Archive for September, 2010

Lieberman Interview

There is a new interview with Dr. Daniel Lieberman of Harvard on his research on barefoot running, with Shining City TV:

There is really nothing new, barefooting-wise, here, but it is good reminder of his research into barefoot running.

One thing he mentioned: he only runs barefoot, and wears shoes the rest of the time. Maybe he ought to do a bit of research on barefoot walking, and just how that differs from, and has advantages over, shod walking.

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What’s Old is New

In this comment, Beach Bum mentions an article he read in the late 70s about “Foxy Feet”, a barefoot sandal from back then. I’ve managed to dig up the story. Here are three newspaper articles that all seem to be based (though with different details) on an original AP news story.

From the May 23, 1977 Schenectady Gazette:

Foxy Feet Emerge As a Popular Item

ABSECON, N.J. (AP) — The sign may say “no bare feet,” but if you’re wearing “Foxy Feet,” they’ll never know.

Carol Luft, 30, of Absecon has come up with a new gimmick for bare feet that makes them look like they’re wearing sandals. Foxy Feet is an embroidered decoration for the top of the foot. It has no sole but slips around the ankle and hooks over the second toe.

And from the May 27, 1977 Sarasota Herald-Tribune:

Bare Your Soles with ‘Foxy Feet’

ABSECON, N.J. (AP) — The sign may say “no bare feet,” but if you’re wearing “Foxy Feet,” they’ll never know.

Carol Luft, 30, of Absecon has come up with a new gimmick for bare feet that makes them look like they’re wearing sandals. Foxy Feet is an embroidered decoration for the top of the foot. It has no sole but slips around the ankle and hooks over the second toe.

Mrs. Luft, who enjoys needlepoint and crocheting, invented Foxy Feet to give her own feet some decoration. Friends recently began placing orders and Mrs. Luft was in business.

“We tried all sorts of names,” she said, “and finally decided on Foxy Feet.”

And number three, from the May 25, 1977 St. Petersburg Times:

‘Foxy Feet’ bare sole

The sign may say “no bare feet,” but if you’re wearing “Foxy Feet,” they’ll never know. Carol Luft, of Absecon, N.J. has come up with a new gimmick for bare feet that makes it look as if they’re wearing sandals. Foxy Feet is an embroidered decoration for the top of the foot. It has no sole but slips around the ankle and hooks over the second toe. Mrs. Luft’s idea has gotten off on the right foot — stores in New York, New Jersey, Florida and California are stocking htem. To take care of the 26,000 orders she has already gotten, Mrs. Luft is now having Foxy Feet handmade in Haiti.

That looks like some pretty hefty demand, and suggests that bare feet really were pretty popular. Until the shoe police managed to stamp them out, of course.

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The Austin (TX) Public Library has changed their Conduct Policy. You can read about it in the Austin Statesman, in their story entitled “Keeping library patrons safe, 1 cap removal at a time”. For “safety” (though they don’t explain just how it does increase safety), they are banning hoodies, caps, hats, and sunglasses. As the article puts it:

You heard that right. Starting next Friday, Austin’s libraries will begin enforcing a dress code that prohibits ball caps, sunglasses and hoodies. You’re asking why. It’s the same reason given for about everything else that goes down these days: keeping you safe.

Hey, I’m kept so safe these days that I’m almost afraid to leave the house.

The city’s library system has put up bumper sticker-style signs at all of its 21 branches, the history center and its Recycled Reads bookstore on Burnet Road. These signs show international “no” signs over illustrations of ball caps, sunglasses and hoodies.

The library came up with the rule so that customers can’t hide their faces, said Toni Grasso, the libraries’ administrative manager in the office of programs and partnerships.

They even have a new poster to go with it:

No Hoodies

New "No Hoodies" Poster

Do you think this might be overkill? Do they really think this will fix anything (particularly since, from the story, there isn’t much broken?). But it is just another example of library authoritarian over-reach.

So, that’s the one step back. What’s the one step forward? The new policy, in its entirety, is here. The new line in it, effective September 3, says:

Appropriate clothing is required – Wearing apparel that obscures or conceals the face, including but not limited to hoodies, caps, hats, sunglasses.

