Archive for the ‘Techniques’ Category

Flying Barefoot

December 3, 2010

Since Daniel Howell was escorted off his plane yesterday for being barefoot, I thought I’d go over the situation for that.

Daniel was flying to NYC to appear on The Today Show to talk about The Barefoot Book. He had actually boarded the plane, and after he had his seat belt on, he was approached and asked if he had any shoes with him. He didn’t, so they tossed him.

Is that legal? Yes, it is. Your airline ticket is basically a contract with a private company, and the terms of that contract are detailed in that airlines “Contract of Carriage.” You can easily use Google to find the contract for any airline you are interested in flying. But it is probably not worth it. Practically every airline has a barefoot rule.

Daniel was flying US Airways, and you can see their Contract of Carriage can be found here (click on the PDF). The relevant section, for any airline, is under the heading “Refusal to Transport”, and for US Airways it says:

US Airways may refuse to transport, or remove from any flight, any passenger for the following reasons: Any passenger who may pose a threat to the comfort and/or safety of other passengers or employees including (but not limited to) passengers who: Are over the age of five (5) and barefoot, or otherwise inappropriately clothed, unless required for medical reasons;

Notice that they say that they may refuse to transport, not that they will, which really makes it a crap shoot depending on the employee who sees you. Also notice that they say the rule is for “comfort and/or safety.” That’s not a crap shoot; that’s just crap. Of course it is more comfortable to be barefoot, and medical experts actually suggest removing your shoes when flying to help keep the blood flowing. Now, maybe they don’t care about your comfort, but thing that the other customers might not be comfortable seeing bare feet. Crap there, too: they don’t ban flip-flops, which show the same amount of foot. And if were really about safety, then there would not be the exception for children under 5 years old, unless the airline wants to go on record saying that they don’t care about the safety of young children. (Think about that!)

It’s all just more mindless following the herd.

The origin of the rule predates the airline deregulation in 1978. Back then, flying was regulated by the Civil Aeronautics Board, and they dictated the Contract of Carriage. That Contract had the barefoot rule (but without the exception for children). After deregulation, most airlines just kept the original Contract, though over the years, many have slowly modified them. (You can see remnants of the CAB rules in that Refusal to Transport is still often called Rule 35.)

Some airlines (a very few) removed the barefoot restriction, Aloha Airlines being one of them. Unfortunately, Aloha ceased operating in 2008. Non-US airlines base their Contracts of Carriage (actually called “General Conditions of Carriage”) on a different model, and generally do NOT have a barefoot clause.

As I said, different airlines have modified the rules, so there are slightly differently worded versions.

Hawaiian Airlines:

Persons who do not meet HA standards for dress and attire: . . . For safety reasons, footwear must be worn unless the passenger is unable to do so due to a disability or physical condition that prevents them from wearing footwear.

Delta Airlines:

Delta may refuse to transport any passenger, and may remove any passenger from its aircraft at any time, for any of the following reasons: Delta may refuse to transport any passenger, or may remove any passenger from its aircraft, when refusal to transport or removal of the passenger is reasonably necessary in Delta’s sole discretion for the passenger’s comfort or safety, for the comfort or safety of other passengers or Delta employees, or for the prevention of damage to the property of Delta or its passengers or employees. By way of example, and without limitation, Delta may refuse to transport or may remove passengers from its aircraft in any of the following situations: When the passenger is barefoot.


AirTran may refuse to transport or may remove from any flight any passenger for one or several reasons, including but not limited to the following: If a passenger’s conduct is disorderly, abusive or violent, or the passenger: Is barefoot, or is clothed in a manner that would cause discomfort or offense to other passengers.

Grand Canyon Airplane Tours:

In addition to persons who may be refused transportation on Carrier under Section 6 above, refusal to transport or removal of the following Passengers may be necessary for the comfort and safety of the affected Passenger or other Passengers: Persons over two years of age who are barefoot;

So, how do you fly barefoot? Society for Barefoot Living members have developed a few strategies. Often you can just board barefoot, since the employees are really pretty busy. Don’t look down at your feet, but keep looking directly into the eyes of the employee, particularly when handing over your ticket, and when passing by the flight attendant as you enter the plane. Once you are seated, you are probably fine if they didn’t see you come in, because, as I noted earlier, many people do take off their shoes once they are seated.

However, carry a pair of flip-flops, or something else you can put on for just a moment if challenged. Put them on, pass the person challenging you, and then just take them off again. Yeah, it’s a hassle (I personally hate to have to carry footwear just in case, and rarely do so), but at least then you don’t miss your flight.

One time, on Southwest Airlines, an otherwise very friendly airline, I’d boarded and flown barefoot without being challenged. (They have the “comfort and safety” excuse with an exception for those under 5.) However, on getting off the plane, I was noticed by a flight attendant who went ballistic, telling me I couldn’t be like that. OK, I’m leaving. I think part of his frustration was that there wasn’t a darn thing he could do about me. Hah!


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.


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.]

