Well, sandals actually, but given I’ve spent much of the past 4 months barefoot that does deserve a headline.
I wore sandals someone bought me from Pakistan that have flexible soles, don’t constrain the toes, and have a heel strap so that the foot strike isn’t dramatically altered.
When I went to Pakistan for 10 days, I chose to wear shoes (flip flops) in order to avoid any delays or confrontations with foreign authority, and to avoid drawing extra attention to my blonde, 5-10, blue-eyed self. I was attending a friend’s wedding, after all, in a semi-hostile country, so this wasn’t the time to make a hard stand for my foot freedom.
In those 10 days, probably within the first 5-7, I lost a protective layer my feet had built up. Basically one layer of skin on the balls of the foot (and a patch on the heels) turned white and shed. Up to this point I hadn’t really known how the feet had adapted to mostly concrete sidewalk-walking. I knew my feet felt more “plasticized” on the bottoms. So that was interesting. Seems a layer of skin just somehow adapts to the rugged pressure but dies when not used. I got my “baby feet” back pretty quickly.
So upon my return from Pakistan, it took about a week of city barefoot walking again and the skin on my foot started getting too sensitive to walk on. But this time, a new complication. I think that the sandal-wearing for 2 weeks actually helped my arches build up a bit more than barefoot walking does (when I keep the same ball-of-the foot striking emphasis). Also, I became dehydrated/malnourished and experienced bad foot cramping upon return. So when I started walking barefoot again I could really feel my arches cramping, especially in my left foot.
And the cramping was not in where one typically thinks of the arch, it was more in the middle of the sole of the foot, where the arch also exists, and where I know my “arch” is more atrophied. So it was actually kind of nice to feel that area activated for the first time in my life. I spent some time massaging it, which helps, and am still dialing my nutrition and salts back to a healthy range. I became riboflavin-deficient as well, evidenced by cracks in the corners of my mouth. I hadn’t experienced that since I was a vegetarian. I digress.
So wearing sandals yesterday and today enables me to keep my arches activated while letting the sore spots in the balls of the foot recover. I think I might go ahead and do 6 weeks in these sandals just to build the arches up, since I’m failing to “exercise” them at home. The downside is that I will lose a little bit of my balance capability, my foot toughness will have to start over, and I don’t get to be barefoot, which is simply an awesome continuous sensuous experience.
I’ll give it a week and re-evaluate I suppose. The other thing is I will get a lazy and start heel-walking more, so I will have to stay on extra conscious alert.
Finally, I have been putting more emphasis the past few days on walking with the feet slightly farther apart. It feels amazing on the sacrum/low back, even if it still feels awkward due to my current calf bone shape and femur rotation, which I suspect will take another 6 years to re-shape!