My submission to Mark’s Daily Apple’s workout of the week.

Weighted squats... because you never know.

This was my submission to Mark’s Daily Apple’s DIY WoW. I hope you all enjoy it.

Good morning, world.

Warm up: Place both feet on ground and move into a squatting position. While squatting, raise arms, bending slightly at waist to stretch muscles under arms on back and ribcage. Crawl hands out until in a push up position and lower body to ground. Push arms up, leaving hips on the ground. Drop back down to ‘gravitationally inert plank’ and breathe deeply. Walk your hands backwards, lifting your body in a pike position until you can push yourself to a stand.

Now it’s time for some movement. Start with a series of high-knee walks and exaggerated saddle walking (knees way out to the side, stretching the connective tissues in the groin). While doing the high knee walks and saddle walk, work your shoulders and elbows, rotating them in both forwards and backwards directions. Increase movement to a normal jog (on the toes, people!) and get the blood flowing through your body.

Now let’s get started. Lift something heavy up to your shoulders (placing it behind your neck atop your traps). Weight will vary depending on your physical capabilities, but it should be heavy enough to strain, but not so heavy that you can’t do the motion – 20 stationary lunges (10 each leg). Focus on quality form over quantity of weight – we ultimately want everything as neutral as possible. I will be using around fifty pounds.

From there, drop the weight (I’m using a sandbag) and drop your body into a plank.
Begin 50 pushups, focusing on chaining as many as you can together. Again, focus on full range of motion, making sure to touch your chest to the ground. Keep a consistent pace, but you don’t have to time yourself (you can – and I think should for an added challenge/metric).
Now do 15 burpees, again focusing on quality over speed.
Finally, 50 situps.
Ideally this should all be timed, so you can go back in 3 months and test yourself again.

Sorry, forgot to add: Walk a quarter mile to cool down. On stretching and recovery, focus on legs, particularly hip flexors, back, quads, and hamstrings. Some attention should be put on the shoulders, arms, and core because 50 is a good amount of pushups and situps.


Three Months on the primal fringe – Part Two

30 days


Handstands in the National Park

I started immediately. No more hamburgers, pastas, or bread with dinner. No sandwiches or crackers. I made it my goal, and decided that it was going to be easy to do it for 30 days.

And it was.

I was amazed at how good I felt. Everything made sense. There are reasons humans like meat and fats (and some sweet things). Just like a goat or a cougar knows what it needs to survive and what kind of food that it needs to eat in order to live and thrive, so does the human animal. But we’ve gotten smart enough that we can turn it off, or altogether ignore it. And when you really start to think about it, that’s not such a smart thing, in the long run.

After a couple of days had rolled by, I talked my wife into doing it, too. It was just going to be easier, it was something that we had been talking about anyway (at least changing up our diet and eating better quality food was), and this seemed like something easy to try for 30 days. With her on board, things got even easier.

Breakfasts consisted eggs, meat, and veggies, all cooked in either bacon grease or coconut oil. Olive oil was regulated to salads, which were frequent lunchtime events. These weren’t just little salads, but rather epic excursions full of leafy greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, radishes, onion, mushrooms, and of course some sort of meat. Usually I would top them with a half or a quarter of an avocado, and round that all out with some balsamic vinegar and olive oil (with just a splash of Dijon mustard to hold the whole dressing together). These salads generally fit into the largest tupperware we owned, and usually it was enough.

Squash Fever

Dinners were varied but simple, consisting mainly of meat and vegetables, sometimes a salad as well. Since we were working ourselves fairly strenuously with CrossFit, we decided a bit of starchy carbohydrates were called for. We added sweet potatoes (already a family favorite), and various squashes to our meals. In addition to being good for us, they kept us stocked with the carbohydrate energy our bodies and minds needed to survive the new taxing situations they were being put into. It was a perfect fit.

Additionally, we still had a small indulgence of a small piece of dark chocolate daily. It was the one simple thing that we were able to do in order to keep my wife from going crazy. Plus, it was a delicious way to end a day. Our favorite is a dark mint chocolate we were able to find with minimal ingredients. It’s delicious, full of antioxidant goodness, and simple. Sometimes (usually) that’s all you really need.