The old policy had a line that said:

Not Wearing Shirts, Pants or Shoes

Notice anything? That line is gone. I guess bare feet are now OK. I do wonder if they won’t try to still exclude bare feet as not “Appropriate Clothing.” Anybody in Austin was to test it?

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Barefoot Sandals

Barefoot sandals are a way that barefooters sometimes use to look like they are shod while still maintaining sole-to-ground contact. In other words, they are used to try to foil the shoe police. For me, at least, that contact with the ground is what provides me with the main sensory input that keeps my proprioception working. It is also the thing that allows me to walk in a way that does not hurt my feet and knees and back (a benefit many other barefooters have also realized).

Barefoot sandals can also be used as jewelry or decoration for the feet.

Most barefoot sandals that you can buy are aimed more at women. You can see some women’s vendors and styles here, here, and here. (Note: this is not any particular endorsement of these particular sites; they are just some of the first that came up on Google.) There is also a page on barefoot sandals that lists quite a few vendors on the website of the Barefoot Hikers of PA (NJ-DE-MD). There aren’t a whole lot available for men, though I did find this site. You’ll note that most of these are really aimed more at decoration that as fooling personnel at a store or restaurant who are intent on keeping out a barefooter (usually for misguided and mythical reasons).

Way back when I just made my own. It’s fairly easy to do. If you’d like to try to make some of your own, here they are, and the general idea for their construction.

Thin leather with knotted thong ties

Thin leather with knotted thong ties

This one is made from leather, cut with scissors. The loop under the second toe is just a thin strip (thong) held on by those knots you see. The strap across the top a two short thongs. They are held together with a loop and knot arrangement (small loop on one side; knot on the other; pull the knot through the loop and it stays).

Thin leather with some velcro

Thin leather with some velcro

This one is also leather, with a slightly different attachment arrangement, and a slightly different look. Same arrangement under the toe. This time, however, the large strip is the cross-strip, while the thong runs back towards the toe. The thong is knotted on both end. The cross-strip, however, is attached with velco. You can see the construction in the next photo.

View of the velcro attachment points

View of the velcro attachment points

Here you can see the toe-loop on the right. You can also see where the velcro is attached. Of course, sizing (and placement of the velcro) is done while it is on your foot.

Nylon straps

Nylon straps

Here is a more masculine one. This is made from backpacking straps (available at any outdoor store). It is bigger and bulkier, with the intent to do a better job of fooling anybody who looks at it. That broader patch across the toes is kind of trying to hide the fact that the attachment is a loop under the second toe (and not a single piece between the big and 2nd toes. Doesn’t succeed all that well, in my opinion. The loop under the toe is just a piece of shoelace. The cross-piece is stitched on one side, and held on with velcro on the other.

Braided (Knitting Knobby)

Braided (Knitting Knobby)

This is the one I think I like the best. It goes easily into a pocket without getting tangled up like the others, and is easiest to put on (big loop behind the ankle, little loop under the toe).

This was made with a knitting knobby. Well, actually, I made my own knitting knobby (with a board and nails) that would take a thicker piece of string, and produced a wider product at the end. I see that there is something call a knitting tower that is similar to what I did.

The toe-loop is a piece of elastic string tied at the same place the big loop is tied together. This really does go down between the big and 2nd toes, and then is looped over the 3rd toe. This has more of the look of a flip-flop (and thereby might fool others better).

Despite making all these, I find I rarely (I mean really rarely) wear them. If I am going into a place I’ve never been in before, I will not wear them. That is because, if I do wear them and have no problems, I’ll never know if I could have just gone barefoot and had no problems. They are not worth carrying in my pocket in case I am challenged. If I am challenged when barefoot, and stop to put them on, they will see me putting them on, realize that they are not real sandals, and then they will probably still throw me out. Finally, for places that do throw me out for going barefoot, my usual policy is not to got there again. If they don’t want me, why should I give them my money when there are other places who welcome me barefoot? So, as I said, I very rarely wear them.

