OK, this is just a bit of fun, with no deep significance at all.
We had about half an inch of snow at my house today, and I walked in it on my driveway while fetching the mail, leaving a nice set of snowprints. Here is one of them:
The cool thing is what happens if you use photo processing software to invert the image (sending dark to light and vice versa). It then actually looks like a cast of your foot. See for yourself:
Over at Jason Robillard’s Barefoot Running University blog, he takes podiatrist Catherine “Cat” McCarthy to task for more of the usual crap about how only elite, Olympic-class athlete’s should even consider running barefoot. You’ll want to go read that. He debunks her points:
- that only world-class athletes can be barefoot runners;
- that our present environment is not barefoot-friendly, yet out ancestor’s environment was; and
- that the foot needs support.
But he did not link to her blog entry, so I went looking for it to read it myself. The entry is here, or I should say, it was there, because if you click on that link, you find that link does not exist.
However, you can can find the entry in the Google cache, here.
I wonder why it was removed? I know, if I had written it, I would have been ashamed enough to remove it.
Let’s see what she says. Here’s how she starts out:
If you are a world class athlete under the supervision of a team of professional trainers – please disregard my diatribe. Barefoot running shoes may be appropriate for you as you train for your future Olympiad event – best wishes and I sincerely hope you win!
If you are like me and the other 99.999999% of the world’s population – this review is for you.
She later goes on to say:
I cannot help but have an emotional reaction to people arguing for barefoot running and perhaps that is my own personal downfall but I have spent my career trying to heal people’s foot and ankle injuries caused by one false move in a bad shoe that did not protect their foot and led to injury and pain.
Well, there’s your problem: “one false move in a bad shoe”. Ya think it might be the shoe?
In her defense (slightly), she is mainly gigging on “barefoot shoes”, which are not barefoot, and because the soles of those things prevent proper feedback they might
cause more problems. However, there is still no evidence that shoes are better than bare feet when it comes to running injuries (though, of course, all too many podiatrists say that backwards — no evidence that bare feet are better than shoes). But, for non-running situations, we know that bare feet do not cause bunions, corns, or even fallen arches the way shoes (oh, yeah, those are “bad shoes”) do.
There is a lot I could say about the issue, but since this is a barefooting blog, I will restrict myself to just commenting on their feet.
Here is the primary photo, taken from the air:
One thing I noticed, more visible in this cropped version,
is the shape of their feet. Even from the air we can easily see the natural separation of the big toe, and even pretty good separation between all the toes.
This is what natural human feet look like. This is what feet that do their natural job look like. Compare that to what feet look like after a lifetime of being stuffed into high heels, for fashion’s sake (the condition you see below is called hallux valgus):
Sorry for the long hiatus. To return, here’s Shakira’s appearance on the David Letterman show last September:
Shakira does a lot of her performances barefoot.
The story is about a pregnant woman, Michelle Lee, in Roselle, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago) who was kicked out of a bar because she was pregnant. A bouncer asked her if she was, and when she said “yes”, he made her leave. According to the story:
“He just said, if anything happens, if a fight breaks out and you get hurt, we are responsible,” Lee said. “That can happen anywhere. If I am going somewhere, I am taking responsibility.”
Sounds rather familiar to what we barefooters hear, doesn’t it? In this instance, the ACLU is concerned because of sex discrimination (since, obviously, it is only women who get pregnant, so far).
However, the part of the article that raises the question related to barefooting is this part:
According to the Illinois Human Rights Act: “It is unlawful to discriminate in the full and equal enjoyment of facilities and services by any place of public accommodation.”
* * *
Chicago lawyer Martin Dolan, who handles civil rights and personal injury cases, said that a private bar may set its own rules, including behavior standards or a dress code, but that those rules must be established in advance and be obvious to customers, such as a visual posting.
“The key to this is being able to justify the legitimate reason, not just (pull something) out of the air,” Dolan said.
And that leads to the question from Michael:
What does your experience tell you about how this applies to barefooters? Can a business legally discriminate against us if they don’t have “established” rules? In other words, can we share with managers or security that they have no right to discriminate if they are just making rules up on the spot?
The answer? It depends (doesn’t everything?). To a large extent it depends on the state that you are in.
As a general rule, businesses are allowed to discriminate however they want and can kick out whomever they want for whatever reason, as long as it is not because of race, creed, color, sex, sometimes sexual orientation, etc.. That is based upon states’ public accommodation laws. However, some states go beyond that restricted set of reasons. For instance, California has The Unruh Act, that has been interpreted to mean that you cannot be tossed from a public accommodation merely for unconventional dress. The seminal case there was In re Cox, 3 Cal.3d 205, 474 P.2d 992 (1970), from 1970. Since that time, California courts have been emasculating that ruling, and it has never been tested in regards to going barefoot, but it is at least something. (On a more pessimistic note, I wouldn’t be surprised if some court there would say that a barefoot ban would be “reasonable”.)
