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Archive for May, 2010

Dr. Oz Steps in it

I was channel-surfing and happened upon Extra promoting a segment with Dr. Oz. He was talking about flip-flops, and he was talking about their dangers.

On the show, he was saying that the problem was that, without a heel, the flip-flops would stretch your tendons too much. (Of course, while flip-flops are not barefoot, the comments he made apply to walking barefoot, too.) This is just silly.

When you wear a shoe with a heel your Achilles tendon is not being used and stretched the way it is supposed to. In particular, high-heels are awful for leading to a shortened Achilles tendon, and can lead to Achilles tendonitis, as noted here.

Women, who are frequent wearers of high heels that take up physical activities such as running, can be prone to Achilles tendonitis. This is because the Achilles tendon is shortened by constant wearing of high heels, therefore when flat shoes such as trainers are worn, the tendon becomes stretched and inflamed.

The solution is not to eschew flip-flops or bare feet; the solution is to use your feet properly and not let the Achilles tendon get shortened. If somebody who always takes the elevator huffs and puffs and nearly faints when taking stairs, you don’t advise them that maybe they could use an escalator instead. You advice them that maybe they ought to get some real exercise and get into shape.

There’s actually a Dr. Oz fan website that discussed the episode. Here’s what was said there:

Dr Oz said many podiatrists consider flip flops to be the most dangerous shoes we wear. Flip Flops are potentially even more dangerous than stiletto heels! The problem is that under the bone in the arch of your foot is a thick connective tissue called the Plantar Fascia, which runs from the heel of your foot to your toes. When you step and put weight on your foot, if there is no arch support, you can get tears in your Plantar Fascia that do not heal since there is not a lot of blood supply in that area. These tears in your Plantar Fascia can cause sharp pain in your ankles and feet in the morning when you get out of bed. However, you can get Flip Flops with better arch support and a bit of elevation in your heel. I think the flip flops Dr Oz showed were called FitFlops.

Again, a gentle stretching of the tendon that has been artificially shortened by heel-wearing would be a better solution, not advice that just perpetuates the deformity. Also note the continued propagation of the idea that feet somehow need “support.” They only need support because shoe-wearing weakens all the muscles, ligaments, and tendons of the foot. If you use your feet properly, the arch gets to work the way it is supposed to.

I guess we should not be surprised to discover that, in the end, a footwear product is touted: flip-flops with a heel and “support.”

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Here is a new article talking about The Barefoot Running Injury Epidemic. The author notes

Darwin Fogt, PT, owner of Evolution Physical Therapy in Culver City, CA, is alarmed by a stark new trend at his facility: runners with injuries caused by barefoot (or virtually barefoot) running. Fogt says he has four or five current patients with heel injuries clearly resulting from a switch to barefoot running and has recently treated another 12 to 15 others.

These injuries are happening both for real and fake barefoot runners. (Yeah, I’m using “fake” to gently tweak those who call running in shoes such as Vibrams “barefoot”.) The article does wonder whether the increase is due solely to the increase in barefoot running, due to books such as Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run. If all runners are getting injured at the same rate, but there are more barefoot runners now, one would expect there to be more injured barefoot runners.

But I suspect that there is more going on. Others, such as Ken Bob Saxton, note that if you try to start minimalist running in things like Vibrams, you will not be getting good feedback from your soles, which can tell you when you are overdoing it. How the heck are the runners being discussed getting specifically heel injuries? About the only way to do that is to run barefoot as if you are still wearing shoes.

There is something else, too. If you just go right out and try to run barefoot after having encased your feet in shoes for 20-50 years, you should expect the internal muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones to look just as pasty as the outsides of your feet. It is well known that you have to use your body to strengthen it. Shoes are crutches; shoes are support. When you take your feet out of shoes, they will be weak. Incredibly weak.

