Thursday 16 June 2011

Who's Mad?

A lady approached David yesterday while he was waiting in a queue at the cashpoint. Her appearance was what some people might describe as "eccentric". Her clothes were slightly dishevelled, her hair was long and a little bit wild and she walked up to David with a rather strange, lop-sided gait and started talking to him as though she knew him.

Society would say she's a little mad. Some people might be a little wary of her. You don't just walk up to people you don't know and begin a conversation! Especially in London, surely?

David was wearing a pair of Vibram Five Fingers. She said to him, "what fantastic shoes! Where can I get a pair?" It turns out that she's had a problem with her spine which has affected the nerve supply to her legs, hence the unusual walking pattern. She was also wearing diving socks on her feet, not because she's a weirdo, but because these are the only shoes she's been able to find that are comfortable for her. Which doesn't surprise me - if you're not getting the necessary signals from your nerves as to where your legs are, wearing a pair of "fashionable" stilettoes or high-heeled boots with pointy toes is a sure fire way of leaving you face down on the pavement. In fact, it often happens to people with "normal" nerve signals. If you're wearing heeled shoes that squash your feet, your nerves are confused about the position of your body and are simply doing a unanimous shoulder shrug: "we have no idea".

Which brings me to the question: who is "mad", the shoe-wearer or the barefooter? As a barefoot runner, I'm often called crazy, mad or stupid. But wait a minute - I go barefoot so that my feet can feel the ground (they are designed to, hence the intricate nerve supply and shock absorbing qualities) and if I'm not barefoot, I wear shoes that allow my feet to move freely. The people that call me crazy purposely go out and spend hundreds of pounds on shoes that deform their feet. Usually, the more expensive the shoe and the more it deforms their foot, the more the name-caller wants a pair.

Seriously, who's the crazy one?

David made the point yesterday about how an animal's behaviour will often change when it's in captivity. You see lions and tigers in cages pacing up and down or doing some other kind of movement in a repetitive manner. Out in the wild, in their natural environment, they behave completely differently.

David's point of view was that human beings certainly don't live in their natural environment. How many people can honestly say they've never felt "trapped" and stressed out because of it. How does living inside, sitting for 80% of the day and staring at a computer screen at work and then a television screen at home, bear any relation to a natural way of living? Our bodies haven't really changed that much in hundreds of thousands of years and yet our living environment is radically different, almost unrecognisable. Our bodies crave vitamins and minerals, thrive on movement and become healthier out in the fresh air. What happens to a body and its brain when they get little or none of these things? The more artificial our environment, the more "stressed" we are with the overwhelming desire to just "get out". We develop repetitive, stress-related patterns of activity, just like the animals in the cage. We start to want bizarre, materialistic things like owning hundreds of pairs of shoes. As our bodies become more and more unhealthy, we have an increased desire to dress them in expensive clothes but then feel unhappy about what we look like.

In my experience, barefoot runners are merely choosing a more natural lifestyle. They're not crazy at all. They are the sane ones saying, "I'm not getting sucked into this!"

The lady that spoke to David yesterday wasn't crazy either - she just had her own set of rules. She dressed in what she found comfortable, and chose to ask David a friendly question rather than stare at his shoes and then scurry off to look them up on the internet.

It's only my opinion, but as a barefoot runner I feel as though I've actually had a taste of sanity. In the past, I've felt as though I should do things according to what society expects. We're told we should buy certain things, look a certain way. I remember someone saying to me once that she thought every woman should always have their toenails painted and that unpainted nails were verging on disgusting.


Something happens when you go barefoot. You begin to re-order your life and change your priorties. Take a look at the world from a new perspective. A SANE perspective!

I wish I'd done it sooner :)


  1. Right on the toe! I have been a member of the Society for Barefoot Living for many years now and have the same thoughts about freeing yourself and connecting to the world again. I would have never imagined how my act of going barefoot has challenged what people believe as "normal" and how a naked foot is akin to all sorts of negativity.

    Free your sole and connect with the world. (pardon the pun)

  2. Spot on! Excellent article.