Life without shoes (part 2): general observations & tips from personal experience.
Last time I covered my reasons of walking barefoot as well as busted most viral myths discouraging people to start their life without shoes.
Today I’ll introduce you to some of my observations after three months of being barefoot everyday everywhere. And as long as you’ve found this article I assume you’re trying to do so yourself (or at least are interested enough to give it a read). For this reason I’ll provide you with 15 practical, proven to work and collected trough my experience tips and advice for kicking off your life without shoes or just walking barefoot.
General observations since I started walking barefoot
I won’t repeat myself about the internal and external temperature perception and cut right to the most interesting things.
1. Remember I mentioned that I like walking barefoot because it feels like I’m in a different dimension. This sensation is further reinforced by all the people around. They STARE like if I wasn’t even there. Part of them even comment like if I do not exist as well. While passing first by they give an overall scanning look, then they notice that I have no shoes and there’s only +6°C / +42.8°F outside, then they stare me in the eye while literally passing by. If I’m in the mood and the surface is predictable I sometimes catch their glance and keep looking until they no longer do. Usually my peripheral vision informs me that not only they stare, but also turn their heads after they pass by. This is so strange.
I’ll admit – there are only bunch of black, Asian or middle eastern’y looking guys and girls here in Lithuania. Naturally they still look interesting and different to those who are not used to seeing someone other than white side of the population. And yet if they see someone of a different skin color, they stare only until they are caught doing it. After that – eyes down and they pretend they don’t care.
Obviously a man without shoes is someone who can be stared at because the one who sees him, can not be seen back. You can smile, lough, frown, look angry – it won’t reflect in the face of the passer-by. It’s literally like I do not exist for them or to be more exact I exist, but can get them hypnotized to seize response of theirs. This phenomenon is actually the same amount tiring (that’s why I try to keep my eyes on the road) as well as empowering. I can only suspect how much energy I draw out of everybody at that moment of hypnotic pass by.
2. And that energy combined with enhanced blood flow and shifted / corrected sensation of temperature keeps me from getting sick while walking barefoot in cold cold Lithuanian fall. As I have already mentioned I haven’t got cold yet. For the first time in fall season in my entire life. And my wife and son got sick twice already. Not sure how long it will last, but for now this is the truth.
3. Guys and girls who have at least a tiny drop of interest in what and why am I doing it often assume they should get sick instantly if they tried to adopt this kind of life without shoes. Because the surfaces are so cold and harsh. And there’s all sorts of moisture. Although I have a very clear answer written into my body, brain and soul about the matter, it is very difficult to convey it to others.
Once I started my life without shoes, I immediately noticed that cold – as we know it – comes from all directions except bare feet. Of course it all depends on your own body, yet if I dress myself properly I can walk on cold stone or grass with my feet pretty cold without freezing. As I said it’s hard to explain and one can only understand it once she or he has taken first steps towards life without shoes.
Back to wardrobe – even at +0°C / +32°F it’s enough to have two woolen sweaters and a t-shirt underneath and I feel comfortable. If there’s wind – a light cotton hoodie in between woolen sweaters makes huge difference. And from what I see / feel – I’m pursuing my life without shoes much warmer, happier and relaxed in my three-layer-jacket (+pants obviously) and a shemagh to protect my neck, than everyone else around me wearing arctic boots and sophisticated winter coats with those trendy fluffy hoods.
4. I sense that little by little my feet are getting more prone to cold or harsh surfaces. By no means are they insensitive. I can feel every uncomfortable piece of rock or stone under my feet, but my body reacts with less stress if I manage to step on something sharper than grass compared to how it was when I just started few months ago.
Few days ago a crooked thorn stuck into my left foot. I managed to get it out after I stuck a needle to hook the thorn. I noticed that I didn’t feel pain ’till the needle was about 1mm to 2mm into my skin. Which means I’ve got some natural sole forming process going on. Good to know.
5. It’s a sad fact that most people feel very VERY uncomfortable and somehow even vulnerable once they see a person without shoes. Vulnerability is of the same origin where a person with low self-esteem tries to cover it trough constant jokes about everyone and everything. I’m not some kind of fanatic that despises everyone who are walking in shoes (once winter comes – I’ll too). But people who walk in shoes are very fast to despise me. And this is very sad. Not for me. For them. Also it makes me think of how deep all sorts of enforced society rules and regulations lies in us. I’m not saying walking barefoot is something everyone should do. It’s nothing special. Just something to try out that may change one’s point of view.
6. This one’s very practical – if more people started living their life without shoes, public toilets would be much cleaner, there would be no broken glass under our feet, probably major part of garbage would end up where it belongs.
