A story about feet

”Ouch…. Shit…. Grrr…”


“Screw this I’m putting my shoes back on”

This was my intro to barefoot walking. It was painful.

“Come on feet. This is what you were designed for. Do your thing!”

I had recently read Born To Run a book about the Tarahumara Tribe in Mexico who run long distances in the mountains barefoot or with simple sandals on. I was a text book reaction to that… text book. This book lit a spark in my mind. It made a lot of sense. Why do we wear shoes? What did people do before some clever clogs (wait…is that where that saying comes from?!) invented shoes?

I figured I would simply cast aside my shoes and be at one with nature.

And obviously. It didn’t go well.

Years of buttering up my feet into soft, moisturised, wrapped up and protected little wimps, meant my feet were ill prepared for the job. They were naive to the harsh realities of terra very firma. My feet had devolved. I had become reliant on shoes.

In my interest in learning from the natural world and permaculture this stood out. Every time I looked at my shoes I felt like I was cheating. No other animal on the planet wears shoes. I started to get paranoid around animals. I could swear they were sniggering at me and my shoes when I wasn’t looking. Those smug barefooted bastards!

Take a look at a shoe. You’re most probably wearing one now. Really look at it.

Whats with the pointed front? My feet are not pointed.

Why does it have a heel? My heel isn’t raised.

Why does it have lots of cushioning? My feet aren’t cushioned.

Our shoes are devolving our feet, and bodies. We are letting the shoes do the work for us. Which sounds great. Except it makes our bodies lazy.

I love to trail run. Going for runs in the mountains or forests is one of my favourite ways to move, and get fresh air. I had always worn fairly conventional running shoes. Everything was going great.

Until it wasn’t.

I started to get injured. Feet and knee ligament injuries. I went to see podiatrists and physios. They told me “you need to get orthotics.” Which seemed to be going even further in the wrong direction, away from the natural world. I decided to look to nature for a solution.

Which brings me to “Ouch…Shit…Grr”

As is human nature. We like instant fixes. I saw pictures of people running around barefoot and wanted in. I assumed I would be able to adapt to this straight away. And obviously I couldn’t.

One of the key lesson of Permaculture is to go slow, so I slowed down.

I brought some barefoot style shoes instead. I started with Luna sandals.

My friends asked why I was dressed like a Roman.

I ignored them. Head held high at my new evolving feet.

Then my calves started complaining.

My calves had had it easy up until now. The shoes had been doing all the work for them. They were used to the cushty, part time life. They were suddenly thrown into a full time job and weren’t all that happy about it.

So I slowed down even more.

I went back to normal shoes a few times a week and my calves got used to their new routine.

Eventually, they seemed to enjoy it. They started to resent my old shoes. They got stronger. My recurring injuries started to disappear and my feet started to change shape. They got wider!

All this from changing my shoes.

I’ve since brought more “barefoot” shoes. Altra. Vivo. Vibram Five Fingers. There’s a surprisingly amount of choice out there. I’ve also slowly got my feet used to being truly bare. Around the garden and house, on short hikes, slowly building this up. If I thought my calves had become lazy, the soles of my feet have basically been doing sweet FA since I was 1.

But, slowly they have started to toughen.

They’ve a long way to go but it feels rewarding to be less reliant on my shoes, feel my body get stronger, do what it is designed to do and be a little more connected to the natural world.

I get less paranoid around animals too.