew a thing-or-two about me before they met me this week (they say I’m famous – or infamous), but most of them did not. And to them I got the joy of introducing myself and my “funny” ways.

So during these introductions I was reminded how many people (students or not) are skeptical when first presented with my proposition that shoes are harmful, unnatural and largely unnecessary. Many times they genuinely think I’m nuts. When I ask them to defend the use of shoes they usually recite a few myths and what-if’s but otherwise have no serious counter-argument. They say shoes are normal and going barefoot is not normal. The end.

But it’s not the end. Here’s the rest of the story: shoes are unnatural and going barefoot is natural and healthier, even if it’s not “normal.”

Those shoes may be "normal", but they are not healthy.
What amazes me is that so many people don’t know this already. They seem absolutely ignorant of the fact that shoes are unnatural, unhealthy and harmful. It’s not like it’s hard to demonstrate. Examples of the unhealthy nature of shoes are everywhere; just find someone and look down at their feet. I found a girl walking this morning and captured her gait on video. Watch the video closely; pause it anywhere and look at the still frame. Walking in those shoes is so obviously unnatural, unhealthy and down-right dangerous, yet no one bats an eye at her as she walks by; they’re too busy looking at me in my bare feet. I’m sorry people… I just don’t get it. I look around and see girls walking in shoes like those everywhere, and yet strangely all eyes are on me and my feet. Why is it not obvious to everyone else that these shoes are unnatural and unhealthy? Why is there so much resistance to the healthier option of ditching them? Why can she teeter onto the bus in those things, but I can’t walk on sure-footedly behind her? Why do security guards allow her to wobble through the mall on those monstrosities, but they escort me to the door? Why are bare feet not allowed on the airplane, but those things are?

Okay, enough questions; I need answers. But this is a problem of human psychology and, unfortunately, I don’t know much about that. Help!

*Two apologies: First, I apologize for the shaky video, my cell phone doesn’t have digital stabilizer. Second, my apologies to the young woman in the video… I’m not picking on you personally!!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Running Barefoot Just One Slice of the Pie

Unless you’ve had your head in the sand this past year, you’ve no doubt heard about barefoot running. No less than five books were published in the past 12 months on this new running trend.  While my book touches on barefoot running, the topic only consumes one of eleven chapters. The amount of space I devoted to barefoot running in The Barefoot Book mirrors the amount of barefoot time I spend running.

Obviously, as an advocate of all things barefoot, I’m thrilled with the explosive interest in barefoot running. As I describe in detail in the book, shoes dramatically alter the way we run and they encourage body-wrecking poor form.  It’s simply a fact that running shoes are a major cause of running injuries (references in The Barefoot Book).  

However, while I’m excited by the growing popularity of barefoot running, I’m equally frustrated that so few barefoot runners seem to be taking the next logical step: barefoot walking.

Here’s the deal: shoes are bad for your form – and hence your body – when you run. But guess what? Shoes are also bad for your form – and hence your body – when you walk. (Indeed, shoes are bad for your posture even just standing). This is the first and foremost message of my book: shoes are bad for you, period. “But,” you might say, “walking is far less impactful than running so wearing shoes while you walk shouldn’t be as bad wearing shoes while you run, right?” Yes and no. Yes, walking is less impactful than running, but the average person takes far more walking steps than running steps throughout their week. All of those steps add up, as does the damage from bad walking form induced by your shoes.

Think about it. There are 168 hours in a week; how many of those hours do you spend running? Personally, I only spend about 6 hours per week running, on a good week (so as you can see, I’m not an avid runner; I’m a recreational runner). This amounts to just 3.5% of my week. If my activities were graphed on a pie chart, then running makes a rather small slice. The rest of my waking moments are spent almost entirely either sitting, standing or walking. Since walking is actually fantastic exercise, many health experts recommend walking 10,000 steps per day. If you’re not taking those steps in a zero-drop shoe or in a shoe without a toe spring, arch support, cushioning and all the other bunkum that goes into modern footwear, then you are walking with bad form and hurting yourself. Just as with running, the best way to correct bad form is to ditch your shoes and walk the way nature intended – barefoot.

The easiest way to walk barefoot more is to adopt an increasingly barefoot lifestyle. You simply can’t spend significant time walking barefoot if you put on shoes every time you go to the grocer, or the mall, or the cinema, or to dinner, or to work, or to church, or to…  

This gets to the heart of the second message of my book: we as a culture must chill-ax when it comes to going barefoot already! There is nothing wrong with (and so much right with) going barefoot, why is it so taboo? And for those of you who buck the norm to run barefoot, what keeps you from bucking the norm to walk barefoot? Consider your feet not just when you’re running, but all day long. Treat them right… walk barefoot. And the more of us that do it, the less taboo it will be.