This is the time of year when many park districts and State Park system put on organized hikes to view the fall foliage. If you like barefoot hiking, these are wonderful opportunities not only to do a very nice hike, but also to be a bit of an ambassador of bare feet. Just showing other people that it is possible to do these hikes can help open up some minds.
I did two such hikes last weekend; the group size was around 30 people. Today I did another one, with a groups size of around 100 people. Many folks didn’t say much, but nonetheless quite a few were bold enough to ask questions, and I was able to give them a feel for the experience. There were two lines in particular that I used a fair bit, and they seemed to be able to relate to them.
The first one was
Just like any other part of the body, when you use them, the feet strengthen up.
The second one was
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.
And from there I could talk about the joy of moss or pine needles or hemlock needles or fallen leaves. They got it.
Things were a bit different this year than last year. Quite a few folks knew about barefoot running, so I didn’t seem quite as odd as I have in years past). Many of them had heard about or actually read Born to Run. I even talked to one guy who was going to run in the Columbus Marathon tomorrow who said he did a bit of barefoot training. There were also quite a few people who had seen Dual Survival, so they were up on the idea of hiking barefoot. I had nice discussions with them about it.
One other thing that always happens on these hikes: there are inevitably some older folks (well, older than me, but these days that is harder and harder to do) who will tell me that, as a kid, their shoes came off the last day of school and stayed off until the first day of school in the fall. They ran around barefoot all summer long and didn’t have any problems. But then they’d say, “But I could never do that now.” Why not? Just like any other part of the body, when you use them, the feet strengthen up. Even if you are older.