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Subject: alt.lifestyle.barefoot FAQ [1/2]

This article was archived around: 10 Dec 1997 12:05:02 -0800

All FAQs in Directory: barefoot-faq
All FAQs posted in: alt.lifestyle.barefoot
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Archive-Name: barefoot-faq/part1 Posting-Frequency: monthly (on the 10th) Last-modified: 1997/04/13
_________________________________________________________________ SECTION 1: Introduction and table of contents _________________________________________________________________ SUBSECTION 1A: Introduction _DOCUMENT:_ Frequently-Asked-Questions for alt.lifestyle.barefoot _AUTHOR:_ Paul J. Lucas http://www.best.com/~pjl/ (with contributions from fellow barefooters) _COPYRIGHT:_ Copyright (C) 1994-1997 Paul J. Lucas. Permission to copy all or part of this work is granted, provided that the copies are not made or distributed for resale (except a nominal copy fee may be charged) and provided that the AUTHOR, COPYRIGHT, and NO WARRANTY sections are retained verbatim and are displayed conspicuously. If anyone needs other permissions that aren't covered by the above, please contact the author. _NO WARRANTY:_ THIS WORK IS PROVIDED ON AN "AS IS" BASIS. THE AUTHOR PROVIDES NO WARRANTY WHATSOEVER, EITHER EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, REGARDING THE WORK, INCLUDING WARRANTIES WITH RESPECT TO ITS MERCHANTABILITY OR FITNESS FOR ANY PARTICULAR PURPOSE. _AVAILABILITY:_ Monthly on alt.lifestyle.barefoot, alt.answers, and news.answers; via: ftp://ftp.barefooters.org/alb/faq/part1 ftp://ftp.barefooters.org/alb/faq/part2 http://www.barefooters.org/alb/faq/part1.html http://www.barefooters.org/alb/faq/part2.html with archive mirrors at: ftp://rtfm.mit.edu/pub/usenet/news.answers/barefoot-faq/part1 ftp://rtfm.mit.edu/pub/usenet/news.answers/barefoot-faq/part2 http://www.cis.ohio-state.edu/hypertext/faq/usenet/barefoo t-faq/part1/faq.html http://www.cis.ohio-state.edu/hypertext/faq/usenet/barefoo t-faq/part2/faq.html and also available from the author directly. _SLOGAN:_ Set your feet free and your mind will follow. _________________________________________________________________ SUBSECTION 1B: Table of Contents PART 1 SECTION 2: Why? Q1: Why walk barefoot? Q2: Doesn't it hurt? Q3: What about broken glass? Q4: What about hot surfaces, e.g., asphalt? Q5: Isn't is gross with all the dirt? Q6: Don't toughened soles lose feeling? SECTION 3: Health Q7: Is it actually healthy to go barefoot? Q8: Can I go barefoot even if I have flat feet? Q9: How do I get my feet in shape? Q10: What should I do if I get a blister? Q11: What about catching diseases? Q12: Should I walk differently when barefoot? Q13: What can I do if I develop "cracks" in my soles? PART 2 SECTION 4: Getting by in a Shod World Q14: What can I say to passers-by if they make a comment? Q15: Is it legal to drive barefoot? Q16: Why don't many stores permit bare feet? Q17: Which stores do permit bare feet? Q18: What do you wear when you are forced to wear shoes? Q19: Is there such a thing as soleless footwear? SECTION 5: Reference Q20: Is there anything written about bare feet? Q21: Are there barefoot groups? _________________________________________________________________ SECTION 2: Why? _________________________________________________________________ Q1: Why walk barefoot? The simplest of answers: Because it _feels good_! Having your feet free of confining, hot, sweaty shoes, open to the air and sunshine, able to wiggle your toes, able to _feel_ the various textures and temperatures of surfaces as you walk, is _wonderful_! It is one life's most simple pleasures and is part of what it means to be human. It's completely natural to walk barefoot. In fact, it is quite healthy and good for your feet to do so. (See Q7.) Additionally, there's something to be said for the "barefoot aesthetic." Bare feet on a person just plain look attractive! _________________________________________________________________ Q2: Doesn't it hurt? This is almost a silly question. The obvious answer is no. We are not masochists. Again, walking barefoot _feels good_! Occasionally, you do step on something uncomfortable and it especially hurts if it presses into the soft arch. But stepping on uncomfortable things is greatly reduced by doing one simple thing: Watch where you're going! You ordinarily do this to avoid walking into fire hydrants, deep puddles, etc., anyway. But, despite watching where you're going, you will still step on something uncomfortable eventually. That's life and you just have to accept it. Do you know how many times I've injured my hands in my lifetime? (Getting fingers caught in doors, smashed by hammers, sliced by knives, burned, knuckles scraped, for example.) Nobody thinks, "This would not have happened if I wore gloves." You have to have the same mind-set about your feet and not think that you ought to have worn shoes because you injured them. The injuries are few an far between and the intervening pleasure of going barefoot far outweighs them. _________________________________________________________________ Q3: What about broken glass? Yes, broken glass exists, but it is not "all over the place" even on city streets. Unless it's a recent breakage, it gets kicked/swept into cracks, against walls, or right against curbs and isn't strewn about. For the little glass that does remain, again, just watch where you're going! But, for the seasoned barefooter with tough, thick soles, most broken glass is not a problem even if you step directly on it. _________________________________________________________________ Q4: What about hot surfaces, e.g., asphalt? [The following paragraph was contributed by Neil Kelley <n_kelley@ix.netcom.com>.] Some background: The actual temperature of a surface depends on a number of factors such as how dark or how efficiently the surface absorbs the sun's UV and IR radiation. A surface that appears very dark to the eye may not be as dark in the infrared. Also, the surface temperature can be affected by how much the soil below conducts heat away from the top layer. The better the conduction, the lower the surface temperature. Therefore, you can't look for what you might hope is a cooler surface based on its color. In general, for me, most asphalt is either pleasantly warm or at or at least tolerably hot _unless_ the ambient air temperature is 90F or over _and_ it's mostly sunny. In such cases, there isn't much you can do. [The following paragraph was contributed by Ross Thompson <thompson@adobe.com>.] On particularly hot days, I will go from shade patch to shade patch, and hang out until the burning subsides before continuing. One trick I've learned is that if you walk briskly, then the time your foot is in the air is enough to dissipate a lot of the heat absorbed during the previous step. Also, if you concentrate on the foot that's in the air, you will be focusing on where the heat is dissipating, not where it is accumulating. This gives you a psychological edge. _Note:_ Prolonged exposure to hot surfaces can cause burns and blistering; pain is an indicator that tissue damage is not far behind. However, some barefooters report that, through gradual acclimation, one can greatly increase one's resistance to hot surfaces. _Tip:_ When you cross at intersections, the white stop-lines are cooler; you can walk on those. _________________________________________________________________ Q5: Isn't it gross with all the dirt? It depends on your point of view. Personally, I don't think so. Walking barefoot is natural and dirty soles are the natural result. It is to be expected. Your body sweats and your hair becomes oily. So your soles get dirty...so what? Ever play sports or engage in any other prolonged physical activity? You still do it even though you will get dirty and sweaty. A shower later and you're clean. Walking barefoot is the same thing. Personally, I can't stand sweaty, smelly feet which is what you get if you wear shoes: to me, _that's_ gross. There is also a greater dislike for dirt you can see versus dirt you can't. People touch many dirty, germ-laden things with their hands all day such as doorknobs, handrails, etc., that many other people have touched after doing who-knows-what with their hands and fingers. Nobody gives that a second thought, however, because you can't _see_ that dirt. But other barefooters I know and I myself actually think it's _fun_ and cool to get dirty feet, as black as you can possibly get them. _________________________________________________________________ Q6: Don't toughened soles lose feeling? [Contributed by Mike Berrow <mberrow@lexica.net>.] Most barefooters don't get really thick and hard callouses. More usually, the sole simply becomes thicker while retaining flexibility (not really stiff or hard). The actual degree of toughness seems to vary a lot among barefooters. Any slight reduction in sensitivity due to thickening is more than compensated for by continued development of the sensory receptors in the soles (possibly also the relevant part of the brain). Did you ever get too much wax (or some water) in your ear for a while and then when you get it out all sounds seemed to be really _loud_? If you did, you'll understand the following: For some, when they first start going barefoot, the ground is too "loud" -- it's like listening to a lot of unpleasant noise. After a while, however, your body adjusts and you begin to "hear the music." Really, if we couldn't feel the ground, that would take away a large part of the pleasure of walking barefoot. We enjoy everything from the "rough, scratchy" feeling of gravel to the soft, damp moss on fallen trees. Many of the sensations are nothing short of delicious! _________________________________________________________________ SECTION 3: Health _________________________________________________________________ Q7: Is is actually healthy to go barefoot? Very much so. I quote from the following article published in _Women's Sports & Fitness, August 1994_ issue: A recent study demonstrates that the skin on the soles of your feet resists abrasions and blistering and that going barefoot is _beneficial_ to the