For most Canadians, after the long winter, spring means “no more heavy winter clothes” and an increase of outdoor activities. To me, it means all that as well but, most of all, it means “barefooting”. Yes, after a long hiatus, I’m finally getting back on my regular barefooting routines and, needless to say, I’m loving it. It’s been about a month since I started going for my regular walks around the neighbourhood and, like every spring, I have already noticed the usual things I see happening every year.
The first thing I notice every spring is how much of a tender foot I really am. After nearly 20 years of barefooting, I still go through my toughening period” every single year. This is the period where my soles get a bit of a rude awakening to start getting in shape for the season ahead. I usually stop barefooting outdoors, at least for long periods, in late October or early November and I start again in early to mid April every year. This means that my feet are “protected” from the elements and the outside world for a period of almost 6 months every year! (Gosh, I’m living in the wrong part of the world!). I’ve tried winter barefooting many times but I have come to the realization that I’m not a winter person at all, in that respect. Added to all this, my feet (and hands, for that matter) are by nature exceptionally soft; so it takes a bit of time and patience to get some thicker skin growing on my soles. It usually takes me a good 3 weeks of regular walks on different outdoor surfaces (asphalt, concrete, gravel, grass, etc.) to get me back on track. Still, after that initial period, I need sometimes to mind the length of my walks as not to risk some blistering. Ironically enough, my soles go baby soft only about a week after I stop walking barefoot outside when the cold weather comes.
Fortunately, over the years, I have learnt how to deal with my soft-sole short comings as I know what to expect. I now know my limits and how to read the feedback my feet provide. I also know that, for my first few walks, not to overdo it and to go out when the temperatures are not too extreme. I also know to slow down, especially if I walk on gravel or uneven areas, as to provide my feet time to adjust. I have also learnt to read “pain” in a different way and use the initial discomfort as positive feedback. Having such tender soles means that they are extra sensitive after being sheltered for such a long time; therefore, they are more “aware” of rough surfaces like concrete, gravel or the odd pebble. I find that slowing down helps a lot, as well as remembering to step down, as opposed to shuffling my feet as I walk. It’s amazing though, how quickly it all comes back naturally and walking barefoot becomes second nature again.
The other “thing” I notice quite obviously every spring, whenever I start venturing barefoot outside again, is how self-conscious I get after much a long hiatus period. Partly, it is because my bare feet tend to attract even more attention from other people on the street; perhaps it’s because even sandals are still uncommon here in Toronto, at the time when I start barefooting every spring. While my feet attract people’s attention year round, regardless of where I bare them, indoors or outdoors, I find that my first few walks in the spring bring out my diminished confidence every year.
It’s interesting, but I find that the diminished confidence is more of an issue to me than the re-conditioning of my soles. As much as I try not to let it affect me, I can’t help but feel awkward and out of place when I’m attracting people’s attention when I’m barefooted in public. Often times, I feel angry because I think it’s so ridiculous that something as simple as being barefooted can attract so much, often negative, attention from others around me. I don’t get angry at the individuals, per se, but at our society and its “standards” that, somehow dictate even what we should wear or not wear on our feet when venturing in public. I also get angry because I know that there are thousands of other people out there who would love to go barefoot everywhere but they feel they can’t because of this same diminished confidence I experience every spring.
Thankfully for me, I know this it’s a temporary feeling and it wears off as I keep barefooting and purposely ignoring the stares and the occasional comments and focusing on the pleasures that being barefoot give me as well as the positive attention I get from some people. I wish more “closeted” barefooters would take that extra step and start ignoring all that negativity around us. If more of us would do that, we would certainly see an exponential growth in the barefooting population and others, in turn, would get more used to seeing our bare feet in public.
Happy Spring everybody!