This just strikes me as odd. In the 1940s there was a sudden fad of going barefoot among high-jumpers and and pole-vaulters.
But only half-barefoot.
[Caption from the article.]
Supposedly, according to a 1940 article, Johnny Wilson just prefers the “feel” of jumping with just one foot barefoot.
And then in 1942 there was a full-length article about the trend. The athletes that jumped half-shod speculated that the slightly higher shod foot somehow provided more leverage, though there was also a claim that another advantage was that there were no spikes on the bare feet that could get caught on the crossbar.
Here’s the full artcle.
‘Athlete’s Foot?’ It Didn’t Hurt These Boys
High-Jumpers, Pole-Vaulters Take Up NewFad—and It Works!
By BURTON BENJAMIN
(NEA Service Staff Correspondent)
NEW YORK—Little did John Greenleaf Whittier dream when he wrote, “Blessings on thee, barefoot boy,” that his benediction would have athletic significance.
In current track circles—specifically the high jump—Poet Whittier was half right.
Lanky athletes in increasing numbers are scissoring, rolling and leaping at commendable heights with one tootsie bare.
Pedal nudism is not new among high-jumpers. Opinions on its merit vary from “flagrant showmanship” and “purely psychological” to “a sure way to be a champion in one easy strip.”
While many high-jumpers have played around with the semi-barefoot style, none of the champions—Les Steers, Cornelius Johnson, Dave Albritton, Ed Burke or George Spitz—so much as untied a shoelace.
Best known of the leaping nudists is A. Richmond Morcum, of New Hampshire, who does a Rand in both the high-jump and pole vault. His top in the jump is 6-feet 6¾ inches, in the vault 14-feet 4¼.
“I used to graze the cross-bar with the shoe of my right foot in the jump and vault,” explains sophomore Morcum. “I bought a new pair of shoes. The right one chafed my foot, I took it off and jumped 6-feet 3-inches, a new high. In vaulting, I picked up more than a foot.”
Most successful of the back-to-the-soil lads is Jim Milne of Michigan State, who has jumped 6-feet 6¼ inches in competition, bettered that in practice.
The 6-foot 4-inch junior spaded a pic in his backyard in Detroit last summer, watched movies of semi-barefoot John Wilson of Southern California and practiced.
His coach, Karl Schlademan, is inclined to believe there may be a difference in leverage when the jumping leg is a quarter inch longer than the other.
The Spartan tutor recalls that the greatest high jumpers in the world are a tribe of African natives. They use a small mound of earth for their take-off. The current version may be an adaptation of whatever theory is involved.
Milne claims that when he removes a shoe he has a smoother approach. He concentrates on footing to avoid stepping on an object which might injure him. He is careful not to stub a toe. This, he claims, prevents muscle tie-up.
They laughed at Emmett Welch of Marquette when he stepped up to high-jump. Then he took off his right shoe. He picked up four inches to around 6-ft. 4. and Coach Mel Shimek insists he’ll go even higher.
“Barefoot Bill” Vessie is a freshman at Columbia; He stands 6-feet 6½ inches, weighs 180 pounds, has hit 6-4 in competition.
“I’m not imitating Morcum,” says Vessie. “I’ve been doing this since high school when no one ever heard of him.
“I take one shoe off because I want to correct what is perhaps the worst fault of high-jumpers—leaning in toward the bar. If you leap up and toward the bar instead of straight up, you waste energy.
“With one shoe off, the slight difference in height corrects that tendency. It’s like walking in a gutter with one foot on the curb. You lean toward the foot in the gutter.
“Finally, you don’t have any spikes on one foot to upset the bar.”
Climbing Corios are not new in track. Howard Spencer of Geneva College leaped 6-feet 7¼ inches in 1932.
John Wilson and Clark Mallory of Southern California tied for first place in the 1C4-A at 6-feet 4 inches in 1939.
New or not, the semi-barefoot brigade is in keeping with the times. The saving in leather may win a nod from Washington.
By the way, that last paragraph is a reference to the leather rationing that went on during World War II, which I wrote a bit when I highlighted Tom Smiley.
I’m pretty sure that athletes don’t do this today, so I guess it was just a passing fad. And I wonder how much it really did help, or whether the effect was psychological, as one person in the article suggested.
And finally, if it was psychological (or even if the effect was real), why didn’t any jumper go the full monty? Why didn’t anybody try it and succeed?