There is one kind of situation in which I will use (and have used) them, though. That is for a place that has thrown me out that I really, really need to enter (and they are often a monopoly of some sort). One was the Franklin County Law Library. I had used this library (research for my lawsuit) many times barefoot when suddenly they put up a sign (passed by their board of trustees and everything). So I put these on to go in. Interestingly, I got some books and was sitting down looking at them (kind of hiding in the rear of the room among the carrels) when I saw the librarian coming towards me to check me out. The barefoot sandals must have passed muster, because she looked at my feet (rather carefully) as she went by, and then continued on without hassling me. Now, maybe I fooled her. Or maybe she thought the shoe rule was stupid but was still required to enforce it, and while she recognized the barefoot sandals as not real shoes, that gave her the excuse she needed not to enforce the rule any further. Either way, it worked sufficiently. I’ve done this before at the Columbus Metropolitan Library (the one I lost my suit against) twice. Once I had to accompany my son there to get something, and once they were the only source I could use to get a copy of a newspaper article about the Youngstown barefoot lawsuit from the 1960s. That Youngstown barefooter won.

I’m still a little leery about using them in places I’ve been thrown out of. If they really pursued it, they could probably arrest me for criminal trespass, and that I ought to know that a shoe rule means that such barefoot sandals are not adequate. Even if they ban “bare feet”, a prosecutor could argue that I am just being pedantic, and that a reasonable person knows what is required (a sole).

Finally, one more reason I very rarely wear them: I can feel them on my feet. Yes, my soles are still free, but I still feel the barefoot sandal on top. And it just doesn’t feel “bare.”

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The Wisdom of Dogs

Here’s what happens when you try to make a dog wear shoes.

Babies often react the same way.

Shoes are something that have to be inflicted. (OK, I’m joking there, but when folks have been wearing shoes for a long, long time, it may no longer be obvious that they first felt really unnatural, and turned off so much of our sensory input from the ground.)

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The Living Barefoot site has done a wonderful interview with Cody Lundin (of recent Dual Survival fame) that I think everybody will enjoy. It was a bit different than many of the interviews he has done about the show simply because he is being asked the questions (that address the interests) of real barefooters.

It is Episode 19 of their Living Barefoot Show.

What he talks about will be pretty familiar with a wide range of barefooters. For one thing, he talks about whether he goes barefoot all of the time. His answer is basically, “Don’t be a jackass.” There are times he will wear shoes, such as when he is out on a date, or when he is with others who he does not want to be embarrassed if challenged. On the other hand (or is that “on the other foot”?), sometimes he’s just not in the mood to put up with being restricted. So in those instances, he’ll challenge things. I find I do something similar myself. This discussion is around the 6:00 mark.

He also mentions that he carries sandals in a fanny pack when conducting his survival course. This only makes good sense. As he puts it, he is out there responsible for his clients’ safety. If one of them gets hurt, he needs to be able to run to get help, and in that situation, sandals are the tools to get the job done.

I have done something similar. The physical environment around here in Central Ohio is much more benign than the Arizona that Cody lives in. When I go hiking by myself, I no longer carry any sort of backup footwear (unless it is winter). I am quite familiar with the possible dangers I might run into (walk over), and none of them would really be solved by backup footwear. (In wintertime, my concern is more that if I broke a leg or did something else that prevented me from walking, I would not want to freeze my feet—that would prevent future barefooting. So then I carry a pair of moccasins, and if I really need to I could stuff them with leaves as the Native Americans used to do.)

However, when I was leading Boy Scouts on a hike, I did carry a pair of moccasins even in the summer. Again, as for with Cody, I had a heightened responsibility. I actually did use them one time, not for an emergency, but just because some of the Scouts needed to be somewhere at a given time. So a few of us dashed ahead to get them home. In that case, I could go a lot faster in the moccasins.

One other comment: early on in the interview (around 4:10) Cody mentions that the Natives in Arizona wore moccasins or sandals. That is probably true, but they also did go barefoot, too, depending on conditions. Here is a picture from The National Archives of some Mojave in Arizona:

Mojave Braves

Two Mohave braves dressed in loincloths; full- length, standing, western Arizona.

No footwear in sight.

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A New Library Excuse

You may remember the effort by Matthew McNatt to get the Reddick, IL library to remove its ban on bare feet. When I blogged about it in “A Library Attempt”, I said:

I can predict what will happen. First, the board will say they need to retain their rule for reasons of “decorum”. And then, if McNatt presses further, the board will suddenly switch to an excuse about how dangerous bare feet are (while ignoring the dangers of, say, high-heels).

