I’ve commented before on my belief that things happen for a reason. Would it be weird for me to also believe this extends to literature?
Let me explain.
I have always been outdoorsy, active, and more comfortable barefoot than in shoes. My growing interest in Primal/Paleo fitness movements like MovNat has also uncovered an interest in living more simply and mindfully, eating healthier, and… barefoot shoes.
I spend a lot of time on my feet at work. As a teacher, much of my day is spent either standing at the front of the room or walking down the aisles while my students work, discuss, cooperate. About a year ago, I started waking up in the morning with a sharp pain in my heel. It felt like someone had stuck a needle deep into my heel while I slept. I would limp around the house as I got dressed, trying to bend and stretch the pain away. Eventually, it would subside a bit, but flare up as the day passed on.
Naturally, I blamed my shoes. No way were my $20 Walmart specials healthy for me as I spent most of my day working my dogs to the bone (forgive the bad metaphor). I must need more support, more padding. So I bought new shoes, American Eagle high-tops, with thick sneaker soles and arch support.
The morning after a long day at work, wearing my new shoes, the agony in my foot now resembled the pain you might feel if someone shoved a pencil through your heel.
This repeated off and on for several months. It couldn’t be the shoes. I blamed foot strain and figured it was the curse of anyone who works on their feet. I knew other teachers with occasional foot pain and my greatest hope was that the pain was not permanent and would probably be nonexistent in the summer.
Man, was I wrong about that.
Over time, I began to see a pattern. When I wore my shoes throughout the day, my heel often hurt the next morning. If I spent most of the day barefoot, there was no pain. After an early morning in which my heel was causing my agony again, I Googled ”pain in my heel.”
Plantar fasciitis. Some of the remedies were extreme (amputation!), but most of them recommended solutions like orthotics, regular foot massages, soaking your feet in warm salt water, and ointments. But my favorite suggestion?
Maybe it was no coincidence that while on vacation, after hours of walking at the beach on both sand and pavement, I never woke up with a stinging pain. At home, after walking around the house or in the yard without shoes, no pain. And even after my MovNat workouts, barefoot mixed with vigorous exercise, no pain in the morning. There had to be some truth to this barefoot idea.
Enter Born to Run.
I stumbled onto Chris McDougall‘s Born to Run while reading about Vibram Five Fingers, possibly the most popular barefoot shoes on the market. The article I read hailed Born to Run as the book that launched the barefoot running craze. However, I put off reading the book for quite a while as I wandered down my laundry list of other “books you must read before you die.”
I finally checked out an e-book version after reading strong reviews on Goodreads. And… Wow. Without exaggeration, the book seemed to speak to all of my recent hobbies and interests. The book is part adventure story, part fitness book, part memoir, part barefoot manifesto.
McDougall makes some bold claims in this book about the benefits of running barefoot, citing barefoot living as the treatment for many foot ailments such as… you guessed it… plantar fasciitis.
I’m not going to give a full plot review of the book here, mostly because it is tough to explain, and the less you know about it the better (yeah, it’s one of those books.) And your experience with it may not match mine since it just seemed to be the right book at the right time. But you can read my review here.
Since reading Born to Run, I’ve made a vow: to be true to my barefoot nature. To wear shoes only when necessary, and even then to wear minimalist shoes that come close to being barefoot. I’ve joined the growing barefoot revolution, relishing the feet-to-earth connection that takes me to childhood and somehow links me to something deeper that I can’t explain.
You should try it, too. Go ahead. Take your shoes off.