One of my favorite podcasts recently ran a show about the Tormentor of the Toes, the modern day sneaker. In the show, Steven Dubner interviews Dr. Lieberman, an evolutionary biologist who teaches at Harvard, and Elizabeth Semmelhack, a curator at the Brooklyn Museum who worked on the Rise of the Sneaker exhibit. The episode explores the benefits of walking, running, and moving about the planet without shoes. It also clarifies a few of the benefits of protective footwear. I love Freakanomics. It’s an exceptional show. Listen to These Shoes Are Killing Me!
When you step into the ring of bare-footing, you automatically feel as if you’re suddenly a part of “Foot Club”, as if by some strange magic, the shod world becomes an opponent. Not by choice; it just sort of plays out that way. Even in spring and summer people stare at the lone barefoot walker, hiker, and especially the barefoot runner. Some people even think it’s OK to put on the verbal gloves and punch out an assortment of comments, ranging from simple questions like, “Where are your shoes?” to the more potent jab: “You forgot your shoes.” I’ll admit that comments like the last one do make me want to give someone a black eye.
Perhaps, I should be grateful. Such remarks remind me to be mindful. The cheap shots bring to mind the story about a Zen master who was verbally attacked by a peasant. The peasant shouted at the Master all manner of insults, “You’re on old fool; Your robes are ridiculous”, etc. The Master just smiled. Soon a cloud of people gathered. The crowd emboldened the cruel peasant who exploded with spite. He worked himself into a frenzy, erupting now with outright lies about the Zen Master. Throughout the Zen Master listened, his demeanor unchanged. When the peasant was finished with his tirade, someone from the crowd asked the master, “How do you respond to this? He has made some serious accusations.” The Zen master held his silence. “Have you nothing to say!?” the man from the audience continued. The Zen Master laughed. “I can see that this has upset you,” he paused. Looking to the crowd, the Master said, “What power do mere words have? If someone calls you a tree, do you become a tree?” The crowd laughed, “Of course not.” someone said.
The Master turned to the peasant who had shouted the insults at him. “You cannot see the enormous burden you carry. That is why you lay it at my feet, hoping I will join you in the carrying of it. But I will not pick up your load. Your spite does not belong to me. If you wish to carry it, you must do so alone.” That said, the Zen master continued his daily tasks.
When all is said and done, I’d rather shake hands in friendship than make a fist to fight. Better to gain a friend than an enemy. So, Foot Club is open to all. Heck, everyone is a member part of the day. Unless of course, you shower with your shoes on.
The snow actually feels pretty nice with bare feet. It’s like walking on a cold cloud, which isn’t far from truth. The snow did fall from the sky after all.
I was surprised by how long it took my feet to become uncomfortable. I made half way down the driveway before I felt the pain kick in. By the time I got to the mailbox, my toes were getting numb. I probably could have a run .25 mile, but didn’t want to risk it. The snow was wet and deep. And I don’t like numbness. I do my best to listen to my body. When it shuts down sensation in an area, I don’t mess around. Frostbite is serious.
When I stepped back inside, I was greeted with an unexpected pleasure. My barefoot romp in the snow brought an exhilarating rush of blood to my feet. A delightful tingle, which treated my toes to a world of new sensations.
But this post isn’t about getting out of the snow, it’s about being in the snow. So,the question stands: should you run barefoot in the snow?
Yes, you can run bare in snow, but you should take some precautions. Stay close to a vehicle or your home–probably not more than .25 mile and pay attention to your feet. If they go numb or turn blue. It’s time to stop. I don’t think longer distances are a good idea, especially if you’re alone. Every year people freeze to death. In fact the storm that gave us 4 inches of snow in a matter of hours came in from nowhere. It was raining just a half an hour before it struck. The mountain weather is unpredictable; you must respect Mother Nature. Snow also hides shards of glass, rusty nails, and other sharp objects. Running on ploughed roads isn’t any better. Their rough surface, pitted gravel, and metal debris will chew up your feet.
But there are some people who have strengthened their feet to a remarkable point. Take a look at this video:
The point of running barefoot is enhancing the joy of running, the footage above doesn’t seem entirely sane, but who am I to judge? Maybe running barefoot through icy water is fun. The runner in this video doesn’t seemed phased by it.