Well, I was right. But I was also so wrong.

Last Monday night the Reddick Library Board decided to keep their barefoot policy. You can read about it in “Library toes the line on shoe policy — Patrons will not be allowed to go barefoot”.

I was right in that they cited that bare feet were dangerous:

In addressing McNatt’s request Monday, Library Director Kathy Clair said she had called the library’s insurance carrier and was told allowing patrons to go barefoot would lead to “heightened liability exposure.”

“We know this is a litigious society,” she added.

I do question the bit about the library’s insurance carrier. The Society for Barefoot Living has amongst its members independent insurance agents, and they have never seen a policy that even mentions footwear or bare feet. I have also seen the policies for a couple of different libraries, and again I can confirm no mention of bare feet. (This is also true about business policies.) So, why would the library’s insurance carrier say it would lead to “heightened liability exposure”? I can think of two possibilities: First, the Library Director may simply be lying. I’ve had other library directors do it to me before. But more likely is that the Director did call the library’s carrier, and the two just swapped myths. By that I mean they both just assumed the answer without actually checking first. And, of course, as I mentioned before, if they were really concerned about litigation due to injury, high heels would be a real target. In regard to injuries, the Director also pulled out another non sequitur, or at least poor reasoning:

Clair further noted library staff must wear shoes, one reason being safety,in case objects — book carts in particular — fell onto staff, which has happened in other libraries with serious injuries.

Yeah? So is everybody, patrons included, required to wear steel-toed shoes? Are patrons also prohibited from wearing flip-flops in case a book falls on their foot? I didn’t think so.

I don’t think I was really wrong regarding “decorum.” That’s never the excuse for public consumption, but I’ve had enough experience with libraries to strongly suspect that that is lurking in the background.

But where I was really, really wrong was in the new excuse. I’ve never seen this one before, and it demonstrates some real originality from the library board:

Board member Jameson Campaigne pointed out he researched the subject, finding that bare feet could increase floor cleaning costs.

I’d sure like to know what sort of research he did. In looking around, I found a few sites, here (Shine from Yahoo), here (Blueagle Carpet Cleaning), and here (Michael’s Professional Carpet Cleaning; click on “Can I walk on my carpets right after it has been cleaned?”), that say that bare feet have natural oils on them that attract dirt. (Yet the second one says that same about not having stockinged feet, for the same reason.) Then there is another site (Dynamic Carpet Care) that notes that shoes also have stuff on them:

If you enjoy going barefoot, or even if you don’t, kick your shoes off at the door. Why remove your shoes? If you have a rough board that needs smoothing, you grab a sheet of sandpaper for the job. Guess what’s on the bottom of your shoes? Sand and dirt grind away at the fibers in your carpet, leading to an early death.

Take a closer look at the bottoms of those shoes and you’ll find oil, dirt and heaven only knows how many bits of leftover dog deposits. Small wonder why your carpet stubbornly refuses to come clean. Do wear slippers or socks inside. The oil from the bottom of your feet also dirties the carpet.

So this one contradicts Blueagle about stocking feet. And yet another, answers the question, “Is it true that going bare-foot will leave oils in the carpet?” by saying:

Yes, BUT shoes do far more damage than bare feet. Shoes bring in whatever the cat didn’t, along with oils from the street and particulate soil. Taking off your shoes when coming into your home is probably the easiest and best way to prolong the life of your carpet. It is also better to wear socks, but skin oils are usually removed easily. Come on guys, take those shoes off. (Emphasis added.)

And then there are others, here (A Clean & Tidy Carpet Cleaner), here, (Clean it), and here (Premium Rugs) that say:

Bare-foot or sock-foot traffic is much gentler to a rug than a hard outdoor-shoe sole (or spike heel), and leaving your outdoor shoes at the entrance to the house tracks in much less dirt.

Since they all use the exact language, I suspect it all come from some common source.

But this rather highlights how these things spread. Somebody, without actually doing real research, makes a guess of some sort, and next thing you know, it becomes the common wisdom.

It looks to me as if the oils on bare feet might help soil rugs. But so will stuff on shoes. And I think it pretty clear that shoes in general will wear down a rug quite a bit faster than bare feet.

