September 4, 2012


Barefoot walking and running your way to health

One of my students from many years ago, James from Albuquerque, has been insisting for years in the various exchanges we have had on the old Discussion Boards that shoes are the cause of all, or most modern ills.  And those of you who have read these exchanges will know that I have asked James to offer some evidence to support these claims, because (among many other things) we all know people who wear shoes, have no back or neck pain, and are “healthy” in the Western medical sense (free of disease).  And (although I have not written about this) our family grew up in a place called “Putty” in NSW, and when we moved to our new property (I was 10), there was an Aboriginal family living there already (sounds like a smaller version of a familiar story).

Anyhow, I became great friends with the son (Stan) and Stan senior, the father, and my father also became friends and colleagues, because Stan senior was a great horseman.   And Stan senior had never worn shoes and never did the whole time I knew him. When we went mustering (in very rough country, the Mellong Ranges) older Stan often walked with us (I cannot recall why he did not ride on those occasions) barefoot all the way there and back—over 45 miles in the old measure. Can anyone imagine that? And when he rode, no riding boots could be seen—just these amazing brown feet gripping the stirrips.  I mention all this because Stan had no special flexibility, as I recall—but then I never saw him touching his toes to stretch his hamstrings, either!

Some here know that I was very ill and spent 10 days in hospital about seven years ago. I caught a mystery virus, and then chlamydia pneumoniae on top of that, probably while in hospital. And when I was released, I had lost 20Kg.  I lay flat on my back for almost six months, and had to get up to do the rewrite of Overcome neck & back pain. When I felt that I had recovered sufficiently, I went have to the Heavy Weights Room at the ANU, and stepped under the empty Olympic bar—and did four repetitions of the full back squat. That was it, and I was back in bed, prettty much, for a week.

Within a year, I had recovered fully, in a strength sense, had put on more than 20Kg, and did my best-ever front and back squats.  And in the process, I had got fat! I decided that I needed to include some aerobic activity, to fully repair my lungs, and to help get rid of some of this new weight. I decided to walk, as my new home is at the base of “Mt.” Arrawang (inverted commas because the ACT is already at 700m altitude, and the top of Mt Arrawang is only 200m higher!). Now, returning to James’s claims, I feel that there is at least some substance to them, because I found myself wanting to do at least some of this walking in bare feet. This has been a revelation.  I will expand on this in the next episode. Interested readers might like to look at the barefoot running sites, too. Best place to start is HERE.  More later.

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