Our diet contained no dairy, little fruit, and no legumes or grains of any kind for thirty days. During that time we experienced different reactions to the purification of our food intake. We ate until satisfied, and did not once count a calorie.


There were several benefits, for me in particular. I had previously suffered from what had become chronic nasal allergies. The daily and nearly constant allergic discomfort had started nearly two years ago (although looking back now, I can see even as far back as ten years ago the telltale signs of the allergy – and I attributed it to milk… more on that later) and had progressed to the point where I was taking a maintenance dose of over the counter Costco variety Claritin. I had played with my diet earlier, removing dairy only from my diet, but it had really not had a significant effect. Ridding myself of grains and/or legumes, however, did seem to do the trick.

At first, I noticed that my allergies seemed less, but was still fearful of removing the lortadine completely. The sneezing and itchy, watery eyes could get unbearable. As time went on, I noticed I was still feeling better. I started to wean myself off of it, hopeful that I had unlocked the secret to what had been ailing me for a number of years. Within a week I was only taking it intermittently (two or three times a week, as opposed to seven). Within two weeks, I wasn’t really taking it at all. It appeared as though I had solved the riddle.

Another benefit was what equates to rapid weight loss. Yes, we were working out hard with Crossfit. However, our workouts were in general less than a half-hour in length (the WOD in particular – the warm up, strength, and agility training brought the total time to an hour) three times a week. There is no way to burn enough calories in three hours max per week to lose the amount of weight that I lost without the significant change in diet. If the workout was doing anything, it was actually inflating my numbers.

In fact, to look at my calculations I went from 19.19% bodyfat at the beginning of the year to a current body fat percentage of 12. Additionally, over the last month (March 8th to April 20th, it’s also calculated that I GAINED approximately 4.5 pounds of muscle while losing over three pounds total. So in terms of effectiveness, this has been a very effective weight loss tool, though my reasons for doing it were not at all weight driven. (Oddly enough, using BMI calculations, I am still overweight at 12% bodyfat, and what’s more, a ‘healthy’ range – again according to BMI for someone of my height would be 152# – 205#. At 152#, I would be a skeleton dancing around for all to see. No thank you. I’ll happily remain ‘overweight’, thankyouverymuch.)

We saw other benefits, including some you wouldn’t expect. Whiter teeth, clearer skin, and improved mood were all on the list of benefits. In short – it was good to be grain free.

Fast forward three months, and our diet has not really changed. Legumes do occasionally find their way into our meals (rarely and never at home), as does wheat (again never at home). We’ve thoroughly advertised and socialized through our families that this is the way we are choosing to eat, now, and that we have experienced many positive benefits from doing so and are not interested in regressing these benefits. We have reintroduced SOME dairy into our diets, but we’re mostly eating artisinal raw milk cheeses, which are high in flavor and fat and therefore don’t require a ton to introduce that wonderful cheesy flavor.

Additionally, when I eat some grains (wheat specifically, so far as I know. Corn doesn’t seem to be as much of an issue for me), I get stuffed up within an hour or so and have to take a claritin. Beer seems to have the same effect on me, as well, so in general I kind of make it a point to stay away from wheat – which is sad, because I love a good beer. But now I know the result and the cause, and can make a risk assessment before I drink a beer or eat a sandwich. Usually, it’s not worth the consequences and I choose to not have them (and I’ve never yet had it be worth it to have a sandwich, but there have been a few beers here and there:).

So as of today, I’m happy, healthy, and stronger than I’ve ever been before. I feel great and wouldn’t give it up for the standard American diet in any way, shape, or form. (Which is not to say I don’t every once in a while have a desire to have a thick smear of butter on top of a half a sourdough roll – but that’s really more for the sake of the butter than anything else.)

The other massive boon to our existence and well-being has been the gym. We made the choice to try it out, and we love it. We’re gaining strength, skill, and agility faster than we ever have before (in our adult lives). It’s truly been an amazing year.

