Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mean People Suck: 50 Great Reasons to Guard Your Tongue

50 of my favorite comments about *ME* taken from the great wide web. All quotes are exact, typos and all. I couldn’t help but comment on some of them; my comments are [red in brackets].

1. Another idiot academic heard from. Go walk on broken glass, MORON. Does this jerk have a Piled higher and Deeper degree?

2. Maybe he should just return to the planet of the apes, where shoes are not a necessity.

3. The professor should get himself checked for hook worms. They may be affecting his mind.

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!

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!"

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.

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 ...

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.).

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.

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)

11. Sounds like one of the loonies from woodstock.the good old days no bathe,no shave,mary jane,drugs and rock n roll.now a professor,this is an american success story

12. I know there's gotta be a connection to the earth only being 6,000 years old and the "professor's" bare feet....

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 got a paper cut on my hand in a library once; guess I should have sued them because I wasn't wearing gloves?]

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.

15. And this nutty professor has tenure. [I wish]

16. HELLO! Read the last sentence. He's selling a book! This is not "news," it is self promotion. [I didn't write the article, the Washington Post did]

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.

19. I hope the professor gets plantar fasciitis and then see how he does with out shoes.

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!

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.

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.

23. C'mon hippie, put on your shoes already for Christ sake. You look like a frikin idiot!

24. This "Barefoot Porfessor" is the perfect example of the professorial personality: No Commonsense!

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.

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.

27. As A Biology professor, does he realize he takes a very large risk of contracting hepatitis C from going barefoot???

28. Just what America needs, another leftwing loon.

29. And these crazy nut job "professors" are teaching our next batch of Democrats. No wonder we are in such bad shape.

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?

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.

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".

33. The term 'whack job' comes to mind.

34. The professors opinion on going barefoot will abruptly change one he gets planters warts on the bottom of his feet.

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 did live in Canada, 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.

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.

38. Walk barefoot if you want and leave us alone! Yet another self-appointed people-annoyer... [Oh, the irony]

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.

40. I wonder if he's ever flown on a commercial flight and had to use the restroom? Moonbat.

41. Seems all the nutjobs aren't in politics after all.

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.

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...

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.

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.

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.]

47. I guess the idiot never heard of hookworm. [hook what?]

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 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].

The Privilege of Pavement

A comment I hear regularly from shoe-wearing runners and doctors who are cautious of going barefoot is this: “Feet may be made for going bare on natural terrain but not on modern surfaces.” I have to tell you, this is just another misconception to add to the long list of misconceptions about the human foot and footwear. Let me give three reasons why I think this is so.

Rickshaw runners enjoy a modern surface
First: I don’t think much of the earth is covered with the soft, manicured grasslands that most people must envision when they say “natural terrain.” It seems to me that the ground is generally hard and rocky in most undeveloped places where people live. Plus, I don’t think our ancestors really spent much time walking or running through “natural terrain.” Cities and villages are nearly as old as humanity itself and those villages are connected by roads (or at least well-worn paths) which – again – are hard and rocky. There are plenty of examples of primitive peoples living today much as their ancestors did for thousands of years. In parts of Asia and Africa, for example, rickshaws are still pulled by barefoot workers on cobblestone roads, a tradition that goes back for millennia.

Second: My friend Daniel Lieberman at Harvard (the other barefoot professor) has demonstrated in his research that impact forces on the body are virtually zero when running barefoot, even on the hardest man-made surfaces like steel. Thus, the body’s shock-absorption mechanisms are perfectly capable of handling the hardest of terrains. By the way, impact forces are not zero when running on hard surfaces in shoes.

Third: In my personal experience I find pavement and concrete the most enjoyable surfaces to walk and run on. I began running barefoot in 2006 because I was sustaining twisted ankles from trail running in shoes. I’ve not injured my ankles once since I switched to barefoot, but I find myself doing more road running these days. Why? Because it just feels better and it takes less concentration than navigating rocks and roots on a trail (yes, I am lazy).

Yesterday I walked through a wild field that was littered with thorns and was almost undoable even for my tough soles. Wow, it never felt so good when I reached the edge of that field and stepped onto pavement! Walking through “natural terrain” can be extremely unpleasant and I consider it a privilege to live in a time when smooth, paved roads and sidewalks are available.