It’s like taking your leg out of a cast. You wouldn’t expect to be able to do weightlifting or sprinting, yet people take their feet out of shoes and expect to immediately be able to run just like they did with their support. Instead, you really do have to work up to it. Just as when you get a cast off, you have to undergo rehabilitation in order to regain strength and the underlying supportive tissue, so too do your feet need similar rehab.

You also need to retrain your brain. If you run in shoes, you’ve learned a specific way to run in them. That won’t necessarily work when you run barefoot. If you had started as a kid, you would have slowly and methodically worked out the right technique, but if you take your adult technique and try to retrofit it to barefoot running, it’s no wonder things don’t necessarily work right.

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Oelibrarian made a comment about the last entry, What is it about librarians? I’m going to answer it, and try to explain better, here.

First, many thanks to oelibrarian for providing further perspective.

What got me started was this comment in your original entry:

I am virtually militant about the no bare feet in the library issue and don’t hesitate to tell students they need to wear shoes while in the library.

Of all the various rules in a library, why pick this one out? Surely, if one was going to be militant about library rules, one would pick something like “no drugs or alcohol,” or “beverages must be in covered, spill-proof containers,” or “audible conversations conducted via cell phone or computer.” These are taken from the SUNY-New Paltz Code of Conduct. When I searched for libraries with their policies online, this was about all I could find. (I don’t know if oelibrarian is at New Paltz.)

Those latter rules actually serve a useful purpose, protecting the library’s assets or allowing the other library users to use the library for its intended purpose. A ban on bare feet does nothing but try to enforce one person’s sense of decorum on somebody else. We don’t see that with tattoos, green hair, nose piercings, beards, or any other choice of dress. Not only that, but walking barefoot exposes no more of the foot than other footwear like flip-flops. So, why does oelibrarian make such a big deal about bare feet? Why must this rule be militantly enforced?

In fact, why do libraries in general (and I must say I did not intend to particularly pick on oelibrarian here, but I was mainly using that entry as a jumping off point) ban bare feet? If anything, bare feet are much quieter and much less likely to bother other users. When it comes to going barefooted, it is hard to think of any environment that could possibly be safer than a library. Besides, bare feet are perfectly safe in a whole host of environments; most people’s fears about them are misplaced, and often based on their ignorance (because, not having tried it themselves, they project unwarranted fears).

I guess I used the “authoritarian” label because it seemed to me that a “militant” enforcement of a useless policy warranted it.

Regarding a fear of injury, in the comment, oelibrarian says:

Really, by mentioning the policy I am more compelled by making sure these kids don’t incur some kind of painful foot injury.

Really? Are you also concerned about any of the kids wearing high-heels? Because there are a whole host of injuries that occur when the heels get caught on stair risers or on the edges of rugs. High-heels also set their wearers up for osteoarthritis as they get older due to the upto 60% greater stress on the knees, and create bunions and hallux valgus. Also, research shows that shoes weaken the arches and help lead to fallen arches.

I’m still wondering about the supposed campus-wide policy of no bare feet in any of the buildings. How do you know this? Are their signs on all the buildings? (I’d appreciate it if you would check if you are not sure.) By the way, the student handbook for SUNY-New Paltz has no such rule in it (maybe the handbook for your campus does—maybe you could point that out for me).

In a comment by oelibrarian at the original entry, oelibrarian says

And I have already said earlier, my concern is more for happy and healthy feet, not imposing institutional policies, although one exists regarding shirts and shoes in campus buildings (except dorms of course and I’m sure some gym areas). We actually have lots of construction on campus, including on the front steps of the library and there are places where broken glass has not been cleaned up for weeks. It would make me unhappy if one of those kids had a painful foot injury walking past those areas.

You know what? Inside campus buildings is assuredly safer that outside, yet the (supposed) policy lets people walk barefoot outside and bans it inside. Does that really make any sense if safety is really the issue. Oh, and the studies show that it is the barefooted populations that have happy and healthy feet, not shod populations.