So get out there, and try life on the fringe. It’s a lot of fun, you feel great, and you get to challenge yourself. If you can’t go 100%, then just push yourself as far as you can. Any time you have something you probably shouldn’t or do or don’t do something, it’s not the end of the world. It’s just part of life. Failure is an option, and it’s the only way we find our way to success.

What about your stories? Have you spent any time on the fringe? What are your experiences or thoughts? I would love to hear them.

Robb Wolf’s Liberty Garden concept

Lettuce have some salad!

One of the most important things you do every day is make decisions on what kinds of things you will use to fuel your body. Beef or chicken? Grassfed or storebought? What kinds of veggies? You gonna throw some corn down, or perhaps a big-ass sandwich? Maybe that’s not such a great idea.

Regardless of the choices you ultimately end up making, the choice itself is an important one. Your body is – without a doubt – the most important thing you own. How you choose to fuel it should respect that level of importance, in my opinion. And herein lies a problem inherent in the system – you can make good choices that still end up being less good choices based on how that fuel was raised/grown/created. And while you may not be able to fully know how all your fuel was created, it’s important to take those baby steps to getting to where you would like to be. (If you’re happy guzzling Mountain Dew and Ritz crackers, you can pretty much disregard this. Realistically, you’re probably not reading this anyway.)

Enter the Liberty Garden concept as promoted by Robb Wolf. Here’s the concept in an even smaller nutshell than Robb’s site talks about it: You are what you eat; in order to know what you’re eating, you should grow some of it because factory farming is involved in practices that can be called questionable (not to mention non sustainable), and that a great way to start it is using your own yard/kitchen window/balcony/veranda/fire escape/WHATEVER to start growing some of your own stuff. Sounds easy, right? It is! Just throw some seeds in some healthy soil (dirt is such a dead sounding word), keep it watered as per the directions on the back of the package, make sure the plants have adequate sunlight, and voila! instant food.

The Liberty Garden – Robb Wolf

To start, I would recommend some herbs. They’re usually very resilient and do well. If you think you have a black thumb, go with these to start. They’re almost a sure thing.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there, and get growing!

Three months on the primal fringe-Part One

On Tuesday, April 5th, I will have three months under my belt in my transformation from a rather marshmallowy everyman into an old-is-new archetype. I have lost 18 pounds (230 -> 212) in that time, monitored changes in my body measurements and lost nearly 3 inches overall, while actually gaining inches in my legs and arms. I can do pullups, both dead-hang and kipping, and can run a mile at a respectable speed. I’ve learned the basics of the Olympic lifts, and my max weight on those has been steadily increasing. Overall, my strength has increased dramatically, and I just feel better.

In addition to all that, my allergies have let up to the point where I only intermittently take Claritin, and even then only on the bad days. I have not gotten sick despite working in an office building in a large city where it will hopefully someday stop raining. I rarely get acne or outbreaks, but even the acne I did have seems to be less. My skin in general is healthier – color, elasticity, the whole nine yards. The jury is still out, but it is starting to look like gray hair which had begun sprouting when I was 19, has begun to come in dark once more. My teeth are whiter. I’m sleeping better.

I have been toying with the idea of doing this stuff for years.

I have been aware of Crossfit as well as the paleo method of diet and had looked into it, but thought “Nah, there’s nothing in this for me.” I felt pretty healthy, was in better shape than most of my colleagues, and was in general doing well. Crossfit seemed ‘too hard’, or ‘too intense’. I stuck to spin classes and cycling. My back was weak, so I suffered through back pain from the cycling. I couldn’t quite hold my body rigid over the bicycle, and relied too much on my handlebars. In reality, what I had thought of as ‘doing pretty well’, was in fact kind of ‘being lackluster’. I effectively was lying to myself, justifying my fitness by comparing myself to other people around me. This was a mistake. I was surrounded by people that spend their time in offices and whom are not, in general, athletic. So while I talked myself into thinking that I was doing pretty good in the grand scheme of things, deep down I knew I was fooling myself.

Wherein I learn the truth

The new year was fast approaching, and I had been thinking about my health and wellness as well as my wife’s. We had a new little one that had just turned one, and was beginning to take his first steps. I knew where this was headed – running, jumping, playing, etc. Neither my wife nor I wanted to miss out on that because of our health. I began looking for solutions.