musculoskeletal structure of your feet and ankles. ... Kicking off your shoes can help prevent a host of foot injuries: bunions, heel spurs, and bone deformities, among others. "Shoes act like casts, holding the bones of the foot so rigid that they can't move fluidly," [Steven] Robbins [MD and adjunct associate professor of mechanical engineering at Concordia University, Montreal] explains. "The foot becomes passive from wearing shoes and loses the ability to support itself." ... _-- Cheryl Sacra_ To see excerpts from published papers in medical journals that support the claims that going barefoot is healthy and that footwear is entirely unnecessary and, in many cases, detrimental to foot health, go to: http://www.barefooters.org/medicine/ Some people hold the ignorant view that human feet are somehow uniquely inadequate among all the Earth's creatures and that they need support and protection. Nonsense. The human race could not have survived and flourished if the human foot were somehow "flawed" and thus incapable of being bare. Evolution (or God, depending on your beliefs) has provided well. The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art. _-- Leonardo da Vinci_ Additional info: Barefoot populations universally have a very low incidence of running "overuse" injuries, despite very high activity levels. In contrast, such injuries are very common in shod populations, even for activity levels well below "overuse." _________________________________________________________________ Q8: Can I go barefoot even if I have flat feet? Basically, if you can walk barefoot and it doesn't hurt, then yes. Many barefooters were born with arches lower than the "ideal" (whatever that is) but still enjoy the pleasures of going barefoot. For someone with low arches or outright flat feet, habitual shoe-wearing often exacerbates the problem due to weak feet (see Q7). Additionally, forcing feet into shoes with arch supports against their natural shape can be uncomfortable and sometimes painful. In contrast, going barefoot strengthens the muscles, ligaments, and tendons in the feet and helps to counter low arches or flat feet. Some barefooters have reported that, once they started going barefoot regularly, their arches raised almost if not entirely to "normal" levels. Why do many podiatrists push arch supports and corrective footwear? Part of it has to do with what they were taught; but, just because something is in a textbook doesn't make it right or necessary. Many people tend to want perfect bodies: perfect faces, noses, buns, etc., and this tendency can extend to feet which equates to high arches. Many podiatrists are catering to this tendency. Bottom line: If you can walk barefoot and it doesn't hurt, don't worry about it. (If it does hurt, however, do see a podiatrist.) _________________________________________________________________ Q9: How do I get my feet in shape? Walk barefoot. Walk barefoot some more. Go barefoot everywhere you can. Your soles, foot muscles, ligaments, and tendons are like any other parts of your body: you have to use them to develop them, otherwise they will atrophy. Note that you wouldn't need to build up your feet if you went barefoot from birth as nature intended. What you're actually doing by "building them up" is getting them _back_ to their natural state. Regardless of whether you have been mostly barefoot since birth, you can still build up your feet -- there is no such thing as a permanent tenderfoot. Walking on gravel is an _excellent_ way to develop the soles of your feet quickly. A few jaunts daily will thicken and toughen your soles in a few weeks. (It is within the realm of human capability to _run_ barefoot on even the most punishing gravel.) _________________________________________________________________ Q10: What should I do if I get a blister? Once your feet are in good shape, I would be _very_ surprised if you ever got a blister from walking barefoot. Blisters are caused by continual rubbing in the _same_ spot over and over; while walking barefoot, your soles get rubbed all over and no one "hot-spot" develops. But, should you "over-do" you barefoot training and get a blister, you can follow the procedure below. [_Note:_ I am not an MD and the following does not constitute medical advice. It is my own personal experience and is what works for me.] What worked for _me_ when I used to get blisters was to lance the blister with a sterilized needle and squeeze the fluid out. Leave the flabby skin on! If the blister is small, it may "reattach"; if not, it will protect the soft, "virgin" skin under it until it becomes harder. Then, after a few days if it does not reattach, carefully trim it off with a small pair of scissors or a nail-cutter in a chopping manner. After treating a blister, the the best thing to do, believe it or not, is to walk barefoot more! (You _did_ leave the skin on, right?) Your body will recognize the "need" for thicker skin and this will help prompt the skin to reattach. A blister, if you followed the above procedure, will get to the point where you don't notice it in under a