However, of course, Board Member Campaigne was very careful not to mention overall carpet maintenance and replacement, but only cleaning costs, since that is the only item that he could use to reinforce his prejudice (and probably his gut feeling that “decorum” requires shoes).

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The Old and the New

I’d like to highlight a couple of different articles.

The first one is from 1989, from an article by Gode Davis in “New Realities”, BAREFOOT WALKING: Barefooting as a Social Phenomenon and Holistic Experience. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

What is interesting about the article (aside from the great descriptions of barefoot walking and the sensory experience) is how optimistic it is, and how much of could be considered current, and still on the cusp. It talks about how barefooting is taking off:

Now, with an estimated 20,000 practicing barefoot enthusiasts in the U.S., according to McCusker, the soles of a barefoot movement may be marching upon the land, with scintillating buzz-phrases like “concentrated” exercise form and “heightened tactile awareness” accompanying careful steps. Why this perceptual reversal?

It also brings up the Tarahumara Indians, which Christopher McDougal has recently written about in the wildly successful Born to Run. It shows a bunch of Boy Scouts hiking barefoot in Nevada.

Twenty years later, we are still facing the same struggles to make going barefoot more acceptable. There have been some reversals (many Boy Scout troops seem to be absolutely paranoid about bare feet), but there have also been advances, which we can see in this other article, Bare your sole: the joys of shoeless hiking, in which the writer takes a “ramble” through the Yorkshire Dales:

But, after a mile or so, the oddness subsided, and it started to feel rather good. We have 200,000 nerve endings in each foot, and all 400,000 of mine were on sensory overload: the feeling of the leaf mould, soft and damp; knee-high grass, still wet from the early-morning dew; the smooth wood of the stiles; moss-covered rocks that felt like velvet; the different temperatures of the soil sunlight or shade. It was as though my other senses were heightened, too. Everything seemed more vivid – the smell of hay, the sound of twigs breaking underfoot, the sherbet-tasting wild strawberries we picked en route, even the sight of a buzzard soaring overhead.

It’s a re-discovery of what was discussed in the other article from 20 years ago.

Let’s hope that this time the revolution “takes”.

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Get a Grip

Toes are wonderful things.

In another of the Dual Survival episodes with Cody Lundin and Dave Canterbury, we get another of those statements that show the producers are just not familiar with going barefooted, or are trying to (falsely) create more drama.

In “Out of Air” they start out in a cave, and head upstream to find the place that the water is entering from. This is their escape route. Where the water is coming in, there is a waterfall that they have to climb up next to. The narrator says, “The fast moving current of the waterfall makes the rocks more slippery than anywhere in the cave, and put Cody’s bare feet to the test.”

Well, that may be the case, but the same conditions also put Dave’s shod feet to quite a test, too. In fact, Cody was probably in less danger. For one thing, with his toes he could feel how good a grip he was getting, and if he didn’t like the feel, he could re-adjust it until he did like the feel. You don’t have that option wearing boots like Dave was. Furthermore, toes can be used like fingers. You really can use them to grab hold of pieces of rock (or whatever) to increase your stability.

This point was completely missed by the show.

The other day I was hiking again at Great Seal State Park and decided to go off-trail to ascend to the top of Bunker Hill (this is no great feat—the trail runs about 400 feet below the “peak”). As I was climbing through the leaf detritus, my toes were the thing that made it really easy. I was constantly using them to test my toehold and my grip. That made it a real joy.

Toes are wonderful things.

[Note: The original of this entry used “Dual Survivor” instead of the correct “Dual Survival”. I have now corrected it.]

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Driving Barefoot

Barefooters are well aware that it is completely legal to drive barefoot. There was research done way back in 1994, by Jason Heimbaugh, in which he contacted each of the 50 states. Yet, it still remains a common myth.

So it is nice to see a new article in the Wisconsin State Journal that asks, “Is it legal to drive barefoot in Wisconsin?”

The answer is of course, “YES!”

In fact, the state trooper they ask the question to, Jim Larson, even goes so far as to say:

For drivers who wear heels or other shoes that make driving difficult, Larson even said he’d encourage them to drive barefoot.

It is nice to see this sort of common sense.

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