Personal Anecdotal Observations:
And forget not that the Earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.
Normally, I have to wear shoes and at the least, carry a flashlight at night, here on the desert. The possibility of scorpions, rattlesnakes, or some form of pricker is just too great. Today the temps dropped and so did the sun drop earlier than expected, catching me off guard and necessitating finishing chores after dark. The lower temps eliminate the critter problem and I had been out enough to know that I would not be likely to step on any prickers where I’m working. Amongst this, I had to load the truck with my things, making multiple trips.
I had gotten tired of the weird walk of the flip flops. I have to bend my toes to grip in this kind of shoe and the loose heel creates a partial shuffle. Another consideration is that going barefoot is spoiling me. I decided to go without shoes. Out in the driveway where this activity was taking place, there is sand, sandy loam, patches of sharp gravel and single rocks which were left over from the septic system construction. The rocks are more singularly exposed by the rain’s washing away the soils around them. I have been getting more comfortable with these chunks of rock.
The point that I’m making was the discovery that my feet walking blind at night took to the terrain very well. There was no jumping, no tip toe, nor dodging to get in between the larger pieces of rock. I couldn’t see to interfere. I couldn’t anticipate stepping on something and then shy away from it, thinking it uncomfortable. The feet just went for it and accepted it.
I needed a flashlight to see what I was doing at one point. I turned it on as I went from inside the house out. This time, I quite naturally found myself dodging the obstacles that I had been walking over moments before. Obviously my feet are capable of more and my mental conditioning is getting in the way.
This continued. I had to walk a couple of hundred feet down the driveway with no shoes. I took the flashlight to look for any little dark patch of prickers amongst the sand. I put the beam light out further in front of me, so that my next footsteps would be taken blind. It was very comfortable and natural, more so than usual. There is a need to learn to trust the mechanics of the feet. It needs to be more like one would confidently walk with shoe protection.
Those wonderful smooth hard concrete walkways:
As I moved about, pebbles would catch the bottoms of my feet sticking. This wasn’t a problem, until I stepped onto the smooth concrete patio area. At that time, the same stuck pebbles became uncomfortable as they contrasted with the smooth surface. I had to scrape them off of my foot. Smooth hard unnatural surfaces create problems for feet designed to walk on natural terrain, I concluded.
I have participated in the Tucson Day of the Dead Processional wearing thin soled Vibram KSO shoes several times. There, I discovered further problems with these hard unnatural surfaces. There are several miles of city streets to traverse. I notice that my feet get sore relatively quickly on the hard flat concrete sidewalks. I also notice that in contrast, I actually find relief from this on the cracked, pitted more uneven asphalt surfaces of the processional route in the middle of the city streets. Any uneven surface, natural or not, is a relief to walking on the sidewalks.
Sidewalks are supposed to help us. Aren’t they? They only force us to have to wear shoes.
Sand, granite, dirt, leaves, sandy loam, every natural surface feels warmer than concrete when the weather is cold. When the weather is hot, concrete is hotter than the natural surfaces. Darker rocks do heat up more. Soft treaded upon sand is hot on a beach, but concrete is not relief.
Your experience may be different than mine, surfaces and climates vary. These are my anecdotes.
One more experience that I have had. It came after reading Barefoot Ken Bob’s excellent book. He cautioned to begin slowly. Maybe ten minutes running. He wrote that there are a whole new set of muscles, previously not used, and the soles need to be conditioned. I chose the smoothest run of asphalt that I could find. I ran a block up and then back. It was less than five minutes.
When I returned, my feet felt hot. I sat down to inspect them. My feet were shredded. Blisters had already popped, and shredded away. There was raw skin on each and every toe. The balls of my feet and the foot’s edges were totally shot. I was crippled, needing a couple of weeks of healing. I cussed Bob out. He had said that it was better to learn to run barefoot before trying Vibram five finger shoes. My experience is that it is better to walk barefoot, extensively, be cautious, run just a tad.
I start with a massage program, so that the feet move correctly. You see, a major part of the cause of the fiasco was that my legs and feet were not trained to do that. As the damage became more evident, I realized that there was a greatly uneven wear when comparing my two feet. It is like when after I massage one foot, my posture and movement change. When I massaged both feet the correction happened automatically. I automatically lead with my second toes; I didn’t need to remember to create a new habit. More of this massage conditioning before running and there will be fewer problems.
Instead of ten minutes, just a small bit of running, maybe 60 paces, and then incremental increases, so as to learn how not to create friction. Learn to lift the feet and see what they will tolerate.
Human beings have been chasing game down barefoot with endurance and long distance running for many millennia. They practiced first; they grew up with that. We haven’t. There is also a tremendous difference between manmade surfaces, like flat concrete and grass, rock and sand. The asphalt and cement sidewalks get hotter and are redundant, hard, and bore feet. Our feet were developed for diverse nature.