Day 36: No more shoes

I went hiking today with a date up a fairly steep incline. The trail was rocky but had enough mercifully rock-sparse dirt areas to be doable.

The last month has been so incredibly eye-opening, that I have already transitioned my 30-day-no-shoes foot experiment into a lifetime challenge. After just two weeks, I gave away all my shoes. I was that blown away by the results.

I will attempt to capture my myriad observations here now:
-I walk much more slowly now, and I barely land on the heel and use more of the ball of the foot to walk
-Due to walking more slowly/carefully and more on the balls of the feet, my legs spend more time under and behind me than in front of me
-I am developing hamstring strength just by walking differently. I have always had very poor hams vs. Quads strength. This is changing due to not heel-walking anymore.
-My stomach sticks out less and my butt sticks out less.
-My shin/calf muscles have totally changed. I wish I would have anticipated this and taken more before/after pictures. Perhaps I’ll take one soon and find some old full body pics of me to compare for you. My shin muscles are broader now. I used to feel just a single narrow muscle running up the front of the shin, it now feels like a full, thick sheath that could easily pick up all my toes :-)
-The bottom of my calves have filled in. I used to have very high looking calf muscles and little muscle development around the achilles. I have much more muscle lower to the heel now.
-I haven’t rolled an ankle at all since I started this. I must have rolled an ankle about twice a month prior to this experiment. Once, a couple weeks ago, I was walking on a parking lot curb and caught the edge with my foot. Instead of my ankle giving out painfully as it normally would, my entire left side fell toward the pavement as one unit, and I caught myself before falling. My head actually tilted at the same angle as my ankle. This is a really cool injury prevention feature. Nothing was hurt at all.
-The skin on my feet is getting tougher, but not calloused. It is still super-sensitive (a necessary foot function) but slightly more plasticized almost.
-the balls of my feet are still taking way too much pressure as my arches are still not strong enough to support my weight. They have fluid pockets that are manageable, like pre-blisters. I am pushing my arches slowly, but I have to back off a lot because my last two toes will start hurting. The last two toes are my weak link. I can’t put more pressure into the ball of my foot until they can support more weight.
-the skin on my second and third toes is wearing too thin in spots due to compensating for the last 2 deformed toes’ inability to distribute my weight. I sometimes bandage them and sometimes not.
-the skin under my pinky toes is breaking open as the toes become less curled/deformed and start to stretch out again to proper angle and length. New skin is growing in the gaps. The right pinky toe started activating first, about a week into the experiment. It felt like it was breaking, but after intense massage for 30 minutes it turned out all the connective tissue, knuckle joint, and muscles were just really groaning under the pressures of the change. The pain went away after one very intense massage session. I had to do the same with my left pinky toe about two weeks later when it started its untwisting process. About 30 minutes of intensely painful massage and it felt much better.
-My feet get cold quickly but adapt very quickly and do not “feel cold” often. Splashing in rain puddles feels AMAZING. I love rainy days now :-) On very cold mornings the feet will almost become numb and then after about 5-10 minutes they regain all their sensitivity and feel warm again. I am careful about not letting them feel numb.
-My feet are not catching fungus or other infections. In fact, my feet have never felt healthier fungus-wise. I’ve had a lot of issues with this as a life-long athlete, and this is the longest I have gone without worrying about my toes peeling etc. due to shoe issues (it got especially bad with my Vibrams, and no I will not buy socks so that I can wear shoes that make me feel barefoot. I’ve cut out the expensive and frankly ugly middlemen!)
-I’ve gotten about three standard reactions from strangers: (1) dispproving looks (as in: how irresponsible of her to have left her shoes at home/work, not planned well, etc.); (2) friendlier looks, like I’m not above you – I’m not trying to one-up you with my footwear. I become more approachable to a lot of people (3) mostly black people have been extremely vocal about it. Only black bus drivers have expelled me from muni (about 15-20% of the buses I’ve ridden, approximately) or commented about my lack of shoes. No other race has mentioned it outright. I believe this is because blacks are held to higher standards of dress to achieve the same success as whites. They have been oppressed more, and are more sensitive to rules and oppression. Those not in positions of power have either scolded me without listening or curiously questioned me about it and listened to my answer thoughtfully. I could write a book about the different reactions I have gotten and their deeper meanings.

That’s all I have energy for tonight, more to come…