We had recently moved to a new city, so I began to look around for a gym. I wasn’t interested in a gym that was shiny and glittery, or a gym that was tiny and filled with machines. I wanted something real. I remembered Crossfit – indeed I had been watching the main site’s WOD’s (workout of the day) for a while now, but never doing any of them. I looked up crossfit gyms in the area. There were two nearby.

Call it providence, good timing, or just flat out good luck, but I found that one had an end of the year deal going on, and additionally offered an introduction program for new initiates. This intro program was designed to acclimate an individual untrained in the sport of fitness that is offered by crossfit, as well as train them in many of the movements and lifts which would be frequently used in the WOD’s offered at the gym. After asking a few questions of the gym owner, particularly surrounding the fact that my wife was traveling fairly far outside of her comfort range, we signed up. I had a good feeling about this place, despite never having been there. I was excited.

I get whipped

The first week was the sorest that I think I have ever been. We ran, lifted little or no weight, practiced ‘double unders’ (a method of jumping rope where the rope travels under your body twice for every jump you make), box jumps, pullups, pushups, situps, deadlifts, and a myriad of other movements. I was torched. I ached everywhere. I started taking fish oil to help lubricate my joints. Glucosamine chased that, as well as a nice morning dose of ibuprofen. I am not one to take to a something half assedly, and I was feeling it. I could tell this would be a long journey.

As the weeks wore on, the soreness and fatigue wore away, and successes began to mount. With the passing of time and the gaining of familiarity, I grew more comfortable and stronger, trading old non-fringe fat for new primal muscle. I traded slow, deliberate movements for speedy explosive ones. My cardiovascular system improved greatly, and I felt better than I had when I was cycling 60 miles or more per week.

An additional benefit of membership at the gym is the workshops and classes they offer. Our first week there, they were offering a class on the paleo method of eating. Sure, I thought, why not? It’ll at least be interesting. How true that statement would turn out to be.

The workshop was very interesting, and Jessica, the gym’s resident RD (registered dietician), was very frank and honest about the research she had done and about the benefits she personally had reaped from moving to this diet. I was intrigued, and – having had very little success in losing the weight I wanted to (and getting to a point where I had six pack abs), I did a little more research. Robb Wolf is one of the larger characters in this ‘paleo diet’ business, and was one of the first places Jessica referred the class to on the web (he offers free meal plans and shopping lists for the first 30 days). I started reading through this, seeing the issues it had the potential to address, and instantly thought of my dad.

My dad has been fighting with his health since before I was born. In many ways, he is a medical textbook, having suffered through a gauntlet of different and serious medical conditions. So much of what Robb Wolf claimed was like it was designed exactly for my dad. So I began to look into it even more deeply.

I began to voraciously read articles and websites about paleo, primal, natural movement, crossfit, etc. It was all very interesting and something about it really spoke to me. I decided almost immediately that I would ‘go paleo’, at least for  the 30 days, and see how things went.

Merrell Trail Glove – it’s no marshmallow

grippy enough to hold me airborne

This past weekend, my wife and I finally tracked down the elusive Merrell “Glove” line at a small store called “Born To Run” in downtown Bellevue. They had the entire mens line, and only the ‘PowerGlove’ was missing from the women’s line… but I don’t know how much of a loss it really was. It was my least favorite of the line on paper.

However, we saw the rest of the lineup, and proceeded to try on most of the rest of the lineup. I tried on the Trail Glove and the True Glove. My wife tried on the Pace Glove and the Pure Glove. We ended up with three different pairs: the Trail Glove, the Pace Glove and the Pure Glove (I’m sure some marketing guy somewhere is cackling in delight because all the Gloves marketed to men begin with a “T” while all the women’s marketed shoes begin with the letter “P”). Sarah loved both the Pace and the Pure initially, because they felt comfortable, natural and fit her feet near perfectly. I walked away with the Trail Glove, because I felt like the toe box felt larger than the True Glove. I did not try on the Tough Glove, but probably will at some point in the near future.