Don’t be afraid of pavement. Take off your shoes and go.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Supporters walk a mile in heels & flip flops

Yesterday marked the first day of a new annual event to promote sexual assault awareness and to honor women who have survived sexual assault. The event was created by Kalyne Weisplatt and sponsored by the Santa Cruz sheriff's department. I discovered it by this news article by KION 46/FOX 35 news. This is an honorable cause I do not want to disparage that cause in any way, so please don’t misunderstand what I’m about to say. 
A figure from The Barefoot Book
showing the effect of heels on body
weight distribution. Adpated from
Rossi (2001).

When I first read the headline I thought, “What on earth could this be? A mile in heels?” After reading the article, I understood their cause (which I applaud), but I think their method could do more to raise awareness for the barefooting cause than sexual assault.
As I read the article, one line in particular caught my eye: “They [the organizers] had decorated flip-flops for guys who couldn't walk a mile in heels.” Am I the only one who reads this statement as a red flag for heels?

In addition to raising awareness about sexual assault, I think this event raises some questions about footwear:

• Should women be wearing shoes all day that a man cannot tolerate for one mile?

• WHY can’t men walk a mile in heels? Is it because walking in heels is so unnatural that it takes substantial practice to master? Is this why women suffer from knee arthritis 4x more often than men? Is this why women have bunions more often than men?

• Should our society discourage the use of heels by women? Over 20,000 women/year end up in hospitals because of high heels.

Next year, I think they should forget the flip flops and have the men walk in heels, too. In fact, maybe THAT would be a good event for us barefooters to hold. What do you think?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I Need Your Help!

Kids do not have to wear shoes to school in Aukland.

I’ve never done this before, but I’m asking my shoe-wearing friends to help me out. If you are not a barefooter, if you have no desire to become one, then we barefooters could really use your help.

I ran into a friend recently who got kicked out of two stores in as many days (for being barefoot, of course). She went through the usual routine that has become a habit for us barefooters: she asked why, she was told the myths (health code, liability, etc.) and she debunked them, then she was ejected from the building anyway. After going through similar situations myself for the past five years it has become abundantly clear that having the facts [1] on your side is irrelevant (that is an especially hard pill to swallow for the one who literally wrote the book).

My friend’s recent confrontations illustrate the discrimination that barefooters face: if I go barefoot into a business today I run a significant risk of being bullied and thrown out. Seriously, if you are not a barefooter you likely do not understand the level of vitriol I’m talking about – I’ve been called an idiot and disgusting by managers; I’ve had security called on me to escort me to the nearest exit; I’ve been asked to leave an airplane sitting on the tarmac! In short, I have literally been treated like a criminal for not wearing shoes.

If you think this is wrong, then help us.

Sadly, I believe businesses will continue to discriminate against barefooters until/unless enough people go barefoot that they are forced to stop. Kroger cannot kick out 10% of their customers! To do so would impact their bottom line and even they would see that kicking out that many people is rude on their part. So what can you do to help us?

Go barefoot.

Now you don’t have to go barefoot all the time, just please consider going barefoot in public occasionally. Every now and then just slip off your flip flops and go into that store barefoot. If you don’t get hassled, then no harm came of it. Indeed, it will be beneficial because it will demonstrate to others that going barefoot in public is okay. If you do get hassled, then just put on your shoes and go about your business. Preferably, you can explain to the shoe police [2] that you are not a barefooter but you are sympathetic to their right to go barefoot and that’s why you did it. Who knows, the managers and policy makers may actually respect and listen to you; they certainly are not respecting and listening to us.

So there you have it. Please consider helping us barefooters by simply kicking off your shoes when you run your next errand. By doing so, you may play a significant role in helping to end discrimination against us. And hopefully, you will enjoy the experience!

[1] For example, it is factually correct that there are no health codes that prohibit bare feet in a grocery store in Lynchburg, VA; it is also factually correct that going barefoot is healthier and safer than balancing on the 3-inch heels the store manager is wearing.
[2] Shoe police = that employee that forces you to put on your shoes.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Foot Anatomy 101-Biofeedback

Continuing our Foot Anatomy 101 series, I’d like to discuss the role of natural biofeedback to the proper mechanics of walking and running. Natural biofeedback [1] is the gathering of information from body receptors in order to monitor and fine-tune body functions. The brain relies on sensory receptors to gather that information.

