the colors beneath our feet


September 13, 2013 by scratchtype1

I had been running barefoot, it had felt like my feet had caressed the asphalt and there was soft wind in the leaves of the oaks. I stopped and a group of people were there. One of them asked me, “Why are you running barefoot?”

“It feels good.”

Someone else said, “What do you mean?”

I thought about it and said, “Well, it’s hard to describe, it’s like trying to describe colors to a blind person. I feel a whole bunch of good sensations that you don’t because your feet are trapped in shoes and blindfolded. You don’t know about the colors under your feet.”

And then I woke up because I needed to pee.


Now I’m only a data point of 1. N = 1, so to speak. What I feel, and what I experience, may not be what you experience, whether it be how food tastes to us individually, to how excited we might get about baseball games, to how we find things that make us happy or sad. It’s tempting to generalize my experiences and want to shake someone, “Run barefoot! It will feel so fucking good! You ain’t had a runner’s high til you’ve had one while running barefoot.”

Yeah, that would be obnoxious. I should do well to remember there is variation in all of us and not everyone is going to think I’m brilliant, or enlightened, or agree with me. I would only ask that you remember the same, please.

But here’s what I think: there was a critical period in our evolutionary development. In that time, we became hunters who used endurance running to hunt down prey. Along with that running, our brains developed facilities to track game, even think like them some or project our minds into other minds which may have helped us become more empathetic, we developed language to communicate with each other to help us coordinate those hunts. The language grew into a tool that helped us begin to ponder ourselves, to speak about our identities to others, to our friends, families, our lovers. Running was key to that.

Our feet became wired with nerves. Those nerves were all part of the nervous system that fed into the brain which processed those sensations. We maybe ran nearly every day. Our feet experienced the earth beneath us. That information was fed into a brain that was also thinking about the game it was hunting and tracking, into the brain that was thinking about what to say to a friend. Those feet guided us into our proper forms when running. Those feet carried us places and to our meals, and back to the friend that we needed to talk to.

Yet we largely run in shoes now. We’re missing an important input to what our brains expect to have underlying our thoughts, to have connected into our feelings, to how we perceive the world and people around us.

Yesterday, I ran barefoot except for some duct tape to protect the nick that is still healing, and saw a couple of guys working on mowing a residence. I smiled a goofy grin at both of them. It wasn’t a fake grin, I don’t do that. It was just because I felt good and I felt a sense of community towards them. When I came back on the out-and-back, the one guy was using a leaf blower to move clippings off the driveway into the road. He saw me and shut off the blower as I passed by. I smiled and said, “Thank you.” He smiled back. Maybe he smiled back because I smiled or because he thought I was some goofy freak for running barefoot like that.

That all happened while I ran in some miserable heat and humidity. Heat and humidity have never been kind to me when I’ve run in the past. Maybe my worst run of all time happened at a 10K race where the heat and humidity caused me to blow up during the second half of the run and take about 13 minutes longer to do the last 5K of it than the first 5K. Yesterday I ran easy through all that and ran that particular out-and-back route faster than I’ve ever run it anytime before.

There is still emptiness in my life and not everything is easy. But I can run now like I’ve never run before. And smile real smiles, not fake ones. I’ve never wanted a fake smile, by me or from others. Run honestly, run barefoot, run to live.

Esperante, kuru honeste, kuru nudpiede, kuru por vivi.


One thought on “the colors beneath our feet

  1. Runner λ says:

    “Vi ne havas ideon pri la koloroj sube de viaj piedoj.”
    Belegan metaforon !
    Mi reuzos ĝin kiam mi povus.

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