Archive for the ‘Impressive Feets’ Category

The Origin of the Panyee Football Club

March 21, 2011

Here’s a nice little short film about the origin of the Panyee (Thailand) Football Club:

You probably will want to view it full-screen to be able to read the subtitles.


Airplane Rock

December 31, 2010

You may have noticed that I’ve changed the banner photo to better reflect the season here in central Ohio.

I hiked out to Airplane Rock in Hocking Hills just to do so. Of course, as you can see, I rather screwed it up. You’d think that, after seeing the banner so many times I would remember what it looked like. You’d think that, since I took the original picture, I would remember where I had originally stood. You’d think that, before I left I’d carefully check the original to make sure. Well, you’d be wrong. And so was I!

Here’s the original, so you can compare:

Original Banner

Airplane Rock is one of the mostly hidden, but utterly cool, places in Hocking Hills. Most folks don’t know about it. It was called Airplane Rock by the original Amerindians who lived here, and you can see why from this picture taken from the side:

Airplane Rock

I made a special hike up there yesterday just to get the new banner. After a spate of really cold weather, we had a warm spell, with rain yesterday morning ahead of a warm front, and it made it up to about 45° today (7C). So, I was ready to be out and about. Obviously, there was still snow on the ground, but it had melted enough that the trails were a mix of wet mud and snow. My feet got colder in the snow and then warmed up in the wet mud. But it was pretty comfortable throughout. I was hoping there’d still be a few snow patches on Airplane Rock (just for the picture), and I got lucky.

After the photo shoot (Yay! I’m a model!), I headed down into the adjacent Long Hollow and hiked right to the tip, where there is a 100 foot waterfall. This time of year Hocking Hills gets really beautiful (as you saw in my hike to Cedar Falls). The water dripping from above freezes, and the water that makes it to the bottom freezes into a mound. They are ice stalagmites and stalactites. Here is what the waterfall at Long Hollow looked like:

Long Hollow Falls

My total hike was about 4 miles in 2 hours, and was the usual fun.

I’d also like to address a comment that appeared in an earlier entry, talking about natural versus unnatural surfaces (related to whether our feet could handle such things as concrete). I don’t think it matters whether the surface is natural or unnatural—our feet cannot tell the difference. It is only the hardness or compressibility of the surface that might matter. As you can see from the photos, there is a lot of sandstone at Hocking Hills, just as there is a lot of places throughout the world where people go barefoot (including our evolutionary homeland, Africa). Of course our feet have evolved to deal with it. Here is another photo, from earlier this fall, at Conkle’s Hollow, that shows the sandstone better:

Conkle's Hollow, looking north

(This is actually the background on my monitor at the moment.)

Bare feet can handle all this stuff just fine.

[PS. I am of course joking about Amerindians naming Airplane Rock. I don’t doubt they instead called it something like Turkey Rock, or maybe Turtle Rock.]

[PPS. New camera for Christmas! Yay again!]

Freaking People Out

December 12, 2010

Here in the Columbus area, the past week has been pretty cold, with highs in the low to mid-20s. Yesterday we had a break, with it going up to around 45. I took advantage of the weather to break out of some cabin fever, and I headed down to Hocking Hills for a bit of a hike.

It’s really pretty this time of year, with really large icicles hanging down at the waterfalls and wherever else water drips (a lot of places). There was about a ¼ of an inch of snow on the ground, but that really didn’t concern me.

Barefoot hiking, just by itself, is a lot of fun. All the textures and the opportunity to feel all the foot parts working in harmony is quite nice. But I have to admit that today was fun for another reason: freaking people out.

The temperature when I started was about 35°; I found it pretty comfortable. There were both snowy areas and areas that had been cleared by other people’s footsteps. The route I started out with did not have too many people, and the few I passed did not even seem to notice the state of my feet. The first folks I met were up along Rose Lake; it appeared to be a Boy Scout Troop with leaders. The leader did notice me, and had nothing but words of admiration. I kind of gave him the standard “CIVD” spiel, which he really got. In the end, though, I finished with one of my standard lines: “It looks more impressive than it really is.” And that is true; I was just walking along quite comfortably.

My next real encounter with people was quite a bit later, after I had turned around at a fire tower, and returned to Cedar Falls. There, I talked to the leader of a different Boy Scout Troop (this time I asked). We ended up talking for about 10 minutes before he even noticed my lack of footwear (the boys all assured him that they had noticed immediately). Again, I had a chance to educate a bit.

