I wish we didn’t have to wear shoes. It’s every day, leaving the house, going to work – wouldn’t it be cool if we could all lead barefooted lives? There’s a reason we aren’t born with shoes on. I get home after work and the first thing I want to do is rip off my shoes and socks. It’s jarring, like my feet have been cooped up for so long, the abrupt exposure to the air is too much, like having the lights turned on in the middle of the night, your eyes are too dilated, it hurts even to look around. Why must society suffocate our poor feet?
My barefoot epiphany came to me after I read this book where the author talked all about barefoot runners, about how as animals human beings have evolved so that we’re actually supposed to be running around nude below the ankles. It made a lot of sense, and so I went to the park and I took my shoes off and I started gunning out some laps. But after maybe ten minutes, my feet were hurting pretty badly. Like, I think I stepped on a pebble. It was a really tiny one, yeah, but it sent this current of pain surging up my body. I instinctively made this face, a really dramatic pained expression, and I think I may have audibly gasped a little too loudly.
And of course, I was at the park, there were a ton of other people there. It’s not unreasonable to think that I wasn’t turning at least a few heads. I mean, I was definitely the only person exercising without any shoes. But right when I stepped on that pebble, I came to an abrupt stop, making all of the other runners behind run around my lane. This one guy trotted up beside me and said, “Well, what did you expect?”
And I don’t know. This didn’t really jive with what that book said. It certainly wasn’t how I envisioned it all going down in my head. But after I thought about it some more, I realized that it wasn’t my feet’s fault. No it couldn’t have been. If anything, it was my fault. I was the one who’d kept them hidden inside of a pair of shoes my whole life. Of course they’d grown weak, the skin on the soles way too sensitive to brave the elements of the natural world. I just had to endure the pain, fight through the discomfort. If I could get myself to run barefoot for a couple of weeks, maybe a month, I was sure that my feet would eventually grow calloused enough to handle a few tiny pebbles, maybe even some small twigs.
I mean, you think about our ancestors, right, they didn’t have fancy running sneakers with patented gel nimbus soles to cushion each step. No, they didn’t have anything. They didn’t even have paved roads. I’d definitely be fine, I just needed to give it some time.
I went back to the park the next day, but I don’t know, it was even tougher than the day before. Because while previously I’d made it like five or ten minutes before the pain became too unbearable, my feet were pretty beat up from my first try, and now it was hurting right from that first exposed step. I hoped that nobody was watching me this time, although, like I said, it’s just weird, right, you see some guy head to a track in the park and he takes his shoes off, I’m not looking for attention, it’s just something that people don’t normally do.
Some guy came up to me after a minute or so and was like, “Hey buddy, are you all right? You need some help?” And I shook my head no, “That’s OK,” I told him, “I’m trying out this barefoot running style.”
I actually made it like halfway around the track, I wasn’t running, more like limping, and the pain level hadn’t yet reached critical, but some guy in a Parks Department uniform came over and told me I had to put some shoes on.
“Come on dude,” I protested, “That can’t be a rule.”
But it was a rule, it was right outside of the track, screwed onto the chain-link fence that bordered the furthest lane, “Park Rules.” And yeah, it said something about shoes. I couldn’t believe it. What is this, a police state? I actually said that to him. I said, “You’re going to mandate that human beings have to cover up how they naturally are?”
I made a big stink and stormed out of there in a huff, holding my shoes in my hand as if to prove a point, like fine, kick me out of your track, I don’t care, the world is my track. And I started jogging home, on the pavement, but this only lasted like half a block or so, because while I thought that the track was bad, the paved streets were much worse. I was acutely aware of the rough, gravely texture, and all of those twigs and dirt and debris that you don’t ever really notice, you feel them when you’re barefooted.
And then I saw a bunch of broken glass like ten feet ahead and I thought, fuck this, and I put my shoes back on. When I got home and took a shower, my feet were covered in soot, and the dirt left a gross ring on my bathtub. Also, some of that dirt must have gotten inside of my sneakers, because every time I put them on, my socks get really gross. So I feel I just ruined a perfectly good pair of shoes. I really wanted to embrace the barefoot running craze, but I can’t help thinking that modern society has destroyed humanity’s last hope for a more holistic running. What a shame that we have to walk around and go through life separated from Mother Earth by a cheap rubber sole. But man, if only I got to live like a thousand years ago, that would have been awesome, no shoes, just awesome hard, natural feet.