I recently had a very interesting, and somewhat disturbing exchange with a friend of my partner’s, who happens to be a nurse and has also been training for a running competition. While I have always known this person has never been supportive of my barefooting lifestyle, I never thought she would be so closed to new information.
This happened during a get together with a number of friends a week ago during the Pride Celebrations here in Toronto. After walking quite a bit, we were having a rest that afternoon over some drinks, another friend, who was wearing a pair of Vibram FiveFingers, complained about his ankle pain. The nurse quickly pointed out to him that his shoes didn’t offer any support and that was probably why his ankle was bothering him. He told her he didn’t think the shoes had anything to do with it, since the reason his ankle was suffering was due to a metal plate he has in the area, due to a previous injury (he has actually told me a few times that he thinks the VFFs have helped him with his ankle range of motion). At this point, I made the terrible mistake of adding that shoes with too much support are not usually good for one’s feet, since they can promote laziness in bones, ligaments and muscles, due to their constraint on feet’s natural movement.
Her reaction was rather defensive and obviously negative towards the information I was trying to provide. The conversation rapidly deteriorated towards an argument when I mentioned to her that a pain on her knee she’s been complaining about might have to do with the kind of shoes she’s wearing for running, as well as her running technique. She justified her knee problem by saying she’s over 50, then she proceeded to give me all the typical arguments as of why she would never even consider barefoot running (potential sole injuries, winter temperatures, etc.). Intermingled with her arguments, I mentioned a couple of times that the information I was providing had good scientific and professional support and I offered forwarding some of this information to her. When I was going to start telling her about minimalistic footwear; which would provide the protection she seeks, while allowing her feet to have a more natural range of motion during running and walking, as an option to barefoot running, she basically shot me down by saying rather loudly: “I DON’T CARE! – I DON’T CARE!”
Needless to say, I felt extremely frustrated during this exchange. After thinking about it, and comparing her reaction to the ones of many others I’ve encountered through the years, I realized that the core of my frustration is the realization that, at one level or another, most shoe-wearing people (unfortunately the great majority in our Western societies) share the same sentiment: they simply do not care and they are perfectly happy with the erroneous information and assumptions they have had for the last 100 years or so. Most sad is to realize that a great number of these people, like this nurse, are in health care occupations, yet they don’t seem to have an interest in further understanding how the human body really works; as opposed to seeking patch-type solutions to our health issues.
In my opinion, this clearly illustrates why barefooting as a lifestyle choice is facing such difficulties towards mainstream social acceptance. Furthermore, this really opens my eyes to the importance of having health care practitioners who are truly in tune with the human body and have an interest in keeping current with new information.
Keep ’em bare, keep ’em happy.