I wish we didn’t have to wear shoes. Like every day, leaving the house, going to work, wouldn’t it be cool if we could just lead barefooted lives? Every day I get home and the first thing I want to do is take my shoes and socks off. And then after that, it’s like my feet have been cooped up for so long, the abrupt exposure to the air is jarring, it’s like having the lights turned on in the middle of the night, your eyes are too dilated, it hurts even to look around.
I read this book where the author talked all about barefoot runners, how as animals we’re supposed to be running around nude below the ankles. So I went to the park and I took my shoes off and I started gunning out some laps. But after like ten minutes it really hurt. Like, I think I might have stepped on a pebble, a really, really tiny one. But it just kind of sent this current of pain surging up my body. I made this face, like a really dramatic pained expression, and I think I may have audibly gasped a little too loudly.
And of course, I was at the park, there were a ton of other people there. Anybody that had been paying attention to me, I mean, it’s not unreasonable to think that I wasn’t turning at least a few heads, I was definitely the only person exercising without any shoes. But right when I stepped on that pebble, I stopped, I was in the way of all of the other runners. This one guy trotted up beside me and said, “What did you expect?”
And I don’t know. This didn’t really jive with how I envisioned it all going down in my head. But after I thought about it, I realized that it wasn’t my feet’s fault. No, if anything, it was my fault. I was the one who’d kept them hidden inside of my shoes my whole life. Of course they’d grown weak, the skin on the soles way too sensitive to brave the elements of the natural world. I just had to endure the pain, fight through the discomfort. If I could get myself to run barefoot for a couple of weeks, a month, I don’t know, I was sure that my feet would grow calloused enough to handle a few tiny pebbles, maybe even some bigger pebbles.
I mean, you think about our ancestors, right, they didn’t have fancy running sneakers with patented gel nimbus soles to cushion each step. No, they didn’t have anything. They didn’t even have paved roads. I’d definitely be fine, I just needed to give it some time.
I went back to the park the next day, but I don’t know, it was even tougher than the day before. Because while previously I’d made it like five minutes before the pain became too unbearable, now it was hurting right from that first exposed step. I hoped that nobody was watching me this time, although they probably were, because like I said, it’s just weird, right, you see some guy head to a track in the park and take his shoes off, I mean, I’m not looking for attention, but I even have to admit, it’s just something that people don’t normally do.
And maybe if I actually knew how to run barefoot, maybe I’d be able to get past all of that nonsense. But like I said, this second day, I could barely even stand. Some guy came up to me after a minute and was like, “Hey buddy, are you all right? You need some help?” And I shook my head no, “That’s OK,” I told him, “I’m trying out this barefoot running style.”
I actually made it like halfway around the track, I wasn’t running, not really, and the pain level hadn’t yet reached critical, but some guy in a Parks Department uniform came over and told me I had to put some shoes on.
“Come on dude,” I protested, “That can’t be a rule.”
But it was a rule, it was right outside of the track, screwed onto the chain-link fence that bordered the furthest lane, “Park Rules.” And yeah, it said something about shoes. I couldn’t believe it. What is this, a police state? You’re going to mandate that human beings have to cover up how they naturally are?
I made a big stink and stormed out of there in a huff, holding my shoes in my hand as if to prove a point, like fine, kick me out of your track, I don’t care, the world is my track. And I started jogging home, on the pavement, but this only lasted like half a block or so, because while I thought that the track was bad, the paved street was much, much worse. Like I was acutely aware of the gravely texture, and all of the twigs and dirt and debris that you don’t even really see on the sidewalk, but it’s there, right on the street, right before you get to the curb.
And then I saw a bunch of broken glass like ten feet ahead and I thought, fuck this, and I put my shoes back on. But man, if only I got to live like a thousand years ago, that would have been awesome, no shoes, just awesome hard feet.