The Old and the New


I’d like to highlight a couple of different articles.

The first one is from 1989, from an article by Gode Davis in “New Realities”, BAREFOOT WALKING: Barefooting as a Social Phenomenon and Holistic Experience. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

What is interesting about the article (aside from the great descriptions of barefoot walking and the sensory experience) is how optimistic it is, and how much of could be considered current, and still on the cusp. It talks about how barefooting is taking off:

Now, with an estimated 20,000 practicing barefoot enthusiasts in the U.S., according to McCusker, the soles of a barefoot movement may be marching upon the land, with scintillating buzz-phrases like “concentrated” exercise form and “heightened tactile awareness” accompanying careful steps. Why this perceptual reversal?

It also brings up the Tarahumara Indians, which Christopher McDougal has recently written about in the wildly successful Born to Run. It shows a bunch of Boy Scouts hiking barefoot in Nevada.

Twenty years later, we are still facing the same struggles to make going barefoot more acceptable. There have been some reversals (many Boy Scout troops seem to be absolutely paranoid about bare feet), but there have also been advances, which we can see in this other article, Bare your sole: the joys of shoeless hiking, in which the writer takes a “ramble” through the Yorkshire Dales:

But, after a mile or so, the oddness subsided, and it started to feel rather good. We have 200,000 nerve endings in each foot, and all 400,000 of mine were on sensory overload: the feeling of the leaf mould, soft and damp; knee-high grass, still wet from the early-morning dew; the smooth wood of the stiles; moss-covered rocks that felt like velvet; the different temperatures of the soil sunlight or shade. It was as though my other senses were heightened, too. Everything seemed more vivid – the smell of hay, the sound of twigs breaking underfoot, the sherbet-tasting wild strawberries we picked en route, even the sight of a buzzard soaring overhead.

It’s a re-discovery of what was discussed in the other article from 20 years ago.

Let’s hope that this time the revolution “takes”.


2 Responses to “The Old and the New”

  1. Barefoot Josh Says:

    The frustrating thing is that current barefoot critics like to dismiss the latest round of “tactile awareness” enthusiasm because “the craze happens every couple of decades or so.” I understand the point of the argument – if barefooting is so great, why didn’t it catch on before?

    That’s a good question and worthy of discussion and debate, but it’s not a valid criticism of the value of ditching the shoes.

  2. Beach Bum Says:

    “(many Boy Scout troops seem to be absolutely paranoid about bare feet)”

    I had no idea it’s gotten that bad, but I guess I should have known, and should have assumed it became like that, since everything else, and every place else seems to be so paranoid about bare feet these days. Though I never was a boy scout, one of my friends was, and once he came home from summer camp, and I saw his legs and feet had quite a few minor cuts and scrapes. When I asked about it, he boasted how at camp they were told to run barefoot through the forest to toughen them up. That was around 1969 or 1970.

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