But, I do have to admit that I have a chip on my shoulder. I’ve always been a voracious reader, and to have libraries, libraries that not only should know better but actually have the proper information at hand in their collection to check these things out, be the foremost governmental bodies that ban bare feet hits me right where it hurts. And I have had librarians flat out lie.

When I tried to challenge the policy of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, their Director wrote a letter to their legal counsel, asking for

the legal reasons that CML can give for requiring its customers to dress appropriately for a public place?

After that, they suddenly started using the reason that the policy had been created, years ago, to

safeguard the health and safety of Library patrons and maintain the fiscal integrity of the Library.

Gee, you’d think that he would have thought of that when he implemented the policy, and would not have had to ask his lawyer for a good reason.

And then, when I tried to challenge the policy at the Fairfield County District Library, the Board there

upheld its current Code of Conduct based on what they Board feels is the proper decorum for our organization.

Of course, when I challenged that further, they changed their reason. It then became

for the stated reason that it is the fiscal responsibility of the Board to reduce and eliminate any risks which may potentially produce costly liability.

Of course, they felt no need to reduce any risks associated with high-heels (and ignored the fact that they have insurance for these sorts of things, and are also statutorily immune from tort liability).

As I’ve looked around trying to get library services, I’ve had 3 different libraries that did not have any footwear policy implement one shortly after they saw me in their libraries. I didn’t bother anybody; I caused no problems. They just saw me and decided that they needed to keep me out while dressed in my preferred, non-disruptive state.

Now, maybe “authoritarian” does not apply to oelibrarian. But it surely applies to these other librarians who are more interested in ignoring true health and safety issues and are more interested in imposing their own particular sense of decorum on their visitors, rather than accepting differences that have nothing to do with running a library.

And that is why I ask “What is it about librarians?”

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What is it about librarians?

Bumping this up from a comment.

From the Oelibrarian blog, an entry entitled Just desserts on bare feet.

The author is “a fairly new, tenure-track faculty librarian.” The author also hates bare feet, saying

If you are a follower of this blog, you know I am virtually militant about the no bare feet in the library issue and don’t hesitate to tell students they need to wear shoes while in the library.

Whatever for? Who cares? Why should you care? What problem does such a ban solve? None. None at all.

It seems like librarians are among the worst authoritarians for telling other people what to do for no other reason than that they like to order them around. Libraries, more than any other governmental entity, seem to like to ban bare feet. I did an internet survey a while back (using Google and other search engines to find libraries’ codes of conduct). Approximately 2/3 of public libraries have a shoe rule, and approximately 1/5 of college libraries do.

In the comments, the author adds that no bare feet is a campus-wide policy. I really have doubts about this—I have never heard of a college or university with a campus-wide barefoot ban. What do they do in the dorms, for instance? By the way, the author’s part of the state university system of New York, which makes me doubt it even more.

PS. My daughter is a librarian, so this is no knee-jerk antipathy to librarians, just those who are more impressed with their own self of self-importance and who succumb to their authoritarian impulses.

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Missing the Scenery for the Rocks

Many barefooters really enjoy hiking barefoot. As I put it when other, shod hikers ask me about it is

We go into the woods to see the sights, hear the sounds, and smell the smells. And then we turn off our sense of touch.

When we hike barefoot, we turn on our sense of touch and get to appreciate the various textures of all the different surfaces we walk on: mud, dirt, sand, moss, pine needles, hemlock needles, and so much more.

But non-barefooters also worry about whether we can appreciate the rest of the woods if we have to be so careful where we put our feet. Are we missing the scenery because we have to spend so much time making sure we don’t step on rocks?

When you first start hiking barefoot, you probably will miss some of the scenery. You really are taking extra precautions over where to put your feet so you spend quite a bit more time looking down (though, of course, you can always stop to admire the scenery).

However, it turns out that your brain, with a little bit of experience, figures out how to walk and chew gum keep an eye out at the same time. After you do it for a while, you will discover that you will scan ahead, do a quick memorization of any possible hazards, and then safely negotiate that path. So, you end up being able to look at the scenery while your mind subconsciously handles the placement of your feet. Pretty cool, eh?