Long story short, I love these shoes. They fit well, are crazy comfortable, and don’t make me feel like everyone is staring at my toed shoes (while they might be a good conversation starter, I don’t know how much the ladies dig ’em. Some are all for it, while the majority just think you’re strange and a little gross. You know, make you feel like you’re in 5th grade again. Fantastic times, really). I can tell there is a tiny bit of padding there, but not so much that it gets in the way of me feeling the ground (comparing them to my ASICS is like comparing a 1970’s suburban to a Koenigsegg sports car – there really is no viable comparison). They in no way hindered my ability to run on the middle of my foot (which is how you’re supposed to run – see example video below), nor did they feel too heavy or too big or anything like that. Overall, it was a great first experience. I ran two 800 meter runs over uneven blacktop surfaces – some uphill, some downhill. My feet and knees feel better now than if I had run in a pair of marshmallows (which I had done just last Friday, so the experience was fresh in my memory).

I picked them up Saturday and just wore them around everywhere I went. They’re great because they hold the middle of my foot and my heel snugly while letting my toes have the room they need to do their thing.

So, long story short, I’ve only had them for two whole days now, have gotten a ton of complements on them, spread the word a little bit, and my feet have never felt so good. If you’re contemplating whether or not to grab a pair of these, don’t hesitate – do it. You’ll thank me later.

The following video explains how to prepare your body for the rigors of running on your anatomy, as opposed to running on a cushion of marshmallow.

Nightline article on the “Caveman lifestyle” and my experiences with paleo

Ah “Caveman Lifestyle” – a modern day euphemism for someone who is committed to functional movement and eating a paleo style diet.

Nightline clip on the “Cavemen”

Nightline, on ABC.

The segment features Art DeVany and Robb Wolf. It is not a deep treatment of the topic, but it is interesting. It in no way goes into the real reasons for trying the paleo diet, which include: the reduction of inflammation in the body, improved health in general and for people with autoimmune diseases in particular.

Of course, the science is still new on all this, and studies that have occurred are small, but there have been thousands of people (in the video, Robb mentions the number one million) who have at the very least anecdotal evidence that this seems to be wildly successful for them. There are reports of reduced cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels, a reduction in heart disease and diabetes. It’s all very encouraging, and in my opinion, the way to go.

My experiences:

My wife and I have been following a paleo regimen for the previous month and a half going on two months. At first it was a little hard, because we STILL haven’t cleared the products we no longer really eat out of the house. That said, we haven’t had to worry about it so much. In addition to the paleo diet, we joined Crossfit Bellevue. We’ve collectively lost over 11 total inches, as well as 22 pounds… in less than two months. Pretty incredible, really. (Total inches is calculated by measuring around each arm at the thickest part of the bicep, the waist horizontally at the navel, the hips at the thickest part, and each thigh at the midpoint. The sum of those is our total inch measurement.

The interesting thing is that I have lost more overall weight, but far fewer inches than she has. The whole experience has been very interesting and eye opening.

The real reason we decided to try the paleo diet is for the anti-inflammatory and potential health benefits. Neither of us had what we would consider any kind of food allergies – no real issues with dairy or grains or legumes, and we were for the most part healthy. I had some low level hay-fever allergies and she has suffered for most of her life with intermittent bouts with acne.

Our time on the paleo diet has resulted in several unforseen benefits. Her acne is increasingly clear, and my hay fever allergies have been greatly reduced (I only sneezed once today – and that’s a real accomplishment for me). Additionally, we have noticed a general improvement in skin tone and consistency (not blotchy or mottled), greater energy, and whiter teeth. Another unforeseen benefit was that it forced us out of our ‘food routine’, and to really expand our recipes and cooking styles. We cook with coconut oil, as well as butter and animal fats, all in cast iron cookware over low heat to prevent oxidization of the oils we are cooking in – and it is all delicious. I have not had my blood lipids or cholesterol tested yet, but I will soon. (My annual physical is due).

These changes have been among the most positive changes we have ever made. I weigh less and can lift and do more, as well as run harder and further than I did on the day I was married – perhaps ever. I feel like I am in the best shape overall functional shape of my life. I have a picture from before we started this routine, but I won’t post it for another month. I figure 3 months is a good period of time to measure progress.

