Someone who read about my standing desk asked if I had heard of the barefoot movement. I have, but I haven’t spent much time looking into it. He gave me a link to a fairly extensive article on walking barefoot… and why we should do it more.
Barefoot is a movement that’s been going around the horse circle for even longer. We had a horse for over two years, and we did not shoe her. In fact, she had never been shod in her life. While horses who are worked heavily do need shoes, as do horses with reoccurring hoof problems, most pleasure horses can go without shoes. We never even trimmed Infanta’s feet; she was outdoors all the time, and she kept her hoofs trimmed naturally. And without shoes, mud and manure didn’t stick to the bottom of her feet, causing problems. We worried about her in the winter, when so much of our yard became muddy from excessive amounts of rain (and she would stand in it; she wouldn’t stand where it was dry), but she never had hoof problems.
It did occur to me that if barefoot for horses is a good thing most of the time, what about people? People aren’t born to wear shoes anymore than horses are.
When I was growing up, I went barefoot when I played outside in the yard every summer. My feet would get so tough that I hardly noticed running over pine cones or gravel. I also became very adept at watching where I was walking and I never stepped on bees after the age of about 11.
Walking barefoot on a semi-manicured lawn is one thing, but on concrete or asphalt? Do you know how hot that gets in the summer in Tennessee? That’s not even counting the fact that most people wouldn’t want to walk barefoot in the city because you’re too likely to step on something nasty, like glass.
There are several lines of shoes, however, which have only a very thin sole and no padding; they allow you to walk naturally. I checked them out.
This is the Vibram shoe. It’s supposed to be as close as you can get to walking barefoot without having to suffer cuts or nasty floors.
These don’t work for me because I have twin toes, like these:
(Those are not my actual feet; I don’t have cute shoes like that and I never paint my toenails.)
Without full separation between my second and third toe, I can’t wear toe socks or these shoes.
Vivo makes a barely-there shoe which only has a sole a few milimeters thick. There are a couple of other companies which also seem to have similar lines of shoes. The problem? $120 for most styles. Sorry, but my absolute limit for a pair of shoes is $40, and that takes some extreme teeth pulling to get that out of me. I typically aim for $25 or less.
Not only that, but no one sells these around me, and I absolutely can’t order shoes online. My foot is exactly 9.5 inches long, but depending on the brand, I may need a 9, 9 1/2, or a 10, depending on if the manufacturer is sloppy with their measurements or not. And I have a narrow heel, which makes some shoes–especially tennis shoes and boots–hard to bit.
Add to that the fact that all of the shoes I have seen so far are very casual or athletic; nothing I can wear to work in my law office with my business casual attire.
And who wants to pay $120 for a shoe that’s barely a shoe?
One article I read (and it may have been the one above) mentioned that traditional moccasins are the right kind of shoe (if you must wear a shoe). I have a pair of traditional, center-seam moccasins that my husband made me for 18th century reenacting. They look like shapeless bags of leather tied on my foot, so I can’t personally advocate a traditional moccasin (no doubt the author meant a modern-syle moccasin–such as come in kits from places like Tandy Leather–but with a leather, not rubber, sole).
But I learned how to make a basic medieval turn-shoe pattern (like this one–which is handmade and only $75) last year, plus I have a shoe pattern from Butterick which gives me some other options. (No worries; I can adjust these patterns to be less pointy in the toes and more modern-looking.) I can make these look more like a leather Mary Jane, which is more appropriate to wear at work.
I also have the theory that I can make the uppers out of whatever cloth I want, provided it’s backed with something heavy, like canvas. For my medieval shoes, which I won’t wear out very fast, I would eventually like to do embroidery and/or beads on my shoes, but for everyday shoes, which will need to be replaced pretty frequently (medieval shoes are estimated to have lasted 3-4 months with daily use; on concrete they will probably not make it that long).
The thing about going barefoot or barely-shod is that it takes time to get used to it–just like it takes time to get used to standing. I had sandals on yesterday, so I kicked them off while I was standing at my desk, and, surprisingly, it wasn’t any worse than standing in my shoes (and I have pretty cushy sandals). This morning my feet and ankles were tired (although that was probably caused by my extra walking yesterday) and I noticed a slight ache in my knees this morning. I took off my shoes, though, and the ache pretty much went away.
Why? My feet (and maybe everyone’s) slope to the back. I feel that the ball of my foot raises the front of my foot up a little higher than my heel. The ball of my foot has more padding under it than my heel does (probably a good indication that we need to be walking more to the balls of our feet and not so much on our heels). But this is the opposite of shoes, which almost always elevate the heel (even “flats,” like my sandals, are higher in the heel than the ball). Changing the elevation of the heel can make a difference to your feet, ankles, knees and lower back–just ask any woman that’s been walking in high heels for a couple of hours.