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The Dalton Daily Citizen has a story about ‘Doctor Don’ bows out of the Senate. It’s noteworthy to us because of his description, from the first few paragraphs of the article:

ATLANTA — There are days when Don Thomas has to wear shoes — when jogging around his family’s old home place on Haig Mill Road, while padding around his north Dalton medical clinic in casual footwear, or treading the halls of the state Capitol in dress shoes — sometimes.

“He drove down here for a meeting last year, and from my desk at the end of the hall I saw him come walking down the steps,” said Vicki Gibbs, an administrative assistant in the state Senate where Thomas, a Republican, served as a senator for 14 years. “He had on a great suit with a nice tie, but he was barefooted. He told me he goes barefoot as much as possible when he’s at home, and said that day he’d just gotten into the car without them. He called his legislative assistant, Laurie Sparks, and asked her if she could help him find some shoes.”

For much of the day on Thursday, the last day of the General Assembly’s session for 2010 and his final day as a state senator, Thomas, 76, wore only socks.

“I’m just a little barefoot country boy,” the veteran family physician said at one point when the Senate called a halt to business for a 30-minute tribute to him. “I forgot my shoes again today and had to find some.”

Well, thank goodness he wasn’t in the Ohio Senate. Otherwise he wouldn’t have been allowed to do his job.

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It’s been a while. I’ve been busy.

The whole Ohio Statehouse thing has gotten rather interesting. I attended the Board Meeting of the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board on April 21. It was held in the State Room in the Statehouse, a very nice hearing room with a really nice carpet (very nice for bare feet!). Acoustics stunk, though.

First bit of news: they are going to change the way they make their rules. According to their current rules for rulemaking, they have to include in their meeting notices a notice of any rules they plan on changing. The didn’t do this when they enacted their shoe rule, which means that that violated Ohio’s Open Meeting Act, and their enactment was therefore invalid (yay!). However, they are going to fix that. They will probably re-enact it in their July 21 meeting, or maybe as late as their October meeting, and they will just change the way they make rules in their
July meeting.

After the meeting, I managed to talk to some of the Board members. It became quite clear quite quickly that their concern is not about safety (it never really is) but simply decorum. They just don’t believe that bare feet belong there.

They are changing their rulemaking to make it more secretive. This prompted an April 27 story in the Columbus Dispatch, Capitol Square board to make rules in private. Coincidentally, a reporter for our local ABC station happened to see the meeting minutes for the Board meeting, saw the bit about bare feet, and decided to do a story. That is here. And that prompted the online Dispatch to put out an AP news bulletin on me, Pickerington man fights for right to go barefoot at Statehouse.

After that, all hell broke loose. The story went out to all the news outlets and appeared in a lot of newspapers across the country.

I also got a call from our local CBS TV station and they did a story that evening. (Sorry, their news stories are not on-line.)

Finally, I got a call from the PBS Radio show, Whad’ya Know?, and I appeared on them this past Saturday. You can listen to that by listening to the third segment of their May 1 show, here. (If you are reading this later, you may have to go to their archives.) The live radio format is really much better for getting our point across: we can have real discussions instead of having a news producer take small snippets of a taped interview to make the point that they want to make.

And our battle with the Statehouse should not yet be over. It is still okay to send letters and emails to Board Members. Also, we’re going to think about other actions we can take to apply pressure to the Board.

This past Monday there was a reply letter from a spokesman of the Statehouse, Gregg Dodd, in the Dispatch: Public has input on rules of Statehouse. Notice that, without mentioning the specific issue, he carefully tries to set up a reason for their barefoot rule:

the board adopts rules that provide for the health, safety and convenience of those who work in or visit the complex.

While we know that’s not the real reason, that is the way they will portray the barefoot rule. They are going to rely on the myths and misconceptions.

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