I’ve had type 1 diabetes since March 1985. The last 7 years I’ve made a strong effort to have tight control and maintain a good level of physical activity. It was in early June 2013 that I had a kind of psychological tipping point which inspired me to investigate and rethink and ultimately ask the question, “Why do we need shoes?” What I learned from that is that there might not be any really good reasons for the amount of time which we wear shoes currently in the United States, and when I also thought about how the best way to promote good circulation to a body part is to use that body part, I realized that going barefoot could have very real benefits to a diabetic.
I did so also knowing that so far as my doctors and me knew prior to my decision to becoming more barefoot, that I had good circulation and no signs of nerve damage to my feet. Since I am fully capable of sensory feel with the feet, I didn’t seen any reason that I should need protection against the chance of injuring my feet and being unaware of that. And since I have good circulation to the feet, I would also be able to ward off infection just as well as a normally healthy person.
Ultimately, it is a personal decision that anyone considering going barefoot must make. But if you are already questioning just how much do we need to wear shoes, I commend you for having an open-enough mind to question the cultural mindset that currently demands people to wear shoes much of the time. I hope that maybe you will read what others have already written about it and see that there are real health benefits to be gained by wearing shoes less often and that you might come to find out what I am currently finding out — the human foot is much tougher and stronger than what is currently believed by the vast majority of Americans.
Today it is July 17, 2013. I’ve been going largely shoeless for a little more than six weeks. In that time, my feet have been growing muscles and strength. On the bottom of my feet, I’m developing what feel like soft leather pads. This morning, I walked for a few minutes on top of gravel, walked on it more confidently and comfortably than my first initial attempts a few days ago. Just a couple of months ago, I wouldn’t have even believed it possible to walk on top of gravel barefoot without considerable pain and discomfort. I now that is not true — it can be done, I just needed to begin walking around barefoot and slowly challenging myself to build foot strength and the soles of my feet. I doubt that I am superhuman, I suspect that I probably got a fairly standard pair of human feet with standard potential. The only thing extraordinary about them is that I am only now developing their potential because of how I’ve worn shoes when outside for much of my life.
The above was written before I had started running again. It was in August 2013 that I did my first run which went over a mile and it was all barefoot. Since slightly before that and ever since, I’ve been running barefoot, or in Xeros, or a few horrible times because of wintry conditions, in Brooks Adrenaline running shoes. I’ve loved nearly every mile run run barefoot or in the Xeros, and tolerated (to put it mildly and non-obscenely) the runs I did in shoes. There’s only been one run in the Xeros which left me rather disappointed and grumpy-feeling.
What’s surprised me most so far has been the intimate connection I now feel to running. For those of you who read this and have always worn shoes while running, I cannot describe to you the difference in how it feels to run barefoot. The best I can say is to imagine that you’ve been blindfolded your whole life, and then you take the blindfold off — what are all these sights and colors? The soles of the human foot are exquisitely sensitive, they evolved features to allow human beings to run and walk for long periods of time over varied terrain, and they evolved to do that barefoot. We did not evolve shoes onto our feet. That said, if you do dare to take away the shoes, realize that you must manage carefully a transition to barefoot or minimalist running. Feet that have been in shoes their whole lives will be weak and unadapted. You need to carefully add stress to them to make them adapt, make the muscles grow strong, make the bones, tendons and ligaments grow strong, and thicken the plantar skin of the sole and teach the nerves of the feet what the various sensations mean.
I now love running. I try to run as often as I can and let the feel of my legs and feet guide me on how much I can handle now, although I tend to be cautious and try to always finish runs feeling like there was more distance to be had if needed. Try to keep some spring to the feel of the feet and muscles.
I wish I had known this long ago. It saddens me some to think of how many years I didn’t know. It also saddens me some that very few people try this now. It saddens me that I have few friends or family with whom I can talk about this earnestly. I write some here in compensation for that, in hopes that maybe a few will hear, will not look upon me as crazy, in hope they may read what I write and find me to be someone who is interesting, intelligent, and not wholly without writing talent, although not nearly so much talent as I might dream that I could have.