Thursday, 29 July 2010

Barefoot woozle


I’ve just discovered a whole new world. This actually happens quite a lot. Since, as a 5th former, you were allowed to at school I  have always walked in tennis shoes. Of course since I’ve been traipsing up and down mountains I have always had a pair of boots too for walking but boots were not as technical as they are now and were ultra light, ultra soft and flexible. Wonderfully, wonderfully flexible. None of this heel support crap. I had the same lightweight pair for 20 years and wouldn’t have changed them for the world. But 20 years is a long time and even though I only ever used them for really punishing terrain preferring the usual American eagle or All Star trainers for most walks, they began to fall apart. The last few years of course I had wet feet permanently due to the huge holes in the boots but I never minded wet feet. Flexibility was the thing I was more interested in. But then boots took a turn for the worse and ‘fashion’ and ‘design’ crept in. and finding lightweight ultraflexible, padding-free boots became a problem. So I had to buy more rigid boots. For back problems I went to the podiatrist who set me up with some corrective insoles Bloody uncomfortable but they worked an absolute miracle on my back and literally after years of back pain it all went in a week and has never retuned but, working as I do here every day on steep slopes  and walking in hard rigid boots with these horrendous insoles I developed plantar fascitis. The podiatrist said it was due to my walking in tennis shoes for years and suggested padded walking boots which I bought and am very happy with but they are like walking on stilts and anyway the fascitis didn’t go away. I’ve always hated boots because they raise you up and I always feel precarious in them and with these insoles in it was positively dangerous. So for every day walking I wore the insoles but took them out for walking long distances. And the fascitis got worse.So the podiatrist suggested trail shoes (quite an about face there then). Which I bought and though the fascitis did initially get quite a lot better my whole ankle has been so stiff since I developed this condition that whatever I wear seems to be risky on rough terrain. Then I read a blog about someone who runs on Dartmoor barefoot. Now THAT is my type of thing. That sounds like something I can get into. Not the running of course, I couldn’t run for a bus let alone up a hill. But the barefoot bit just strikes me as, well, me. How better to get closer to the earth than walking up mountains barefoot. So I started to look into what the barefooters were saying about posture and gait and foot placement and it all makes a lot of sense. Instead of slamming down your heel as you do in shoes going barefoot apparently you place your ball first. So, I thought, maybe taking the strain off the heel might actually help my fascitis. I gave up using the insoles a month ago anyway and though the podiatrist said that barefoot walking is the worst possible thing I could do I’m going to give it a go anyway and see if there’s any improvement. If the worse comes to the worst he’s going to earn more money out of the experiment anyway. So I’ve been reading up on it and the whole thing quite convinces me. I’ve always believed that shoes were a bad thing but that’s not something you go about telling everyone ‘cos they think you’re mad. I often went barefoot when I was doing the hippy bit. Famously, I once walked from Paris to Calais barefoot as I had my shoes and passport stolen on the Paris metro. As I recall the first two days were as bit uncomfortable but after that it wasn’t too bad. So barefoot is not totally alien to me So I read up on the first steps to take (I mean , I’m not twenty anymore) and walking on gravel seems to be a good starting point. It just so happens that of course the courtyard is gravel so I’ve decided to give the whole thing a go, it is after all summer. Of course, as usual the supporters of barefoot walking and running cite millions of reasons why you should go barefoot and how bad for you shoes are etc. There’s never any balance to these debates. I don’t tend to believe the barefooters any more than my podiatrist. Everybody pulls in water to their mills as it were. But my head tells me it’s a good thing to do. So I reckon, well a couple of the sites I looked at reckon that 5-10 minutes a day should suffice to start to toughen up ones feet. So for the last two days I have been doing that, up and down the courtyard ten minutes a day. The first day was  bit tricky and my feet were really sensitive the second day I noticed what they mean by placing the ball first, it comes totally naturally. The third day, today, I also noticed how inviting it is to correct posture, placing the balls of your feet first sort of makes it easy to throw your weight backwards and relaxing instead of tensing up, which you do simply because of the idea of walking on gravel, makes the whole thing even easier. Quite amazing. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with this or how long I’ll be able to keep it up but trying won’t hurt and might actually be beneficial. So I thought I’d film the progress over a period of time. If it works there’s a record of it, if it doesn’t nothing lost anyway.

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