Archive for November, 2010

That’s the title of one of the sections of the FYI feature in the December 2010 issue of Popular Science (p. 102).

Yours truly is quoted in it:

But just walking around in fungus doesn’t cause athlete’s foot. Cavemen would have had to have worn shoes. “It turns out that athlete’s foot is a disease of shod populations,” says Bob Neinast, the lead blogger for the Society for Barefoot Living. “Anyone can pick up the fungus, but the thing to keep in mind is that it grows really well in a warm, dark, moist environment. That’s the inside of a shoe.” People who go barefoot, Neinast says, rarely get athlete’s foot, most likely because exposure to fresh air keeps their feet too dry for the fungus to take hold and multiply.

The article then goes on to ask if cavemen actually went barefoot. People (or at least some people) have probably been wearing footwear for at least 40,000 years. According to scientific papers by Erik Trinkhaus, you can tell if people are wearing shoes because the toes, which are used quite a bit by barefoot people, have smaller bones in the shod. Those papers are Anatomical evidence for the antiquity of human footwear use and Anatomical evidence for the antiquity of human footwear: Tianyuan and Sunghir. But also don’t forget that, for most people back then and for a long time, shoes were expensive. They would probably only be worn when really needed.

Anyways, the Popular Science article then goes on to talk to Cody Lundin, of Dual Survival fame. He suggests that, if they did get athlete’s foot, they might have had a remedy:

If you take the green parts of a juniper plant and boil them, the mix makes a wonderful fungicide that will work on athlete’s foot. Indigenous people might have used it. Works great on jock itch, too.

Of course, being a barefooter, I have no need of it.

You can read the full article in Popular Science.

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

Read Full Post »


There is a myth that even table legs had to be hidden in Victorian times. According to this Wikipedia entry, there was no evidence of that. The article even says:

Some current historians now believe that the myth of Victorian repression can be traced back to early twentieth-century views, such as those of Lytton Strachey, a member of the Bloomsbury Group, who wrote Eminent Victorians.

Yet, that attitude was, at least to some extent, adopted in America, even to the point that bare feet were considered shockingly vulgar, at least to city folk. This was during the time that, all over rural America, kids would regularly go barefoot to school.

I found evidence of this in the April 1936 issue of “Boy’s Life,” in an article by Dan Beard entitled “Leadership — A Rib-Tickling Story of Dan Beard’s Boyhood.” Interestingly, I’ve stayed in the “Dan Beard” cabin while camping with the Boy Scouts at Camp Oyo in Shawnee State Forest in southern Ohio. For about 10 years I always led my boys’ troop, barefoot of course, on the hike they did for their crossover scouts. Anyways, here’s a snippet of that article:

In the almost forgotten days, the happy days of the so called Victorian period, that is when Queen Victoria of England was the Emily Post, so to speak, of the world, I used to write and illustrate for that wonderful young folks’ paper, “The St. Nicholas’ Magazine,” edited by Mary Mapes Dodge, a magazine which could only be equaled by “Boys’ Life” of to-day.

People than and now made fun of both of these distinguished leaders but the good Queen Victoria kept society people respectable and Mary Mapes Dodge made the artists and writers for her publications toe the mark; so that not only nothing coarse or vulgar appeared in her magazine but nothing which was the least bit indelicate passed the watchful eyes of the Queen Victoria of American juvenile literature, Mary Mapes Dodge!

. . .

We were so extremely genteel in those days that Mrs. Doge, God bless her memory, made me cut the udders off of a picture of a cow that I had drawn for her, because forsooth it was most indecent for a cow to have such things, and for an artist to show them in a picture. I also was told to cut the feet off of a diagram of a woman kite for that too, was shamelessly immodest.

Oh, Me! Oh, My! We artists had a hard line to hoe in those days, but when I was commissioned by the same magazine to illustrate that delightful story of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer Abroad I was happy, because I thought that here at least was a story that was so clean there could be nothing wrong with the illustrations, but I was woefully mistaken. My first picture of Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn and Nigger Jim came hurtling back to me with the terse command to put shoes on all three, that bare feet were shockingly vulgar!

So, he was forced to redraw the pictures for her. Here is the
picture that appeared not only in the magazine, but also in
many of the editions of the book.

Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, Jim: all shod

"Approved" illustration from "Tom Sawyer Abroad"


Read Full Post »

We’ve looked a couple of times at barefoot sandals, which we barefooters will occasionally use to make it look like we are wearing shoes when we are not. We also saw that they were used in the late 1970s, for the same purpose.

However, the term “barefoot sandals” had an entirely different meaning in the early 1900s. Here’s an advertisement for barefoot sandals from back then:

Barefoot Sandals?

Barefoot Sandals?