7. Once i started walking barefoot (especially on hard surfaces), I immediately noticed that there is a speed limit at how fast I can walk comfortably before switching into a jog. Not because I can’t move my legs faster, but because the impact caused by my heels striking the ground first is clearly felt even in my head. Meaning the hit resonates from my heel trough bones into skull and brain, which eventually gets painful. Which lead me to an assumption, that even if we use shoes as suspension to reduce impact, it still affects our whole body, which, combined with our lazy lifestyles, may sooner or later cause spine damage.
Fact is – it is not possible to walk “fast” barefoot, and naturally you’ll eventually start to jog lightly or reduce your pace to a less painful one. Yet if you’re walking fast in shoes it may seem that the impact is softer because of the soles. However the impact is still there, only partially reduced. And we are used to be in a hurry, now aren’t we? Hitting my brain trough my heels is not a problem for me anymore. But take a look at how and what you feel next time you’ll find yourself in a fast walk. Of course, if you’re not texting already, ’cause that changes everything.
My advice to you before you start your life without shoes
Since you found my article here I assume at some level you are thinking of at least getting a glimpse of ones life without shoes and later trying to live your own (or a portion of it) that way. That’s nice. But keep in mind, that I’m just an ordinary guy, who decided to drop his shoes for several months, several months ago. No serious background (like health, religion, connection with mama earth etc.). My advice here is based on my personal experience and must be taken with caution and sanity as well as measured and adjusted keeping your own body, emotional state, social situation and other things in mind. So:
1. If life without shoes is something you’re considering to test – just do it. As simple as that. Read no more, take off your shoes, leave your watch at home so you don’t know when the “start slow 5 minutes of walking on tender grass” is over. Your body will let you know when it’s enough. And in case it doesn’t – you won’t die anyway.
2. Try walking barefoot for several days as much as your body allows you to and don’t start doing excuses or giving up too early. Human beings can get used to literally everything. But you need to keep in mind that getting used to takes time. Depending on your power of will, personal attributes and experiences it may take various amount of days. No matter how sensitive your feet are, or how fast you get cold – you’ll get used to it. So once again – give your body time to adjust and get back on the right and natural track it has been off for several decades (three for myself). Don’t expect to feel comfortable right away.
3. Don’t start living your life without shoes around your house. Go for a walk and leave your footwear at home. This way there will be no temptation to put them on once you feel physically or psychically uncomfortable. If you’ll encounter physical discomfort – rest. If psychical – hide until the cause has passed by. I never take a spare pair of shoes, to not have a simple choice of going into a building in ’em. It helps and I’m still alive. The stranger places with more odd “etiquette” requirements you’ll visit, the more good energy you’ll get/free in bulk for yourself. It feels liberating.
4. This is important. I only advise you to start walking barefoot at +15°C / +59°C and higher temperatures, because it’s very easy to get scared off because of the relatively cold surface if dropped on it without preparation. Summer is hands down the best time to start your life without shoes or just walk around barefoot.
5. Listen to your body and allow it to take control. If your eyes want to look down, don’t look up. If your legs want to do something differently than you are used to – allow them to do it, because you need that extra suspension and protection your body, brain and soul are trying to provide you with. Thank it, take it and utilize it.
6. Leave all devices at home. Take no cell, no music player, no GPS or something else that’s not yet invented (like a barefoot walking benefit counting device that can also teach you foreign languages). All of these things will hinder your body from doing its natural job keeping you safe and enjoying all the long and short term benefits of life without shoes.
7. Use your brain when choosing your path. Depending on the forest nearby, grass may be not the safest way to start on. Instead try walking on a clearly visible surface. It’s better to get hooked on less natural and harder ground, than get injured trying to instantly play “mother nature gimme your energy” game while walking on grass, where all sorts of rubbish hide.
8. Once you determine a period of time you want to try walking barefoot, always be like so at home.
9. Be prepared – people will stare at you. Depending on your country of residence, levels of impudence will differ. It’s possible you’ll get some praise from unexpected persons as well. All in all – you will get noticed. And it is the hardest part of living your life without shoes. So eventually you will need to learn to control the momentum and change the taste of all the energy that flows your way and make it fill you with good not drain you of it. Just remember – right, natural is what you are doing, and not them. Most importantly it does no harm to anyone. On contrary it broadens and may change perspective of theirs as much as yours. At least 5% of people who passed by you pursuing your life without shoes will come home and wonder about it to their loved ones. 1% of latter may even try it. Great start to the world of cleaner public toilets.
10. When you start walking barefoot – walk. Don’t just walk around, stand, or else. Walk. It’s less of a problem in warm weather, but if you’ll find yourself around +15°C / +59°F – be sure to move.
11. Pay attention to how different you see and feel everything around you. And try to formulate an explanation on a matter of why do cold surfaces you are standing on barefoot are not cold in a way you imagined they will be.
12. Once and if you get hooked on life without shoes – be sure to carry a towel for your feet in case you get invited for dinner by a stranger who will dare to ask “why are you walking barefoot?” instead of all the “what an idiot!”, “are you so poor that you don’t have the money to buy shoes?” and similar stupidity spoilers barfed at you by poor wise-asses.
