I am one of the fortunate few who is able to go barefoot nearly 24/7. In the past year my shoe-wearing time is under 24 hours. Most of that really didn’t entail walking around (think weddings and funerals).
And that made me forget just how much shod-walking really is a burden.
I should mention that, as I’ve gotten older, I too have acquired the aches and pains of age. Bad backs run in the family (but I have found that going barefoot really helps that—not only that, but when I am barefoot I can pick stuff up off the ground with my toes without having to bend over). I also have a knee that causes me a lot of trouble. That’s a story in and of itself.
I shattered the cartilage in it. I was in the Ohio Supreme Court Library doing research for the lawsuit I was pursuing at the time. Now, I had visited the Ohio Supreme Court Library barefoot on multiple times before. They had no rule against going barefoot, and I’d been seen by the librarians barefoot before without any problem. (I’d also passed through security barefoot without any problem.)
But then I got greedy. I thought it might be useful to get an affidavit from the library itself noting that they had no problem with my using the library barefoot, and that I’d never caused any problem. So I asked their Law Librarian about it (I’d even previously emailed her asking what the dress code for the library was, and the reply was that there was none and that I could “dress comfortably”).
On that day I photocopied some court opinions I needed, and then went home. At home I discovered I’d missed a few pages, so I went right back. And I guess they’d put the word out. I was stopped by security. I protested. They sent down their Assistant Administrative Director. He had just instituted a rule to stop me.
Anyways, a couple of years later I was using the library again, and since I really needed it, I was wearing flip-flops. I went to turn, my flip-flop caught a bit on the rug, and a pain went shooting through my knee.
Long story short: after putting up with it for a while hoping it would heal, and then finally getting an MRI, it was determined that I had a bunch of cartilage pieces in there. The orthopedist was about 50-50 on whether going in and removing the cartilage would help. So I left it as it was, and it has gotten a lot better over the years (though it can still give me problems).
Back to shod-walking.
A few weeks back I was in a situation where I needed to wear shoes. I had to do some really lobbying at the Ohio Statehouse, wearing a full suit. And one really needs to dress like the natives in that situation.
The parking lot was 3 blocks away.
By the end of the first block my knee was really starting to ache.
You see, when you are barefoot you can easily adjust how you put your foot down. You can adjust how your weight is distributed. You can put a little more on the left part of your ball or on the right side. But when your foot is encased inside a shoe, there’s really only one way to land. It’s locked in there. It’s being held, not just on the bottom, but all around, in one particular configuration.
And that’s not the way feet are supposed to work.
Now, the shoes I was wearing are really just black athletic shoes. They provide a bit (but just a bit) of flexibility. Full dress shoes are even worse in that a hard sole provides even fewer options for how on puts one’s foot down.
As I was walking I did manage to adjust my gait a bit. I took shorter steps; I tried to place my weight differently. The pain in my knee eased up . . . and moved to my back.
I never have that problem when walking barefooted. My body and soles provide so much better feedback and proprioception that it just isn’t an issue.
At the Statehouse I sat through a hearing. While at least my knee and back weren’t being stressed, I still had to put up with feeling the bacteria brewing down below.
And then afterwards I had to walk back to the parking lot. At which point my other knee started acting up. I have no idea what it was thinking, or just what peculiarity the shoes were forcing on the knee. But it was surely happening, and it was surely related to the restriction of wearing shoes.
I knew shoes bothered me. But it had been quite a while since I’d actually been forced to use them.
This was quite an illuminating reminder.