I am also aware that New Jersey has a similar state law. Now, from this article, I see that Illinois also has something similar, except that I note that the language for Illinois is the strongest I have seen: the right to be in a public accommodation doesn’t seem to be an afterthought to the other conditions (race, sex, etc.). The Illinois law is (775 ILCS 5/) The Illinois Human Rights Act, and as the article states:
It is a civil rights violation for any person on the basis of unlawful discrimination to:
(A) Deny or refuse to another the full and equal enjoyment of the facilities, goods, and services of any public place of accommodation;
As I look at case law, I cannot find anything that even supports what the lawyer in the article says, that rules must be specified in advance and posted. It appears to me to be even stronger than that, and in fact there is language in a major court decision, Chicago v. Corney, Jr., 13 Ill. App.2d 396, 142 N.E.2d 160 (1957), (that opinion was in regard to racial discrimination) that says: “Persons seeking such accommodations, etc., cannot be excluded from the premises so long as they conduct themselves in a peaceable and orderly manner.”
Who knows how an Illinois court might rule in a barefooting case. I do note that the Chicago Public Library has a barefoot rule — in this regard I don’t see how it could be legal, but I also know that judges are extremely reticent to legitimize barefooting and they end up succumbing to the usual myths.
Finally, let me finish with my state, Ohio. I only recently realized that their human rights statute goes a bit beyond the standard race, sex, etc. It says, in the Ohio Revised Code § 4112.02(G), that it is an unlawful discriminatory practice:
For any proprietor or any employee, keeper, or manager of a place of public accommodation to deny to any person, except for reasons applicable alike to all persons regardless of race, color, religion, sex, military status, national origin, disability, age, or ancestry, the full enjoyment of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, or privileges of the place of public accommodation.
I’ve added the emphasis. There are some court rulings that suggest that that phrase really does require the business have a consistent policy (such as a sign) for it to be enforceable.
That might be fun to test someday.
Here’s a story in today’s Boston Globe, Minimalist sneakers send runner limping away, also titled, “You’re crazy.” It’s about the authors attempt to use Vibram Five Fingers.
Now, I’m sure you are all aware that I don’t think much about Vibrams, simply because they are not really barefoot. But, when it comes to having something on your feet, they are almost assuredly better for muscle/tendon/ligament development than hard leather soles or super-padding. But I have also warned that you just cannot expect to suddenly go barefoot and do heavy lifting (so to speak) than you can suddenly, after years of couch-potatohood, go to a gym and do (literally) heavy lifting.
Anyways, the author of the article doesn’t seem to understand that, and he also doesn’t seem to understand the results of various studies that you DO NOT run barefooted the same way you do in shoes.
The clue? Right here in his third paragraph:
On my first run, the FiveFingers sounded odd as my feet slapped the pavement in the thin rubber soles.
He’s slapping his feet? Well, that’s your problem right there.
On New Year’s Day, one of our local parks had a New Year’s Day hike. Aside from the fact that these are always fun hikes, they can also serve another function: letting other people see just how functional bare feet are.
Most people don’t even consider the possibility that we can hike barefoot for any distance. When any of us go on one of these hikes, we can be ambassadors for barefooting.
Saturday was part of our welcome relief from the sub-freezing weather we’ve been having around here. The weather was perfect for barefoot hiking: around 45° (7C) and rainy. When we started out the hike, the ranger even mentioned to folks that they would be getting wet feet, not just me. I couldn’t help adding, “But mine will dry immediately.”
I’ve been doing enough of these hikes that the regulars recognize me. One even mentioned to me that she’d seen me on TV as part of the Statehouse story.
Another interesting thing that happens on these hikes illustrates how barefootedness is starting to break into the public consciousness. I had a few people mention to me and ask me about Christopher McDougal’s book, Born to Run. I had a few people ask be about Vibram Five Fingers; I answered them much the way I did in this blog entry.
All in all, a great hike, and a great ambassadorship.
OK, after trashing The Huffington Post for this article with ridiculous statements about barefoot running, I have to do the opposite for the article they published today: Barefoot Shoes? The Primal Reason You Want to Take Off Your Shoes.
The article is by Mark Sisson, described as “former elite marathoner and triathlete, author of the best-selling health and fitness book, The Primal Blueprint.”
He notes how we evolved (and did just fine doing so) with bare feet, and goes on to note:
We’ve still got those same feet, but we don’t use them anymore. Instead, we cover them up. We wear shoes that alter the structure and function of our feet, and that weaken the myriad tendons, muscles, and ligaments through disuse. We strap on rubber soles that sever our proprioceptive connection with the ground and restrict our nervous system’s ability to subconsciously respond to changing environments and protect us from tripping or turning an ankle.
He also describes our favorite Philip Hoffman study, “Conclusions Drawn From a Comparative Study of the Feet of Barefooted and Shoe-Wearing People”.
His call? “Go barefoot as often as possible. It’s as simple as that.”
And for some of us, that is all the time. Admittedly, everybody cannot do that, and Sisson also acknowledges that. I’d add that one reason everybody cannot do that is nothing more than cultural expectations, and one of the things that the Society for Barefoot Living is doing is trying to change those expectations and make going barefoot more acceptable. Sixty years ago jeans were restricted to farmers, and then hippies or college students. But today jeans can be worn nearly everywhere. There is no reason the perception of bare feet cannot change the same way.
Sisson also includes a reasonable caveat:
As with any muscle you haven’t been using for an extended period of time, your feet are probably weak, and rushing into mile runs or two hours hikes in unprepared bare feet will be painful and potentially dangerous. Ease your way into it, especially if you’re habitually shod.
It is nice to see many of the arguments we have made over the years make it into more mainstream media, and that the barefooting movement is not just us barefooters talking amongst ourselves.
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:
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:
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:
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:
(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!]