week. You will still see a "crater" for up to 3 weeks, though. _________________________________________________________________ Q11: What about catching diseases? _Athlete's Foot (fungus):_ The following is an excerpt from a pamphlet on Athlete's Foot by the _American Academy of Dermatology, April 1994_: Athlete's foot does not occur among people who traditionally go barefoot. It's moisture, sweating and lack of proper ventilation of the feet that present the perfect setting for the fungus of athlete's foot to grow. Therefore, by going barefoot, the perspiration from your feet evaporates just like it does from the rest of your body; your feet then remain cool and dry in the open air. The fungus can not survive under these conditions. As a result, going barefoot will most likely _cure_ athlete's foot. Additional text from the pamphlet can be obtained at the URL: http://www.aad.org/AthletFoot.html _Hookworm (parasite):_ This is almost entirely confined to tropical, third-world countries where people habitually walk in soil contaminated by the excrement of infected humans and domestic animals. In the 1940s, hookworm occurred in some regions of the southern USA but has largely disappeared even there thanks to improved sanitation. The chance of getting hookworm from barefoot hiking on trails in a temperate region such as North America or Europe is very small. Hookworm is easily treatable with vermifuges such as tetrachloroethylene: its prevalence in tropical regions is largely a matter of public health, due to poor sanitation and lack of access to medical facilities. _Ringworm (fungus: this has nothing to do with worms -- it's a misnomer):_ The same text about Athlete's Foot applies for Ringworm. Additionally, one can get it anywhere on one's body. _________________________________________________________________ Q12: Should I walk differently when barefoot? No, but some people do not walk properly to begin with. You should walk by placing most of your weight on the balls of your feet (the pads in the front behind your toes) rather than your heels. Heels are rigid and many people "slam" them into the ground, "shocking" the legs and knees. Instead, while you should still make your heels touch the ground first, you should shift most of your weight forward onto the balls of your feet. The balls are flexible and will "mold" to the contour of the surface; they also have a wider surface area to better distribute your body's weight. Once you get used to walking this way, it will become natural for you. Aside on foot anatomy: The above shows off one of the most beautiful and functional aspects of the human foot: the arch. Just like the arch of a bridge, the arches of your feet "carry" your weight across from your heels to the balls of your feet where it can better be distributed. Structurally speaking, an arch is extremely strong. As for walking barefoot, you should _always_ step down and never slide or shuffle your feet. If perchance you do step on something uncomfortable or sharp, you will notice before you place your full weight down. Sliding your feet puts them as risk of being gashed, getting splinters if walking on wood, etc. You ought to slide or shuffle your feet only when you _know_ the surface you're dealing with. Carpeting or tile floors do feel nice. There is one technique that contradicts the above advice. When walking through prickly, dried grasses, you can put your feet down, but, within the last couple of inches, sweep them sideways in a semicircular fashion. This will knock over the grass and you'll step on the sides rather than the pointy ends. Take extra care when you can't see the ground surface. In time, you will develop a "sixth sense" about placing your feet since your soles are a wonderful sensory organ. _________________________________________________________________ Q13: What can I do if I develop "cracks" in my soles? Sometimes, parts of your soles can become too thick and the callus can crack which is often painful. This generally happens around the edges of your heels. To prevent the cracks in the first place, file some of the callus with pumice from the edges _only_ and use skin lotion or Bag Balm* to keep the _edges_ supple. Do it just after you trim your toenails; this is a good frequency. That's all the maintenance bare feet need! _________________________________________________________________ * Bag Balm is a lotion/paste product that contains a mild antiseptic (0.3% 8-hydroxyquinoline sulfate in a petroleum, lanolin base). It's made by the Dairy Association Company of Lyndonville, VT, 05851, and comes in a 10 oz., 2.5" square green tin with the red letters "Bag Balm" and a picture of a cow and flowers on it. Its intended purpose is to treat cow's udders to keep them supple and to ward off infection. As such, it's strictly a veterinary product, but it appears people have been using it for years with success; so much so that it's available at Walgreens and other drug stores. (I don't think too many Walgreens' customers have cows.) _________________________________________________________________ END OF PART 1