I like barefoot running because it feels good, offers a rich sensory experience and makes me feel more connected with the world outside of myself.
Though it seems strange to us "moderns", in the grand scheme of things, going barefoot is far from strange. In fact, it is one of the most natural things in the world. Wearing shoes is the aberration. Most people on the planet go about their lives in bare feet. Virtually all of our ancestors went barefoot (except for those living in conditions humans aren’t well adapted to, such as ice, fire and civilization).
Think about it – you, me, most of us, ran around barefoot as children without mishap (usually) and as adults we still like to take our shoes off whenever we get the chance: on the beach, on the grass, on a plush carpet. Indeed, going around barefoot can be one of the great pleasures of life. And as a bonus, unlike many other of our great pleasures, our society does not explicitly prohibit it in public!
On the other hand (or “foot”), our upbringing and certain unquestioned assumptions we’ve absorbed along the way lead us to regard a barefoot adult with either caution or curiosity (unless it’s at one of the aforementioned “approved” venues)! Now, why is that? There’s nothing inherently wrong or even particularly unsafe (more on that later) about barefootedness, yet going unshod seems strange, doesn’t it? It flies in the face of convention – and conventional wisdom. Well maybe it’s okay for the Kenyans, you say, but not for us citified Westerners. Anyway, isn’t it unsafe? Dirty? Damaging to the feet? Then again, it is true that the Kenyans do it. And they don’t have the panoply of foot problems we do (I offer you two words: “Doctor Scholls”!) Hmmm.
No easy answer there, which I like because it shakes up the brain cells. It begs many questions. Why do any of us do the things we do? Is the conventional way always the best way? Where is the threshold where we give up doing what makes good sense because we can’t tolerate feeling “odd”? How free are we really?
Like John Kennedy said, “Some people ask ‘why’; I ask ‘why not?’”. Well, maybe there is a good reason why not – but maybe there isn’t.
One thing for sure, convention is a poor arbiter of such questions.