Savage. Poor. These are a couple words used to describe people who go barefoot. I and many others have another word for it – real. The reality is that barefoot is best, and the modern shoe movement (fetish?) is perhaps the major cause of foot, even knee, injuries.
People have such a shoe fixation – they have to get the latest shoe, the latest model, the latest look. According to the National Retailers Association, Americans spent over $31 billion on shoes in 2014 (http://www.statisticbrain.com/footwear-industry-statistics/). I can tell you – most of it was a waste.
Sure there are times that we just need to wear shoes, but most of the time it’s only because either we only think we need to wear shoes, or we’re accommodating other’s views of shoes.
When you go to a meeting, do you really need to wear shoes? You’ll probably say “Of course! I don’t want people to smell my stinky feet!” Or “My feet are ugly.” Both of these, and most other “reasons” are actually just excuses, or based on false premises. This is because stinking feet are actually caused by socks and shoes. When you wear socks, that holds in the bacteria that love to be enclosed. Add shoes to that, and you’re in for a nasty ride. Bare feet actually don’t stink. As for ugly feet – well, there’s nothing to do about that, but it’s a freedom that most don’t take advantage of.
You might think, “But it’s against OSHA regulations.” Well, yes and no. When you work certain places, you need shoes for either protection because of the environment (e.g., construction) or because you’re working with food. So, I can see that. But for visiting restaurants and other places – as far as I know, there’s not a single law on the books in any state that mandate footwear for customers. Now, it may be the code of the establishment, but that’s not law. If that’s their code, then it’s just a matter of not shopping there – you can’t go to jail for it. So you are actually free to go barefoot just about everywhere.
What about driving? As far as I know, no state has a law mandating that one wear shoes for driving. There may be some places, but by-and large, it’s not a law. There are instances where it would be wise to wear shoes, and in a wreck the police will take into account your lack of footwear, but that’s only because they take footwear it into account for any wreck – if you are barefoot, if you’re wearing heels, wearing flip-flops, they’ll wonder if anything you have or don’t have on your feet contributed. But it’s not relegated to just barefoot.
Another area where shoes are an obsession is with churches. Many churches run shoe drives, such as “Let’s send shoes to the poor people in such-and-such country.” Here’s what’s wrong with that.
Barefoot does not equal poor. Barefoot is natural. It’s not just a western thing, but a pride/upper-class/hierarchy/arrogance attitude to think that someone is “poor” because they don’t have shoes. It comes from a biological misunderstanding of how feet work. Feet work just fine by themselves! Kids in those other nations could very likely use footwear to protect their feet from thorns, glass, needles. That’s actually what footwear is for – protection. It’s not true that people, especially kids, need arch supports. What they really need, if anything, is strengthening of the tendons and tissues and muscles. When they are sent modern shoes, their feet will be protected, but the sending church is setting them up for foot and knee injuries in the future.
If churches, non-profits, and donors wanted to be truly helpful, they’d spend the same or less money on providing something like Xero Shoes to those kids. These kinds of shoes protect the soles, yet allow the feet to breathe and to move naturally.
(BTW – I’m not selling or affiliated with Xero Shoes, but I wear them, and they’re great for when I have to run around town, or get out in the cold. I successfully shoveled snow this past winter while barefoot – yes, cold, but quite nice!)
There are 2 prominent biologists in the arena of the nelipot way – Dr. Daniel Howell (Liberty University) and Dr. Daniel Lieberman (Harvard), and it’s worth every moment to read their writings. Just search online for a wealth of information on them. The first Dr. is a Creationist, the second Dr., an Evolutionist. They’re each called “The Barefoot Professor” because they go around, even in class barefoot. One will tell you we’re created, the other will tell you we evolved. But they’ll both tell you that we’re best off being barefoot.
What got me into barefooting? Why am I so for it and against the modern shoe fanaticism? I had a knee injury years ago. It was actually a somewhat torn meniscus. I wasn’t old (in my thirties – it usually happens in one’s fifties) or athletic enough (I did some activity, but nothing big) to have the injury, but there I was, in pain. The knee center couldn’t (now I know they “wouldn’t”) tell what caused it, but I had to have surgery. I had it, and it got better – for awhile.
I had trouble running after a couple years (only that knee hurt – the other was fine), and I bought some “nice” shoes. Didn’t help. I just don’t have the money to keep buying shoes, so I got to doing research. I came across minimalist shoes. I tried that, though it was homemade – essentially modified water socks that I picked up locally for about $5. The price was right, but they got gross pretty quickly. I bought some more, but I got tired of that. I did more research and I came across barefooting. I was hooked.
Several years later (as of this writing, it was last year) that pain came back, despite being barefoot. I determined to check on it, so I went to our chiropractor. He’s a wizard! He had fixed my biceps tendonitis and my elbow/wrist/shoulder pain, so I figured he’d know something. $25 for him was better than $100+ for a doctor visit. He explained the whole thing – my meniscus was getting torn, and he was glad I came in. He described my ankle problem – when one runs on a weak ankle like that, it puts lots of extra pressure on the meniscus, tearing it over time. The knee center wouldn’t tell me because they love to fix knees! I was glad.
Funny thing, though. My chiro suggested shoe inserts (I wore minimalist shoes – Lems Shoes – to his office). I said thank you for the information, but didn’t get the inserts. Instead I came home and started strengthening the area that I now knew – after all these years – was the weak spot.
That was a few months ago. I’m back to running, and walking without any pain. I have to exercise and warm up that ankle and knee, but no pain!
The established orthopedic field has its heart in the right place, with wanting to help people. But shoes are NOT the answer to fix hurt feet. Those shoes are the problem. Not everyone experiences that pain, so those people can dismiss it. Those of us who have had the pain, and tried the pricey shenanigans with no result, have turned back to our body’s natural design – barefoot.
If you have to wear shoes, then by all means wear them. I always wear reinforced-toe boots when I chop and split wood, simply because of the danger of a log rolling on me. But wear them to protect your feet, not for some fashion. And you can be certain that most shoes are sold with fashion, not foot health, in mind. Train yourself to get away from thinking that those high heels, fancy shoes, orthotics/inserts, arch supports are doing you any good.
Think about it: Have you ever known anyone who wore those supports and got over their foot problem? The problem is brushed off as “that’s just the way you are.” You may have a weak ankle like I do, but supports, inserts, and surgeries aren’t the answer.
How do you get started going barefoot? Take your shoes off. Pretty simple. I will say that it’s not necessarily easy, especially if you’ve been shod for a long time.
Research the science and biology behind it (find some of those foot bone pictures).
Start noticing where many people take off their shoes; many do it when they come into the house.
Like me, you may actually have something wrong in your ankle/foot/knee, but don’t see that as preventing you – see it as something to overcome.
Go outside and just barefoot walk on the pavement, for the sake of safety and strengthening your feet. Don’t start in grass or mud, as you can’t see what’s in there.
Over time, with study and, almost literally, baby steps, you’ll increase your strength and be able to do more than you ever could with shoes.
The answer to your foot deficiencies is most likely found right there – near your sole.