Barefoot Sandals

September 25, 2010

Barefoot sandals are a way that barefooters sometimes use to look like they are shod while still maintaining sole-to-ground contact. In other words, they are used to try to foil the shoe police. For me, at least, that contact with the ground is what provides me with the main sensory input that keeps my proprioception working. It is also the thing that allows me to walk in a way that does not hurt my feet and knees and back (a benefit many other barefooters have also realized).

Barefoot sandals can also be used as jewelry or decoration for the feet.

Most barefoot sandals that you can buy are aimed more at women. You can see some women’s vendors and styles here, here, and here. (Note: this is not any particular endorsement of these particular sites; they are just some of the first that came up on Google.) There is also a page on barefoot sandals that lists quite a few vendors on the website of the Barefoot Hikers of PA (NJ-DE-MD). There aren’t a whole lot available for men, though I did find this site. You’ll note that most of these are really aimed more at decoration that as fooling personnel at a store or restaurant who are intent on keeping out a barefooter (usually for misguided and mythical reasons).

Way back when I just made my own. It’s fairly easy to do. If you’d like to try to make some of your own, here they are, and the general idea for their construction.

bf sandal 1

Thin leather with knotted thong ties

This one is made from leather, cut with scissors. The loop under the second toe is just a thin strip (thong) held on by those knots you see. The strap across the top a two short thongs. They are held together with a loop and knot arrangement (small loop on one side; knot on the other; pull the knot through the loop and it stays).

bf sandal 2

Thin leather with some velcro

This one is also leather, with a slightly different attachment arrangement, and a slightly different look. Same arrangement under the toe. This time, however, the large strip is the cross-strip, while the thong runs back towards the toe. The thong is knotted on both end. The cross-strip, however, is attached with velco. You can see the construction in the next photo.

bf sandal 2 detail

View of the velcro attachment points

Here you can see the toe-loop on the right. You can also see where the velcro is attached. Of course, sizing (and placement of the velcro) is done while it is on your foot.

bf sandal 3

Nylon straps

Here is a more masculine one. This is made from backpacking straps (available at any outdoor store). It is bigger and bulkier, with the intent to do a better job of fooling anybody who looks at it. That broader patch across the toes is kind of trying to hide the fact that the attachment is a loop under the second toe (and not a single piece between the big and 2nd toes. Doesn’t succeed all that well, in my opinion. The loop under the toe is just a piece of shoelace. The cross-piece is stitched on one side, and held on with velcro on the other.

bf sandal 4

Braided (Knitting Knobby)

This is the one I think I like the best. It goes easily into a pocket without getting tangled up like the others, and is easiest to put on (big loop behind the ankle, little loop under the toe).

This was made with a knitting knobby. Well, actually, I made my own knitting knobby (with a board and nails) that would take a thicker piece of string, and produced a wider product at the end. I see that there is something call a knitting tower that is similar to what I did.

The toe-loop is a piece of elastic string tied at the same place the big loop is tied together. This really does go down between the big and 2nd toes, and then is looped over the 3rd toe. This has more of the look of a flip-flop (and thereby might fool others better).

Despite making all these, I find I rarely (I mean really rarely) wear them. If I am going into a place I’ve never been in before, I will not wear them. That is because, if I do wear them and have no problems, I’ll never know if I could have just gone barefoot and had no problems. They are not worth carrying in my pocket in case I am challenged. If I am challenged when barefoot, and stop to put them on, they will see me putting them on, realize that they are not real sandals, and then they will probably still throw me out. Finally, for places that do throw me out for going barefoot, my usual policy is not to got there again. If they don’t want me, why should I give them my money when there are other places who welcome me barefoot? So, as I said, I very rarely wear them.

There is one kind of situation in which I will use (and have used) them, though. That is for a place that has thrown me out that I really, really need to enter (and they are often a monopoly of some sort). One was the Franklin County Law Library. I had used this library (research for my lawsuit) many times barefoot when suddenly they put up a sign (passed by their board of trustees and everything). So I put these on to go in. Interestingly, I got some books and was sitting down looking at them (kind of hiding in the rear of the room among the carrels) when I saw the librarian coming towards me to check me out. The barefoot sandals must have passed muster, because she looked at my feet (rather carefully) as she went by, and then continued on without hassling me. Now, maybe I fooled her. Or maybe she thought the shoe rule was stupid but was still required to enforce it, and while she recognized the barefoot sandals as not real shoes, that gave her the excuse she needed not to enforce the rule any further. Either way, it worked sufficiently. I’ve done this before at the Columbus Metropolitan Library (the one I lost my suit against) twice. Once I had to accompany my son there to get something, and once they were the only source I could use to get a copy of a newspaper article about the Youngstown barefoot lawsuit from the 1960s. That Youngstown barefooter won.

I’m still a little leery about using them in places I’ve been thrown out of. If they really pursued it, they could probably arrest me for criminal trespass, and that I ought to know that a shoe rule means that such barefoot sandals are not adequate. Even if they ban “bare feet”, a prosecutor could argue that I am just being pedantic, and that a reasonable person knows what is required (a sole).

Finally, one more reason I very rarely wear them: I can feel them on my feet. Yes, my soles are still free, but I still feel the barefoot sandal on top. And it just doesn’t feel “bare.”

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