So you’ll get to see all too much Hal next month. I know you’re all on pins and needles waiting for that. Should be April 5th or so.

If you want to find out more about paleo, check out the following links:

Art DeVany’s site

Robb Wolf’s site

So remember, when you hear someone call you a caveman, they’re really just jealous that you had it in you to cut your addiction to grains, sugar, and the television as well as the intestinal fortitude to really go and make something of yourself – to challenge yourself to constantly improving yourself, making yourself better, stronger, faster, harder – instead of living life on the edge… of your sofa.

Fixing my feet – send in the Five Fingers.

I have a confession to make.

I have flat feet.

For as long as I can remember, people have been telling me that I have flat feet, or that I over-pronate, or that my arches fall when I stand on them.

And they were right in their diagnoses. However, I am beginning to think they were wrong in their prescription.

Their prescription, every one, was that flat feet were something you lived with, and used orthotics to help reduce the pain associated with fallen arches, or at least to reduce the effect of the fallen arches.

Studies show it doesn’t work, at least not well, and that there’s no hard and fast way for prescribing orthotics… Which indicates (to me) that we’re dealing with snake oil, being sold a bill of goods. But charlatans sell snake oil for the same reason people sell orthotics – lots of people have some sort of malaise (or sore feet, in the case of orthotics) and are willing to spend a sum of their hard earned money on the promise of improved health. And while SOMETIMES the orthotic ‘cures’ the pain (treats and/or masks the  symptoms), it doesn’t solve the problem. As an orthotics wearer, you become dependent on it, and without it, you are miserable.

My footprints in the snow.

So I’ve decided that this is not something I want. I’ve never been formally fitted for orthotics (custom orthotics range between 100 and 200 USD, typically), I’ve spent my fair share of dollars on different over the counter orthotics, with varying degrees of success (read: pain relief). Superfeet even shrunk my feet (by seemingly improving my arch, as improbable as that seems).

The problem with orthotics, as I see it, as it gives your body a crutch – something to be lazy on. And every body in the world is content to be lazy if at all possible. It’s a natural way to conserve energy, and from a physiological standpoint it makes perfect sense.

So, after recently hearing all about my arches and how low they are, I’ve decided to do something about it.

I’ve had my Vibram Five Fingers for at least a year, now, and I’ve worn them off and on. I’ve never been much of a runner, so I’ve never really worked myself up to running in them, but I love them. I think they feel good, fit well, and make it so I can

walk around with a fairly barefoot feeling wherever I go. So I decided to start wearing them daily, to see if what Dr. Nirenberg says is true.

What I did not do was take a ‘before’ stamp of my footprint. But I have started doing some mild running in my Vibrams – keeping the distances under an 1/8th of a mile at a time for now (doing intervals of 200m between 5 and 8 times.

But I will be sure to take a 2 month stamp, and a 4 month stamp. Hopefully I will be able to see a marked change in the pattern of my foot, as well as a well-defined arch.

What about everyone else

? Do you have any experiences with (re)training your feet and the (re)introduction of an arch due to barefoot running or any other method? I know there’s some surgical procedure out there right now that involves some sort of a metal tube inserted into the ankle, but that kind of seems like a last resort… Like I might consider it… after exhausting any other ideas that are less invasive.

And besides, it seems like a pretty hardcore way to correct something that may not even be the problem it’s made out to be.
What are your thoughts?

your feet are your foundation

Shod, but barefootFeet…. for the most part, we all have two of them. We use them every day to get from point “A” to “B” to “C”.

Thousands of years ago, men, women, and children of all social strata were minimally or not at all shod. A typical example of a primitive ‘shoe’ would consist of a strip of leather to protect the bottom of the foot and a strap to keep the leather ‘tied’ to the foot. This was called a Huarache, and there are still tribes (and modern runners) that wear them on a regular basis. They were simple, cheap, and effective.

As ‘civilization’ progressed, different cultures developed different styles of shoe, ranging from simple wooden clogs to silken slippers placed on women’s feet to prevent them from growing correctly at all. Every single shoe had a problem – it took the foot out of the equation of walking.