And here you can see me at Cedar Falls (you can see that much of the waterfall pool was frozen over from the previous week of cold weather):

An Icy Cedar Falls

Farther down I talked to another group. One of the members of the group was more interested just in the fact that I was hiking barefoot (as opposed to temperature), and there I gave another of my standard lines:

We go into the woods to see the sights, smell the smells, and hear the sounds, and then we turn off our sense of touch.

He actually sounded like he might like to try it some time (maybe warmer weather, though). Yay!

At another location on my way back, a woman noticed me and suddenly said, “You’re barefoot!” “Well, yes. Yes I am.” And then she caught me speechless, saying, “That looks comfortable.” “Well, yes. Yes it is.”

Overall, I was out about 3 hours (including the time stopped to talk to people), and I hiked a bit over 7½ miles.

Oh, and I also had a bit of fun imagining freaking out some other people, those who hadn’t actually seen me. This is how:

Snow Print

Only One of my Appendages is Cold

November 7, 2010

Continuing on with the “coldfooting” theme, today I was doing just a short hike at a local park. I did get the inevitable question, though. Here’s how I answered:

“Only one of my appendages is cold. It’s this hand (my hand that was not holding my hiking stick). You see, my other hand squeezes the stick every time I put it down, and that pushes warm blood into that hand. My cold hand gets none of that.

“My feet get that same push of blood. A foot in a shoe is really quite restricted in its movement, so it’s hard for it to get that blood and therefore gets cold. But my feet don’t have that problem and stay warm.”

They all “got it.”

By the way, once my cold hand gets too cold, I switch my hiking stick to it for a while.

Don’t Stop Now

November 3, 2010

As winter approaches, it is so tempting for the new barefooter to think, “Oh, it’s gotten way too cold to go barefoot any more.” My message to you is

“Don’t Stop Now.”

Yesterday I wrote about the hike I did. The temperatures ranged from about 45° when I started to about 53° when I ended (that’s 7° and 12° for non-usans). My feet were perfectly comfortable the whole time.

Now is a very good time to start acclimating your feet to cooler temperatures. Believe me when I tell you that they will respond. Not only that, but a fall hike is probably one of the best ways to start to get them used to colder temperatures. First of all, while the air temperature may be cooler, the ground itself is still quite warm, so you won’t be overstressing your bare feet. Secondly, when you are hiking, all the muscles and tendons and ligaments in your feet will be helping to pump plenty of warm blood down there. And finally, exposing your feet to the slightly cooler temperatures will slowly accustom them to those temperatures, and you will very quickly discover that you can go out barefooted and comfortable in temperatures you never dreamed possible.

A Nice Fall Hike

November 2, 2010

I do a lot of hiking, and today was just so gorgeous . . .

I ended up going to Hocking Hills, and decided to do a bit of bushwacking around. If you are not familiar with the area, there a a bunch of really nice sandstone cliffs, make up of what is called “Blackhand Sandstone.” This sandstone is well-cemented near the top, and well-cemented about 100 feet lower down, but the stuff in the middle is rather crumbly. So a lot of what are called “recess caves” are formed, and they are the main feature of Hocking Hills. I started out parking at Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve and walked along the west rim to get to where I was headed: Burgoon Hollow. I bushwacked down into the Hollow, taking pictures of just what the formations were (I’d never been there before).

The cool thing about doing it barefooted (aside from all the usual benefits) is when one has to climb back out. That’s were toes come in extremely handily. The hollow walls are pretty step, and toes are just perfect for grabbing into the soil for a very good grip.

Here is one of the recess caves in Burgoon Hollow (on its west side). I went by it as I was climbing out of the hollow:

Lower Cave

Lower Cave in Burgoon Hollow

(You’ll easily see that I stitched together two photos I took. I need better software.)

Farther up the slope (up to the right there) there was yet another small recess cave:

Upper Cave

Upper Cave in Burgoon Hollow

Really, really fun.

I then hiked around a bit more, and ended up back at Conkles Hollow, where this time I took the trail on the east rim. Here is what things looked like today looking south towards the entrance to Conkles Hollow:

Conkles Hollow

Conkles Hollow

Just goes to show: bare feet are just fine for all sorts of hiking.

A Report from the Detroit Marathon

October 23, 2010

There is a great write-up from John Yohe at John’s Barefoot Running Blog on his running the Detroit Marathon barefooted. I really don’t know how he managed to reproduce his thoughts from the time, but it is a great read.

