Steps forward and backward


August 10, 2014 by scratchtype1

I’m pretty much not a confrontational sort of person. I prefer to avoid it and about the only person I like to argue with is my own self. So some confrontations last week weren’t restful but on the other hand, I did take some downtime away from running to let the inflammation up around my left hip and groin calm down and when I ran yesterday, there wasn’t any discomfort and only the slightest sensation that the left hip area isn’t quite as right as the right hip area.

Anyhow, last week my oldest brother came for a visit to the area and I used that as further impetus to stay away from running. We did a series of daytrips — Fort Delaware, Nottingham Park and the Herr’s Snack Food Factory, Longwood Gardens, Cape Henlopen, White Clay Creek Preserve, and Valley Forge National Park. The confrontations took place at Fort Delaware, Longwood Gardens, and Valley Forge. My previous blog entry was about what happened at Longwood Gardens.

At Fort Delaware, one of the park personnel stopped me a little bit outside the fort and informed me that I would have to wear shoes. I asked him why and he explained that it was for the cleaning mat procedures after visitors leave the fort. The cleaning mats used Woolite and water to wash people’s footwear to prevent the spread of white nose fungus to other bat populations. Since bats use Fort Delaware for a winter nesting site, they don’t want people possibly picking up the fungus in the fort area and then having those shoes carry the fungus to other parts of the country. So the shoes get cleaned to stop that. I suppose if I had been quicker with my thinking I would have pointed out that I wouldn’t mind at all having my feet cleaned by Woolite and water, and that if I went through the fort barefoot, I’m the least likely of everyone to carry fungus out on the shoes that wouldn’t be cleaned. Because I shower nearly every day, the fungus would be taken care of by that and I would have no affected shoes. But I wasn’t quite ready to get into a tangle there, and later on, I did secure permission from the same official where I asked if I could remove the Xeros and walk atop the smooth granite of the entryway with my bare feet. That was quite pleasurable. I don’t know why it is, but the sensation of smooth stone under bare feet is one of the best.

On Friday, my brother and I went to Valley Forge and I was barefoot. When we entered the house that George Washington stayed in for the Valley Forge encampment, one of the rangers told me that shoes would be required. I asked why and was told it would be for protection, that maybe I would get a splinter from the floors. I stroked my right foot across the top of the floorboards upon which we were standing and assured him that they were quite smooth. I then also asked if there were any signs or if there was any official regulation requiring shoes. He backed off and said he could only advise me to wear shoes. I smiled and said that I would take it under advisement, but that I would continue to tour the house barefoot. Yay, victory, although it definitely reminds me that I thoroughly don’t like to be told that I have to wear shoes. On the more positive side, later on we went to the visitor center and no one tried to make me wear shoes there and when we took the trolley tour, again no one tried to make me wear shoes.

Cape Henlopen? Ah, no problems there. Thank goodness no one thinks it strange to be barefoot at the beach. That was good. We were only there for a short while, but it had been a long time, over 10 years since I had been to a beach, and I got a chance to dunk myself in the warm Atlantic waters and get a sense of being washed by the salt and sand.

White Clay Creek Preserve showed me that my feet have grown tougher and stronger. There’s a section of trail from the northernmost parking area that’s quite unfriendly to bare feet. It’s got sharp small pebbles over much of it to help provide traction. All the prior times I’ve tried to walk it I’ve never made the length of it. I was wearing the Xeros at first, but removed them when along a smooth stretch of path and walked that way down to the London Tract Meeting House. We then turned back and I stayed barefoot the whole way, including that tough section of trail. So that was a first.

Not a bad week. I got to see my brother, see some good places, was able to rest the hip and groin area and have it back to feeling almost 100% again. But I did not enjoy the being told I needed to wear shoes experiences. Our culture is so thoroughly indoctrinated in the idea that people are supposed to be wearing shoes that nearly everyone imagines that it’s required. It very rarely is required and it’s likely that some of those places that require it ought not to do so. A variety of factors cause this. One of the first is the fact that nearly everyone in the current culture has undeveloped feet because of so much shoe-wearing. Feet that are in shoes nearly all the time are soft and weak. So when people see someone like me going barefoot, they don’t realize what a strong and developed human foot can do.

A second factor, I feel, is the instinctual factor that resides in humans. Long long ago, when we were becoming a species of endurance runners, it was very important to become mindful of our feet. If we couldn’t run, we weren’t going to survive and reproduce well. It’s probably wired deeply into our brains that the feet need to be protected. That’s a good instinct, except now we always satisfy that instinct because of all the shoes we can mass-produce. It’s like our sweet tooth instinct, which is useful in environments that don’t have a surplus of carbohydrates. But now we have all those easy carbs and our instincts drive us to consume too much. Now we have all those shoes and easy protection for our feet and our instincts drive us to wearing them all the time so we can easily protect our feet. Because of that, it’s maybe not enough to protect only our own feet, but the feet of those around us.

A third factor is that by now it appears odd to see a person out in public barefoot, with the exception of areas such as beaches and swimming pools.

To close out, a picture of my right foot today while I sat down for a bit during a hike in Cheslen Preserve.


2 thoughts on “Steps forward and backward

  1. Jeff Dill says:

    Nice blog. Thank you. I’ll have to search later for posts related to diabetes. I don’t have, but interested in your transition and foot care.

    I’ve been barefoot running for a year, just started walking about town barefoot recently.

    • scratchtype1 says:

      Maybe unfortunately, I haven’t written too much about the concerns with barefooting and being diabetic. My own suspicion is that it can be very beneficial, as the feet can become stronger and muscles that get used will receive more blood flow than muscles that aren’t used. I think concerns develop with diabetics who already have compromised circulation to their feet or nerve damage that keeps them from feeling what’s going on. But even in their case, it could perhaps be beneficial if they were to pursue at least some barefoot activity in a safe environment, with a goal of strengthening the musculature of the feet and improving circulation.

      I think circulation is the key issue and that the current medical practice is backwards. Putting our feet in shoes all the time weakens them.

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