People who know me usually know that I’ve had neck and upper back pain that varies from mild to excruciating for years. Most of my friends also know that it’s one my favourite projects: I’m always trying a new body-mind therapy, a new osteopath (Hi Tim!), a different kind of chair or something – all in the interests of trying to quiet the occupational agony of the geek.
Most people probably assume that this is all nonsense and none of it’s had any effect, but while the frequency of me talking about my back hasn’t diminished much over the years, the actual pain definitely has. The various therapies have helped me get a better sense of the emotional repressions I habitually do, which result in constantly winding more tension into my back. They’ve also helped me end many of those habits. Simple, practical stuff like a good working chair and a better arranged workspace helps me not re-offend, as does some exercise, chiefly: walking.
I’ve been reading stuff about walking and running barefoot for a couple of years and recently I’ve started trying to go for long-ish walks barefoot. A few things seem to be happening as a consequence:
- I’m learning to engage with the ground in a different way, more involving my big toe and the ball of my foot, this seems to be gradually making the painful bit of connective tissue behind the ball of my foot calm down. Win!
- The whole way my legs and pelvis work together as I walk is balancing in a different way, this seems to be shifting my spine to a more balanced position, and I’ll be darned if my shoulders aren’t shifting naturally backwards, my neck getting more erect and the shoulder pain lessening one more quantum. Win!
- This is a big one: it’s really, really joyful to walk barefoot. I feel like breaking into a run spontaneously. I feel connected to the ground in a more intimate way. A surge of energy seems to rush out of the ground and up the front of my body from time to time. I feel like a kid, I want to hope up on walls and jump over things. This isn’t exercise, this is hilarious. Win!!!
Summary: Win! I like going barefoot.
But… it’s winter in Sydney and in the mornings (my favourite walking time) it’s just too cold to comfortably walk, the pavements have broken glass, all the palm trees are dropping little hard seeds, every little rock and bump hurts more when your feet are cold. It’s a low-joy event.
Enter the compassionate hand of My Beloved who decided to buy me for my birthday a pair of FiveFingers Classics. We went to pick them up today and I walked home in them. As advertised, just like going barefoot, with a tiny bit of cushioning, so that hard things don’t hurt, I don’t fear broken glass, but I still get that direct perceptual link to the ground.
It’s very hard to convey how happy I’ve been from the simple act of walking home “barefoot”. I may never wear a normal shoe again.