Barefoot And Never Pregnant

Born in Arkansas, raised in Texas, I have always hated to wear shoes, which doesn’t exactly ‘splain my Imelda Marcos-like closet of footwear. Nonetheless, my preferred shoes are no shoes. At the peak of my professional career, you could find me wandering the halls of my research suite barefooted – much to the chagrin of the chairman.  My white coat and dress shoes were for committee meetings only! One of the great things about living in the Southwest – most of the year one can go shoeless, except for worrying about stepping on scorpions and stones and cactus spines and, well, you get the painful picture.

In 1994, we traveled to the Copper Canyon area of Mexico and learned of the Tarahumara Indians before they were made famous by many books. We would catch glimpses of the very shy people running on sandals made with soles of tires and leather straps to hold them on. Our guide told us about their amazing long distance races kicking balls until they fell apart and how a tribal leader, offended at the short distance when asked to provide representatives for a marathon, sent teen girls. Although I couldn’t relate to that type of running, I knew that barefoot running made sense – especially anatomically.

With my aging body, a nice bunion on my right foot, feet that are exactly 1 size different from one another, and slow recovery from myopathy, I had been toying with the idea of walking barefoot. After two weeks of being able to walk again without aggravating the myopathy too much (YAY!), I invested in a pair of Vibram FiveFingers KSO. The KSO stands for Keep Stuff Out – important because I prefer to trail-walk. Finding a fit wasn’t easy. I have big feet but teeny 5th toes. I took the first pair back to the store, but after a week in the smaller size, I am happily walking (almost) barefoot again across the trails surrounding our neighborhood. This means through deep sand, across gravel, over stones, around cacti, over roads and cobblestones to get to the trails, and back again.

Vibram FiveFingers on my feet

My tootsies after a walk along desert trail

Picture of sole

I chose a treaded sole because of the sandy trails.

So, how does this compare to walking in my professionally fitted shoes? Feels like my own darn feet! I am perfectly balanced, no pain anywhere, a little discomfort in my hips that is probably just the myopathy squawking, but no real adjustment. I live in a pair of Merrell sandals that have almost no soles, so when the marathon runner who fitted the KSOs warned about slowly breaking in my feet and calves, I suppressed a chuckle. First, I don’t run so going from heel-strike to fore-foot was not an issue. Second, I had been walking barefooted and in my sandals everywhere for the past 3 months. Third, God did not create shoes on the 7th day. Fourth, well, there is no 4th. I’m just glad to be walking for exercise again!

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12 thoughts on “Barefoot And Never Pregnant

  1. I’m so glad you’re able to enjoy the long walks. Vibrams interest me, but I’ve always wondered if the heel cushion provided in running shoes is important for foot health. It’s interesting to read these are working out for you.

    • Michele, check out this 6-minute video where the issue of heel strike is addressed and how the comfy padding of modern running shoes actually is bad. The graphs that accompany the videos are pretty dramatic at showing what happens to forces as weight is transferred in the different types of running. This is what got me interested a long time ago. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7jrnj-7YKZE

  2. I’m so glad you’re able to walk for pleasure AND exercise again! I’m a barefoot gal, too, so I especially appreciate your review.

    I’ve recently noticed more articles on the benefits of balanced running/walking, primarily employing more core focus and changing the stride to avoid the harsh heel strike. I need to read them more closely as I’m starting to feel some hip pain when “power walking.”

  3. I’ve wondered about trying this for walking. I wear arch support in all my shoes and walking still makes my feet hurt, not bad though, in weird ways. But when I go around barefoot all day at home, they never hurt! Not sure I could stand that “between the toes” feeling though.

    • My arches are pretty high, and I always looked for walking shoes that accommodated them. Dang if my arches could care less when I walk with these on! Between the toes is no different than wearing a glove, but putting them the first few times took some coordination. “This little piggie…”

  4. Glad you are back on the trail. It is so frustrating when our bodies don’t cooperate with us. I have short fat feet and have a hard time finding shoes. If I could go barefoot all the time I would for sure. I have always been curious about those shoes and wondered if I could handle the individual toes. Are they comfortable? Did they take some getting used to?

    • I cannot stand thong sandals, but the glove-like fit on the toes doesn’t bother me at all. I had no trouble getting used to them – love the sensation of the ground under my soles while feeling so stable. My posture seems much better. No pain anywhere, except for my hips which I know is related to the resolving muscle damage. I’m clocking almost 2 miles a day now. At the beginning of March I could barely go a block. Of course much of that is because the myopathy is finally improving, but after reading many folks who (of course) swear by walking/running barefoot, I’ll just believe the shoes have something to do with it also. 😉

  5. I used to go barefoot all the time until I had terrible plantar fasciitis w/ my last pregnancy and after. Since then if I avoid the barefoot, I don’t have any pain. I’ve toyed with the idea of these, but I wonder if I could handle the feeling of stuff between my toes like gloves. I don’t know. I know that I’m intrigued and since I am trying to run, it makes me wonder….

    • My toes don’t feel separated at all. Try some on if you are curious then walk around the store – a lot! It was amazing to find how comfortable a good-fitting pair felt. Don’t be hesitant to try the various styles or even men’s if you have big feet like me. Don’t buy them off the website – have them fitted by someone who wears them and a store that will take them back if the fit isn’t just right. Or, find a good fit then shop online for the cheapest price. 🙂

  6. Hi, I’m following from Friday Follow 40 & Over. I’ve never seen these before. They’re interesting. Hmm. I’ll have to check them out. Thanks for sharing & have a great day!

    Debra

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