Like many of my ideas gone awry, it seemed like a good plan at the time. First, it involved walking on a beautiful day and that alone can mitigate many a bad consequence. Second, walking is a time honored bipedal tradition – and one I’m learning to embrace more fully as a legitimate fitness method (Charlotte to Brain: “It is TOO a workout! Shut UP!!”). And lastly, many fitness experts backed up by current research extol the salutary effects of walking. You know I’m a sucker for anything involving research and experts.

Besides, all I needed to do was walk home from my church, a distance just over 4 miles. How could I go wrong with walking?

Problem 1: Footwear. This is where I admit to being a total girly girl. I own more skirts and dresses than I do pants. I have two entire drawers in the bathroom dedicated to hair accoutrements (we won’t talk about my other “special” girly drawer in the bathroom.) I especially love my tall shoes.

With the built-in platform, these babies are 5-inch stiletto heels. Cute but not definitely not up to a 4-mile power walk. (In fact, if I’m being completely honest, they’re barely up to hobbling around indoor spaces for any length of time greater than an hour.) I contemplated my options, roaming my church building for anyone I might know who could give me a ride as I’d had to stay late for a meeting and sent my long-suffering husband home ahead of me with all the children. No rides in sight and hitchhiking not a good option, I decided to just strip off the boots, stuff them in my backpack and walk home. Barefoot.

I was very excited about the prospect as barefoot walking is supposed to be one of the new health crazes (crazies?) and the way home is quite picturesque. Besides, what could be more idyllic than a girl in a spring dress wandering barefoot through the dandelions? I felt like a Monet come to life.

For about the first half mile. Turns out that dandelions are very prickly and lawns in my suburban neighborhood are actually very sparse in comparison to the vast amounts of concrete and asphalt. You think running on concrete/asphalt is hard on your body? Try walking on it. By two miles the soles of my feet were in so much pain that I briefly considered going native and trying to weave myself a pair of sandals… out of plastic bags, fast food wrappers and – most strangely – a Swine Flu mask that I found on the side of the road.

By mile three I knew I could go no more. My feet burned and my toes were swollen and I was stepping in such a weird way that I’m pretty sure my calves will be in mutiny tomorrow. Stupid boots. Who wears non-functional footwear? Scratch that, who wears non-functional feet?! What is wrong with my pampered tootsies that they can’t even take a four-mile jaunt across sidewalks and lawns? Dejected, I dropped my crazy-heavy backpack and plopped down on top of it, leaning up against the street sign between a lube shop, a Pizza Hut and a motel of a dubious nature. Which is when I realized I’d gone from Girl Walking in Flowers to Girl Doing Apparent Walk of Shame.

I called my husband from my cell phone. “Look honey…” He was worried, “What did you do now?” I hung my head. “I’m just down the street but you’re going to have to pile all the kids in the car and come pick me up. Literally. As in you might have to carry me to the car.” After what seemed like an inordinate amount of time to drive a mile – during which I was amused by Turbo Jennie’s texted adventures in Wal-Mart and the honking of several cars – my family arrived with the youngest son hoisting a “rescue flag” out the window (handy had I been in an avalanche).

After spending the rest of the day limping around my house and wincing everytime I stepped on a cheerio, I think I learned my lesson. And that would be to never trust a researcher wearing shoes. No wait, it would be to get me a pair of Vibrams (yay, more shoes!). Actually, what I learned is that things that sound good in the lab don’t always translate very well to real life.

Have any of you tried out barefoot walking or running? Do you guys also love ridiculously inappropriate shoes? Or do you refuse to suffer for fashion?

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One Comment

  1. I’ve only done it for a day, for Tom’s Shoes’ ‘a Day Without Shoes’ to spread awareness… this was before the ‘barefoot trend’ that still many people don’t know about. It wasn’t too bad, I just walked around my campus, to and from my dorm, probably a total of about 3 miles that day. I got a lot of mean mugs and ‘stank faces.’ But I’m pretty sure people who intend to run barefoot start off slow just walking then slowly move to running… to get their feet and legs used to the terrain and to build a tougher exterior, it’s something you would have to get used to. I don’t remember experiencing much pain though, my feet were a little sore but not anything in comparison to what you described. Then again my feet and legs are more used to a ‘minimal’ experience anyway, as I always wear flats or cheap sandals with super thin soles, so I often feel the ground underneath me anyways while hiking the concrete hills of Atlanta. :/ Also, I just bought a pair of Merrell’s ‘barefoot’ sneakers about 4 months ago, they’re pretty much just like vibram except for the gloved look of the monkey-feet lol (wide toe bed to allow natural movement)… and they’re AWESOME!! I can feel the breeze on my feet(they’re ventilated) and can be ‘one with the earth’ without the risk of broken glass and cuts- AND my knee pains are gone! (Due to the reposition of the impact on the leg, etc. I suggest anyone looking for a barefoot experience without the pains of being barefoot to look up minimalist shoes 🙂

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