several articles recently about 'barefoot running' and its advantages over shod running. I was intrigued to see all these scientists highlighting the advantages of running bare foot or with minimal shoes that provide none of the cushioning that we have become accustomed to. The key lies in what they term the reduction of the 'heel strike' where the heel is the first point of contact with the ground in a shod runner. When a human runs without shoes, the tendency is for the foot to land at the mid to the front (ball) of the foot, rather than the heel, which gives rise to less injury from impact.
Per Indian tradition, we still maintain the 'bare feet in home' custom. Venturing outside the house without shoes, however, is not really the done thing anymore, let alone running barefeet anywhere. We lace up our Nikes or Reeboks for any outdoor activities, serene in the confidence that our feet are being properly cushioned and safe against the elements. Or the now-mandatory snow boots.
(I still remember with a faint distaste the time when I accompanied my father on a barefoot expedition to the Sabarimala sanctuary. The path to the temple was well-trodden by thousands of pilgrims, but rather than the discomfort of dirt and gravel, it was the tendency of pilgrims to spit randomly that caused me the most heartburn. Never mind, it was all in the spirit of ' Kallum mullum kaalukku metthai', or 'stones and thorns shall carpet my path', part of the pilgrims' chants as they hiked uphill.)
I also recall running around our village house barefoot, and to a small temple a short distance away, dust and thorns being the main hazards, other than the hot stones of the temple courtyard. Why I didn't wear slippers that day, I have no recollection.
My kids took their first steps barefoot, as I felt it prudent not to buy them shoes till they had finished learning to walk. But I still wonder if the flat-footed gait promoted by shoe-wearing may have had anything to do with a pronounced flattening of arches in my son, and a consequent reason for his having injured an ankle during a basketball game some years ago.
And now, we have shoes being sold as promoting weight loss and body toning.
Why bother to spend more money on such expensive items, when it might be simpler and easier to spend more time barefoot ?