Here are a few snippets, but go read the whole thing.

He starts out:

I’m exhausted already. I had to get up at four o’clock in order to drive from Jackson to be here in Detroit at six. The race is at seven, and already parking is congested. But I fine a good spot, close to the finish for a quick get away. The one time I decided to actually get a hotel room the night before, planning way ahead so as to ensure getting a room, the hotel goes out of business a month before. Ok, well, that’ll save me a hundred buck, but man, seeing as how I was nervous the night before, I’m not running on much sleep.

A few comments about the runners around him:

And oh yes, the comments on my feet are happening all the time. More gasps. More, “That guy doesn’t have any shoes!’ said from ten feet behind me. I wish people would at least acknowledge that I can hear them. But, I do have to say that I might have been wrong about me being the first most people have heard about barefoot running. I’m getting lots of “Good job barefoot runner!” comments as well, meaning that people know the phrase “barefoot runner,” meaning that the idea, the concept now exists in the mainstream, as a ‘meme,’ meaning that, if people know the term, it may be coming into more widespread acceptance. That’s my theory anyways.

More comments (I guess I enjoy these the most):

A guy passes me on the left. “Man, you are crazy.”

I nod and say, “Thanks.”

He laughs and goes on.

I pass two women and get the gasps, but one says, “Wow, that’s stupid.”

Ok, I can’t not say anything. I turn around and say, “Thanks, I can hear you.”

Their eyes go wide. The one who spoke says, “I love you and respect you, I just wouldn’t do it myself.”

I wave. “Fair enough.” But as I’m pulling away, I hear her say, “They say that only fifteen percent of people are able to do that.”

Wtf? Whatever lady. Keep living a life of excuses.

And how did he do at the end?

Well, go read it.

Out and About

October 18, 2010

In a comment to Fall Hikes, Ben asks

[D]o you also walk barefoot in your daily life? I have done so for the past month but the reaction I get, especially now it is getting winter here, are not so positive. Any thoughts on that?

I’m going to pull it up here as a full entry since I think it is an interesting question.

Yes. Aside from the time I inline skate (I haven’t figured out how to do that barefoot), I probably wear footwear about 5-10 hours a year (yes, that’s “year”). In this older entry, Resisting Social Pressure, I talked a bit about how going barefoot strengthens the soul (along with the sole — HA!). But after a while it also gets easier with the public, too.

Yes, as you start going to new places like stores, you might have problems. Of course, don’t forget to carry with you the letter from your state’s Health Department, available here from the Society for Barefoot Living, that demonstrates no health code requiring shoes. But what I have found happens is that, for the stores you frequent regularly, they very quickly “adopt” you. They recognize you. You are their barefooted customer. They’ll greet you (moreso than when you used to enter shod).

So, I’ve ended up giving a lot of business to places that are friendly to me, and none to those who have given me problems. And they are positive experiences.

Regarding winter, about all I get is curiosity. Folks want to know if I put on shoes for the winter. The answer is no, and my ready response: “If I don’t need gloves, I don’t need shoes.” I certainly don’t put on gloves walking from my car in a parking lot into a store, so why would I need shoes? Yes, the ground conducts cold better than the air, but I have pretty thick soles that provide more insulation.

It can provide some interesting reactions though (and don’t consider these negative, but savor them). Last winter I exited a PetSmart and deliberately walked through a melting snowdrift (maybe 6 inches deep) for about 6 feet (felt like ice cream). Behind me I heard this audible gasp. I just grinned to myself.

Fall Hikes

October 16, 2010

This is the time of year when many park districts and State Park system put on organized hikes to view the fall foliage. If you like barefoot hiking, these are wonderful opportunities not only to do a very nice hike, but also to be a bit of an ambassador of bare feet. Just showing other people that it is possible to do these hikes can help open up some minds.

I did two such hikes last weekend; the group size was around 30 people. Today I did another one, with a groups size of around 100 people. Many folks didn’t say much, but nonetheless quite a few were bold enough to ask questions, and I was able to give them a feel for the experience. There were two lines in particular that I used a fair bit, and they seemed to be able to relate to them.

The first one was

Just like any other part of the body, when you use them, the feet strengthen up.

The second one was

We go into the woods to see the sights, hear the sounds, and smell the smells, and then we turn off our sense of touch.