Those aren’t barefoot. Those are shoes! They’re not even sandals; they are shoes with a few holes in them. Wow.

Here’s another ad with a similar picture:

More barefoot sandals?

More barefoot sandals?

Of course, back then, folks generally didn’t wear barefoot sandals to fool people into thinking they were shod, since you could go barefoot pretty much if you wanted to (or back then because you had to).

The ads also helps emphasize the difference between urban and rural areas in the United States at the time. In cities, you really were expected to wear shoes all the time, unless maybe you were a kid. In rural areas, though, going unshod was much more a part of daily life.

Read Full Post »

Continuing on with the “coldfooting” theme, today I was doing just a short hike at a local park. I did get the inevitable question, though. Here’s how I answered:

“Only one of my appendages is cold. It’s this hand (my hand that was not holding my hiking stick). You see, my other hand squeezes the stick every time I put it down, and that pushes warm blood into that hand. My cold hand gets none of that.

“My feet get that same push of blood. A foot in a shoe is really quite restricted in its movement, so it’s hard for it to get that blood and therefore gets cold. But my feet don’t have that problem and stay warm.”

They all “got it.”

By the way, once my cold hand gets too cold, I switch my hiking stick to it for a while.

Read Full Post »


I came across something at The Barefoot Runners Society that I think is spot on. In one of their forums there is a discussion about podiatrists, and I think “stomper” nails it. He says:

I believe that practically all medical professionals honestly are interested in helping their patients. But my experience suggests that they mostly do so using habits and tradition–i.e. what they’ve been taught to do–and not on the basis of what research does or doesn’t say.

I’m used to reading scientific articles from my work, and occasionally have had to inform my caregivers about things they were doing that were based in tradition and not research. That doesn’t mean they’re especially bad caregivers, just that they’re more concerned with interacting with their patients than understanding the intellectual part of medical practice.

See more here.

By the way, one of the podiatrists who is accepting of the science is Dr. Nirenberg of America’s Podiatrist. Over in the UK, there is also Dr Stephen Bloor at the Runright Stepfree Podiatry and Chiropody Clinic.

Read Full Post »

Don’t Stop Now

As winter approaches, it is so tempting for the new barefooter to think, “Oh, it’s gotten way too cold to go barefoot any more.” My message to you is

“Don’t Stop Now.”

Yesterday I wrote about the hike I did. The temperatures ranged from about 45° when I started to about 53° when I ended (that’s 7° and 12° for non-usans). My feet were perfectly comfortable the whole time.

Now is a very good time to start acclimating your feet to cooler temperatures. Believe me when I tell you that they will respond. Not only that, but a fall hike is probably one of the best ways to start to get them used to colder temperatures. First of all, while the air temperature may be cooler, the ground itself is still quite warm, so you won’t be overstressing your bare feet. Secondly, when you are hiking, all the muscles and tendons and ligaments in your feet will be helping to pump plenty of warm blood down there. And finally, exposing your feet to the slightly cooler temperatures will slowly accustom them to those temperatures, and you will very quickly discover that you can go out barefooted and comfortable in temperatures you never dreamed possible.

Read Full Post »

A Nice Fall Hike

I do a lot of hiking, and today was just so gorgeous . . .

I ended up going to Hocking Hills, and decided to do a bit of bushwhacking around. If you are not familiar with the area, there a a bunch of really nice sandstone cliffs, make up of what is called “Blackhand Sandstone.” This sandstone is well-cemented near the top, and well-cemented about 100 feet lower down, but the stuff in the middle is rather crumbly. So a lot of what are called “recess caves” are formed, and they are the main feature of Hocking Hills. I started out parking at Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve and walked along the west rim to get to where I was headed: Burgoon Hollow. I bushwhacked down into the Hollow, taking pictures of just what the formations were (I’d never been there before).

The cool thing about doing it barefooted (aside from all the usual benefits) is when one has to climb back out. That’s were toes come in extremely handily. The hollow walls are pretty step, and toes are just perfect for grabbing into the soil for a very good grip.

Here is one of the recess caves in Burgoon Hollow (on its west side). I went by it as I was climbing out of the hollow:

Lower Cave

Lower Cave in Burgoon Hollow

(You’ll easily see that I stitched together two photos I took. I need better software.)

Farther up the slope (up to the right there) there was yet another small recess cave:

Upper Cave

Upper Cave in Burgoon Hollow

Really, really fun.

I then hiked around a bit more, and ended up back at Conkles Hollow, where this time I took the trail on the east rim. Here is what things looked like today looking south towards the entrance to Conkles Hollow:

Conkles Hollow

Conkles Hollow

Just goes to show: bare feet are just fine for all sorts of hiking.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: