Posted by: fireandstone | April 12, 2010

The Cult of Barefoot

Blogging is pretty easy going early on because I have a seemingly endless supply of fresh topical material from which to choose. No doubt I’ll have run the gamut before the well goes dry and I’m off to other endeavors. Today’s free association session revolves around something actually pretty new to me: barefooting. I was introduced to the whole concept for the first time, like many things I hadn’t previously conceptualized as “paleo” facets of modern life, over at Mark’s Daily Apple. Since then, going barefoot has always been something of a project I keep in the back of my mind to execute at some shadowy unknown future date. It sounds like a great thing to do, a natural thing to do, a Paleo thing to do…but I just hadn’t crossed the threshold toward “do”. That is until I saw a video of a guy known as Barefoot Ted (Ted McDonald) giving an hour long talk at Google’s office in Kirkland, WA.

As you might imagine from his nickname, he’s a barefooting enthusiast and, very importantly, he’s a barefoot long distance running athlete who’s proven through great personal effort the efficacy of barefooting and the value of the amazingly functional mechanics of the human foot, in all of their natural glory. I had read alot of commentary about this guy, his story, his ideas (and the video posted above) for a while because I have a nasty habit of addressing knowledge from context far too often instead of digging into the sources. This is sort of a time efficiency maximizer and lets me wade through alot more material more quickly, but if I hadn’t taken the time to watch this video (and you should too), I would have missed a diamond. It would be an understatement to say that his talking style is mesmerizing. One hour felt like fifteen minutes and by the end of it I was 100% sold that modern shoes are basically casts, splints for your feet that do nothing but rob you of your natural physical development, and that I need to get the hell out of them.

One of the issues that stands in the way of widespread acceptance of this idea is the entirely understandable fear of social perception. It’s basically a matter of how strong we are at dismissing our innate concerns about the internal content of other peoples’ minds. After all, those once-ubiquitous “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service” signs that are still scattered around aren’t there to protect your good health. The answer to our problems it seems is the growing popularity of what has to be termed “barefoot shoes” (yes, an oxymoron of wonderful hilarity). The most popular example of the genre seems to be Vibram Five Fingers:

These products ostensibly have the purpose of allowing your feet full articulation while protecting it from puncture and abrasion, but in all honesty seem to mostly function as a way to appear to be wearing shoes while saying you’re going barefoot. And as Barefoot Ted waxes so eloquently, people need a purchasable solution. I can’t deny the appeal of these things on all accounts, and they’re on my short list to be perfectly honest, but in the meantime I’m conditioning my feet in their natural unshod state to get back in touch with the missing proprioception I’ve gone without for nearly 33 years worth of a lifetime. Around the house: barefoot. Yard work: barefoot. Weight training: barefoot. Sprint tag in the back yard: barefoot. Spring time is here in California and I’m looking forward to a great season of camping, hiking, fishing, and generally spending alot of time outdoors in a pair of Five Fingers.



  1. […] long distance endurance runners, and since it and its implications are intimately associated with a recent post I made, I thought it would be in good form to explore the whole venture and come down with a […]

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