13. Walking barefoot will most likely make you prone to catching cold because of cold feet. But be careful in your car, because that’s where you can get sick if on AC or in colder weather. At least this is what I fear the most.
14. Be sure to dress accordingly if you’re about to go out on rainy, windy or just cold day. Your feet will tell your body to produce extra warmth, so you need to be sure to keep it collected and not let to much of it out. I managed to lead my life without shoes just with a t-shirt, two woolen sweaters, an optional cotton hoodie, shemagh and a cap for temperatures below +10°C / +50°F.
15. This one’s important! Forget the way and speed you were walking at with your shoes on. Walking barefoot is all about comfort and avoiding injury. On hard surfaces you can achieve both if you try landing on your whole foot first and once you’re familiar with this concept, choose a suiting pace. You’ll know which one is the right one, because once you’re too fast either you’ll start striking heel first (and this should be avoided by all costs) or you’ll start feeling like a stealthy secret agent a.k.a. Stork, who isn’t allowed to run.
“Will you resume your life without shoes in winter???”
And for closure – a question I get most often (sometimes it’s the first question a stranger asks me): “are you going to walk like that (barefoot) in winter as well???”
Well, I don’t know yet. I will definitely try, but there are several concerns about the winter. First is the cold itself. Last week I ran 7k barefoot in +0°C / +32°F and I can tell that running isn’t a problem. Slow walking around is. Only after 3rd kilometer numbness in my feet got away and I started sensing stuff at full scale as well as feeling warmth. It would happen if walking several kilometers as well. So the cold like “my feet are freezing” isn’t such a big problem as they get warmer because of movement and getting home eventually. Also the real winter haven’t come yet.
Second and a more serious concern are my joints (knees in particular). Because I suspect they might not like it. Not because my knees are weak or problematic, but because well – knees don’t like cold and it can be easily transferred from feet higher above. Or it might not.
As I said, I’m not mad yet and am not trying to prove something to someone. If I’ll feel I no longer enjoy it – I’ll jump back into a pair of some sort of footwear and call it a day for my life without shoes (at least for this season).
But until that time shoes will need to wait. Especially because I want to complete first phase of my little personal project of recording impulse responses (sound prints of building’s reverberation) of all orthodox churches in Vilnius (capital city of Lithuania) while entering the houses of worship barefoot. This wasn’t my intention in the first place rather a coincidence as I’m not religious to this level (I’m a catholic by the way). I decided to interconnect these two activities just because I want to, and I can. Also it creates an illusion that something more serious is behind the process of I/R gathering than just ones and zeroes captured by a recorder once a balloon is popped at 5AM in the morning while standing alone in the middle of a church. I like to think of it like that. All in all – things are spiritual exactly by the amount we make them so.
Since I stacked my shoes into a locker, my wife now has more space for her footwear by one third. I on the other hand have never experienced traditional “cold feet” sense ever since. While walking in temperatures below +10°C / +59°F, I’m never cold, my hands are ALWAYS warm and I’m the hottest (if we’d measure actual warmth) person in the room most of the time (again we’re talking +17°C / +62.6°F to +21°C / +69.8°F here).
I enjoy feeling variety of surfaces of different textures and levels of warmth under my feet. Being barefoot outside makes me want to be outside and walk more in general. And at some level, I enjoy knowing that a person who saw my bare feet and was decent enough not to stare right away, will turn his or her head around once we’re passed by.
I take the energy they’re offering and I’m thankful for it. I’m not mad, it’s just nice to think about it that way.
I also enjoy explaining and talking about walking barefoot to people who are interested and ask right questions or are wandering in a good way.
If you are attempting to start your life without shoes or just try out walking barefoot, here’s my suggestions purified:
1. Start in warm season (above +15°C / +59°F outside). If you have it now – start right away.
2. Let your body dictate the rules and take care of itself. Don’t contradict it or overthink the process.
3. Choose you paths wisely and watch your step, yet again don’t overthink it.
4. Walk slowly. If you’re in a hurry, better jog.
5. Don’t let your heel strike hard surfaces first. Never ever again. Aim for whole foot at once or front part of your feet to allow muscles act as suspension.
6. Watch how your perspective changes.
OK, that’s enough for my first article on the subject. I’ll elaborate on the subject perhaps in few months. Up next on the schedule – my explorations on running barefoot. ‘Till then – I’d love to know your own experiences concerning life without shoes or barefoot walking. Have you tried it already? Is there something that stops you from doing it, that I didn’t mention in my post? Or maybe you have found something that is completely misleading in my post here? Would be great to not deceive potential barefoot walkers – so any advice, wonderingment, observations and opinions are welcome.
Thanks for reading. Hope I inspired you at least a bit to leave those shoes at home today.