Abuse Your Feet · 6 April 2013

I have mentioned it before, but our feet like to be abused. To a point. Rather, they want to be abused in the right way. I have come to this same odd conclusion as the book, Born to Run, after “abusing” my feet with minimalist shoes for the past six months or so.

I thought about this abuse again today as I went to get the newspaper in the pouring rain. In the fall, I had been fetching the paper in my bare feet. (The only reason I do not do this always is to keep my feet relatively warm and dry.) I was amazed then that my feet were not tender as I walked on the aggregate concrete. Those little exposed rocks did not cause me any pain at all.

My wife has told me before that the reason we cannot run around barefoot like we used to do when we were kids is because the fat is gone from our feet. That always sounded like a plausible reason. Now, I think our shoes were the reason all along. Our shoes were making our feet weak and tender.

When we “abuse” our feet by going barefoot, we are really letting them do their job. They give us feedback about the ground and help our muscles fire in the right way to adjust for the terrain. When we have too much padding “protecting” our feet from all the surfaces our feet encounter, they lose the ability to give us feedback. Consequently, our muscles cannot adjust. Since they do not fire as often, our foot and leg muscles get weak and our feet get soft.

Born to Run talks about this feedback in great depth, but I understand the mechanisms by looking at my own experience with minimalist shoes and being barefoot. As I have said before, my body loves me for exposing my feet to the ground. It is like being a kid again. I can walk barefoot on pretty much any surface without having to do that tenderfoot walk, “ooching” and “ouching” the whole way.

When it comes down to it, our feet have a different definition of abuse than what we might think. They want to be exposed to the ground without padding and with little protection. They want to feel the earth. So if we think going barefoot is abusing our feet, then they are all for it. Our feet really do want the abuse of going barefoot. Or close.

© 2013 Michael T. Miyoshi

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