There are three types of receptors in the human body: exteroceptors, interoceptors and proprioceptors. Exteroceptors gather information from the outside world; interoceptors gather information from internal organs and proprioceptors keep track of body position. When the brain issues a command to move it receives biofeedback from receptors to ensure that the movement is going as planned. When walking, much of that biofeedback comes from exteroceptors in the soles of the feet. Biofeedback has been underappreciated by podiatrists and foot specialists for decades, but scientists (and runners) are beginning to gain a deeper understanding of its role in human ambulation.

With an estimated 100,000 - 200,000 exteroceptors in the sole of each foot, your feet are among the most nerve-rich parts of your body. This fact alone should demonstrate the importance of touch to walking and the benefit of going bare for walking properly. But why are there so many nerve endings in the feet? How do those sensitive soles aid walking?

Stand up and walk around (barefoot). When standing and walking, the sole of your foot is the sole part of your body in touch with the environment [2]. Sensory information from the foot is used to protect the foot itself from injury, but it’s also used by the brain to make subtle adjustments in your gait to protect bones and joints all the way up your body and to maximize the efficiency of your movements. In others words, it makes walking more fluid and graceful and safe. It takes only milliseconds for sensory information from your foot to reach your brain and for your brain to respond by making adjustments to muscles in your legs, back and arms. By contrast, walking in shoes is far more clumsy and inefficient due (in part) to impaired biofeedback. Muscle contractions, impact forces and joint range-of-motion are measurably different when barefoot [3-8].

Shoe-Induced Neuropathy
A typical walking shoe possesses a hard rubber outer sole and a soft cushioned insole. In addition, people generally wear socks with shoes. These materials lift your feet an inch or more from the ground and silence the biofeedback from exteroceptors. In shoes, the brain receives almost no useful information from the soles of the feet. This lack of sensory feedback is called neuropathy and is considered pathological and dangerous under any other circumstance than shoe-wearing. Because foot biofeedback has been unappreciated for so long, shoe-induced neuropathy has also been ignored by doctors for decades.

Walk Barefoot? On Gravel?
Most people have extremely tender feet after years of wearing shoes. This tenderness is partly due to the soft and thin skin which has developed from lack of use, but the perception of pain takes place in the brain not the body. Most of us have been told to wear shoes since early childhood; consequently, our brains are unaccustomed to receiving tactile information from the feet.  On those rare occasions when we do walk barefoot, our brains receive ‘sensory overload’ and interpret the strange sensations as painful. Deaf persons who receive their hearing through cochlear implants report their first sounds as painful for the same reason. However, once the brain figures out that the new stimulus is not harmful, the pain subsides. Indeed, what was once considered painful is now re-interpreted as pleasure.

Yes, you can walk and run barefoot on gravel and many other rough surfaces. Gravel poses no threat to your feet, and once your brain discovers this (which can take more than an act of will but time and experience) you can walk on it just fine. And the biofeedback you receive will ensure that your feet and joints are working optimally in addition to providing you with new vistas of pleasure.

Of course, you also need to toughen those tender soles!

1. Artificial biofeedback is an attempt to willfully regulate involuntary body functions being externally monitored.
2. The two other nerve-rich body parts – your hands and mouth – are also parts that frequently contact the environment. The use of touch by your hands is obvious, but your mouth must also use touch to monitor what enters your body. Your mouth is sensitive enough to detect an unwanted stray hair in your bite of cheeseburger.
3. Cunningham et al. (2010). The influence of foot posture on the cost of transport in humans. Journal of Experimental Biology 213:790.
4. De Wit et al. (2000). Biomechanical analysis of the stance phase during barefoot and shod running. Journal of Biomechanics 33:269.
5. Wolf et al. (2008). Foot motion in children shoes – a comparison of barefoot walking with shod walking in conventional and flexible shoes. Gait & Posture 27:51.
6. Stacoff et al. (2000). Tibiocalcaneal kinematics of barefoot versus shod running. Journal of Biomechanics 33:1387.
7. Seth (1977). The foot and footwear. Prosthetics and Orthotics International 1:173.
8. Lieberman et al. (2010). Foot strike patterns and collision forces in habitually barefoot versus shod runners. Nature 463:531.