You walk out into the warm evening breeze. The urban air reaches your nose, scents of frying food, smog, and asphalt dancing with your senses. You examine the concrete savannah that is home, and take a few steps along the pale, neatly sectioned squares of sidewalk. Rubber sandal meets ground and you slowly stride forward. You’ve been wearing shoes your whole life. It’s just an extension of your postmodern body.
Suddenly, you have a desire to know what it’s like to shed the secondary skins of your feet. You slip your feet out of your sandals, bend to pick them up, and proceed to walk. The gritty texture of cement sparks millions of tingling sensations through your foot to your brain. Your ankles satisfyingly stretch. The back of your head tickles with the burst of sensation washing over your mind. And with the first few steps you realize that there are a few things to figure out.
First of all, what to do about your heels? Suddenly there’s so much stimulation and impact. The way you walk with shoes is to stomp on them, because that big cushion lets you. Bare, your heels don’t want that stomping. Neither does your ringing skull or jarred knees.
Okay, so you start to go lighter on the heels. Then you start to feel your insoles uncomfortably contacting the ground, which makes your feet turn inwards. That in turn causes your knees to buckle slightly, which just doesn’t seem right. Now you consciously put effort into keeping the contact outwards toward the blades of your feet. Oh, that’s a lot of foot mechanics right there.
And now that your steps are starting to roll on the outward edges of your feet, the ball and toes get the ground in a specific order. The side of your pinky toe gets a very small, but significant, head start on the ground ahead of your big toe side. How interesting. Who would’ve thought that toes touch the ground at different times?
Are your feet pointing forward now? If they aren’t, if they’re splayed out to the sides, it gets difficult to walk efficiently barefoot. Because your feet want to roll the ground out to the edges, and angled outward your insoles keep rolling down instead. Eventually, you figure it’s easier to point the toes forward.
And when your big toes touch down, the biggest surprise of all. There’s an irresistible reflex to grip down on the floor with that end of your foot, give a good push, and propel yourself forward. You get so into this natural feeling of springiness, locomotion, the ground, that you go further than you planned. And suddenly your feet start to get sore. You realize you now have to go back the same distance you came. And that’s going to hurt.
You’ve come to realize your current physical limit of walking. But you’re smart, and you brought your sandals along just in case. It’s gonna take a couple of days to recover from the soreness, but there’s no turning back. Barefoot, you are something else.
Things to read:
We stomp a lot harder in shoes than we would barefoot.
The forces on our joints is altered and magnified with shoes.