And from there I could talk about the joy of moss or pine needles or hemlock needles or fallen leaves. They got it.

Things were a bit different this year than last year. Quite a few folks knew about barefoot running, so I didn’t seem quite as odd as I have in years past). Many of them had heard about or actually read Born to Run. I even talked to one guy who was going to run in the Columbus Marathon tomorrow who said he did a bit of barefoot training. There were also quite a few people who had seen Dual Survivor, so they were up on the idea of hiking barefoot. I had nice discussions with them about it.

One other thing that always happens on these hikes: there are inevitably some older folks (well, older than me, but these days that is harder and harder to do) who will tell me that, as a kid, their shoes came off the last day of school and stayed off until the first day of school in the fall. They ran around barefoot all summer long and didn’t have any problems. But then they’d say, “But I could never do that now.” Why not? Just like any other part of the body, when you use them, the feet strengthen up. Even if you are older.


October 10, 2010

Bare feet are not a panacea. Like any other part of the body, they can be overworked. While going barefooted offers relief from many of the inflictions of shoes, sometimes shoes are tools (just as many articles of clothing are tools) that can extend our capabilities. But I prefer that the choice between the two be a balancing, and a conscious choice.

That said, you may be guessing (correctly) that I am a bit footsore at the moment. On Thursday I did a 12-mile hike. This is farther than I managed to hike during the entire month of September. So, I was a bit out of shape, and my feet were definitely out of shape.

I actually had no problem during the hike. I was down at Lake Hope State Park. There are a bunch of trails just north of the lake. These have a bit of scree, and with the recent lack of rain, the ground is fairly hard, so the trails can be a bit of a challenge. Nonetheless, as I said, I really didn’t have much problem. I think part of that is that the body, while in use, builds up endorphins during use, and it is only after they have faded away that one feels the aftereffects.

Which I did.

On Friday I was footsore. You will usually see references to “footsore” in Civil War reminiscences, since many of the Confederate forces (and some Union ones) were barefoot and did long marches so. But I’ve also seen references to shod soldiers getting footsore, too. (And I’ve read a lot about shod soldiers getting blisters from their shoes, something that happens quite rarely to the barefooted). I still had no problem getting around; it is just that if I tried to walk on a more knobby surface, I had to take it slowly and easily.

On Saturday and Sunday, though, the Columbus Metroparks System was putting on a few guided hikes at Clear Creek Metro Park. So I was a bit worried if I might be able to handle those hikes.

I need not have worried. By Saturday morning, my soles were still just a bit tender, so I took a dose of ibuprofen. And that was that. The hike started for a short bit on a gravel road. I made sure to walk on the less gravelly parts, and only got zinged once or twice. After that, the hike (a fairly short 2 miles) was off-trail on forest detritus, mostly leaves. And it was wonderful.

Sunday’s hike was similar, though it was on a regular path. By now there was just a minor reminder of being footsore. Again, there were patches of dry and hard soil, and pebbles. Again, I started the hike with some ibuprofen (just in case), but once I got into it, the endorphins kicked in again, and I was comfortable. Again, it was a wonderful hike.

It’s not too surprising that being footsore cannot last too long. For any of our remote ancestors, anyone who was really hobbled by long walks would not have survived very long to produce ancestors. And while it has been a while since (at least) my ancestors did such long-distance barefoot traveling, that capability still resides within us.

There is a famous passage in about the adaptability of feet in a scientific paper by Samuel Shulman, “Survey in China and India of Feet that have Never Worn Shoes,” The Journal of the National Association of Chiropodists (1949):

One hundred and eighteen of those interviewed were rickshaw coolies. Because these men spend very long hours each day on cobblestone or other hard roads pulling their passengers at a run it was of particular interest to survey them. If anything, their feet were more perfect than the others. All of them, however, gave a history of much pain and swelling of the foot and ankle during the first few days of work as a rickshaw puller. But after a rest of two days or a week’s more work on their feet, the pain and swelling passed away and never returned again. There is no occupation more strenuous for the feet than trotting a rickshaw on hard pavement for many hours each day yet these men do it without pain or pathology.

Yup. It takes just a bit to build one’s feet back up. And now I’m off to play some barefoot tennis, footsore no more.

[Update: Tennis went just fine, but that was on a smooth hardcourt surface. What still bothers me is my driveway, which is old asphalt with quite a bit of gravel sticking up. I still feel that and have to walk gingerly. It still feels a lot better than putting on shoes.]

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