I did a bit of hiking last Friday. And I had something happen that happens only very rarely.
I got a hole in my foot.
I know that the terminally shod are always afraid that horrible things will happen if you go outside barefoot. And to go hiking? They think your feet will end up as bloody stubs.
But it is really not like that. Feet adapt, and they can handle most stuff that people think of as hazards.
Yet sometimes . . .
Occasionally I do step on something while hiking and my sole gets punctured. On the one hand, it is nowhere as often as I simply scratch my legs on a twig or thorn bush and draw blood. On the other hand, it is still an annoyance. But it still happens.
And it does so extremely rarely.
What is most often the case when something happens is that I am bushwhacking in the middle of nowhere. I’ll step on a twig funny, or I can’t see exactly what I am stepping on. Often I don’t even notice it at the time, but only find out about it much later when I feel a slight twinge, look down, and see a bit of blood.
On established trails, I can barely remember any time that anything has happened, with the one exception of when a trail-builder thought that the way to re-route a trail was to cut off the underbrush, including tiny saplings, leaving about a half-inch of stalk sticking out of the new trail. Yoicks. Got myself good one time.
People are also concerned about glass, but broken glass is pretty rare on established paths. In addition, any that is there has weathered and lost much of its sharpness. Finally, it is sitting on soil, which has a fair amount of give to it.
When I’m hiking with a group and we spot some glass, I will often deliberately step on it, while proclaiming, “Look out! There’s glass here! Barefoot people had better be careful!” No big deal.
So on Friday I was hiking at a spot I’ve hiked at many times before, what we call Salisbury Hill, though it is officially “Forry Preserve”. It was going to be a quick hike, so I didn’t carry anything with me.
By the way, I had to ford the Licking River to get to it; with all the rain it was running mighty high, with a water depth of 2 feet. The shod just have no idea how handy bare feet are in that situation (aside from not getting wet boots!). I was able to feel my way across. It has a rocky bottom, and by feeling I could tell just when I had a good footing and when I needed to adjust. Along with using my hiking stick, what many might consider a challenge turned out to be fun instead.
But this post is about holes and feet, and at one part of the hike I suddenly felt a pang on my foot. At first I thought I had pulled a muscle, but about 10 steps later it had that feel of a possible embedded thorn. I ignored it a bit, but after a few more times of noticing a bit of tenderness, I decided to stop to see if I could get the thorn out.
Without any tools with me, I just tried scraping across the top with my fingernail. For a thorn, that will sometimes catch the thicker part at the top and draw it out. No such luck this time, though I could feel something. It was also bleeding a bit, which is pretty rare with thorns.
Anyways, I still had about a mile left to hike back to my car, which I did, pretty uneventfully.
One thing about going barefoot that it definitely not true regarding shoes is that you can choose how to place your foot. With a shoe, your foot is locked/laced in, so that forces the pressures onto one location. But when barefoot, you can walk more on the inner side of your foot, or more on the outer side. You can also vary pressure front and back quite easily. So hiking that last mile just required a bit of awareness of how I was putting down my feet. Occasionally, very occasionally, I’d feel a slight twinge, but that was it. Even recrossing the Licking River went smoothly.
I then had a meeting to go to, which I did (walking through a Licking County office building). Fortunately, my foot had stopped bleeding at that point. It is always bad advertising for going barefoot to leave blood spots behind.
I was only able to check things out carefully when I got home.
It turns out I had a small piece of glass in there.
This is like the 3rd time I’ve even gotten a glass splinter, and the first time on a trail. Before, I’d gotten them in downtown Columbus, or on the campus of The Ohio State University. I’m really not sure how I would have gotten it. It had to be sitting just right, with the pointy part sticking up just right.
Anyways, it went it about 3 millimeters. Unfortunately, my skin there was only about 2.9 millimeters thick, so that’s how it drew blood.
OK, so I stepped on some glass. But it was not a big deal. I was still able to easily walk a mile and ford a stream. I attended a meeting. I pulled it out, put on a bandage (and a bit of antibiotic), and that’s the end of it. It was a lot less worse than the last time I nicked my thumb cutting an onion.
Yet we see businesses utterly paranoid about barefooted people in their stores. They are afraid of lawsuits (having watched too much TV), but don’t realize that, even if a barefooter were to step on something, how do you sue for the price of a bandage? It’s simply not worth it (even assuming that a store would be considered liable when it was the customer’s own choice).
I also have to add that, in all my years of going barefoot, I have never put a hole in my foot in any sort of inside establishment. Never. It is the outdoors that contains the hazards (as minor as they are). As I’ve written before, the only time I was injured in a store was when I reached for something on a shelf, and an automatic coupon dispenser managed to cut my thumb. I didn’t sue over that, either. Bandage. Antibiotic. You get the picture.
Anyways, with all the shoddie fears about getting holed, when it does happen, oh so rarely, it just isn’t a big deal.
We just keep on going.