An Amazing Machine

The human foot is an amazing machine. A fully grown adult will have 26 bones, 33 joints, and dozens of ligaments, tendons, and muscles. They are also contain thousands of nerve endings. All this complexity exists for one thing – to allow a human to walk – or run – from point “A” to “B” to “C”. It is truly an amazing machine, and to have two of them strapped to the lower half of your body is really a stroke of luck, because they are meant to be used in pairs. Of course, they can be used singly, but they “work” together.

The basic idea is this:

  • the muscles move the foot into place on the ground.
  • the nerves send information to the brain, so the brain can make decisions based on those inputs about how the muscles will react.
  • the muscles react according to the brains commands, contracting and relaxing as instructed.
  • the muscles, which are attached to the bones via ligaments pull the bones. The tendons help to keep the bones aligned.
  • the joints articulate in such a way to keep the foot supported, other joints protected, and the body protected and upright.

A pretty simple process, on paper. Now, enter shoes.

How we went wrong

The first shoes were little more than leather wrappings around the foot. As society, particularly European society, evolved, so did shoes. They became boots which constrained the foot, often fitting poorly with either too much or too little room. Toes changed from blunt boxes to ‘elegant’ points and became quite the symbol of style and affluence. Most shoes were not designed specifically for your left or right foot, but were rather uni-fit shoes, which would just go on whichever foot you pulled them onto.

Your foot’s nerves, ligaments, bones, and muscles were given no consideration at all. And why should they? The need to run, jump, and be limber and nimble was something from a fanciful past where one had to chase live animals for food, or run from predators. It was barbaric. Shoes which did not cater to the gymnastic past of our predecessors were a symbol of how far societies had come. There was nothing primal to fear, any more, so why bother keeping your body, mind, and nervous system tuned up for such an endeavor? Better to keep it tuned for enjoying music, or food, or fine clothing.

And that’s pretty much the way it stayed until societies advanced enough that we could begin making rubbers, and plastics, and machines that could build a reliable product over and over and over again. Which is exactly what happened. Shoes were growing up, baby, and they were softer, more supple, and more colorful than ever! We could make all kinds of different shoes for different activities, with different levels of cushion and heel drop, different uppers and colors and fabrics and wizzbangery. Our feet were just getting more and more awesome with every iteration.

But they really weren’t.

The shoes, with their arch supporting, torsion controlled lumps and ridges do not t actually help our feet at all. They effectively freeze many of the muscles and joints into a fixed place within the shoe. Because of this, the nerves send out alarms to the brain, to let the brain know that something is going on with the foot. The brain knows that there’s nothing exactly wrong, and eventually just turns off the song and dance offered up by the nerves, kind of the way it tunes out the car alarm that is always going off in the parking lot. The modern shoe turns the foot into one large monolithic slab, causes our bodies to strike our heels on the ground when we walk and run, and just generally destroys our gait. The shoe is designed to mitigate this – through gels, air, and multi-desnsity foams – and make your foot feel as though it is moving atop a fluffy cloud of goo.

And it gets worse

It appears as though the more sophisticated shoes get – offering increased arch support, stability, etc – the more the foot can relax and get lazy. This leads to all kinds of issues – foot and ankle injuries such as sprained tendon, plantar fasciitis, tendonitis, pulled muscles, and damaged and degraded joints. The foot, allowed by the shoe to be lax, also loses its natural arch.

Arches are a girl’s best friend (and you thought it was diamonds)

The body is full of arches. There are arches in the spine, legs, and, yes, feet, that help reduce shock from activity, including walking, running, and jumping. Without our arches, we are more prone to injury, and can even face aggravated injury from the lack of our body’s natural shock absorption. For instance, an incorrectly aligned spine can actually increase the force of an accident instead of dissipate the force. When you lose an arch, you potentially face increased pain and risk of injury. So it’s important to keep all your arches healthy.

But I’ve already lost my foot arches. Is all hope lost?

Modern medical treatment of fallen arches and other foot issues is through the use of orthotics. However, recent studies into the somewhat mysterious field of orthotics reveal one thing – that they don’t know what in the hell they are talking about. There seems to be little science and more art, guesstimation, and downright dumb luck in finding a good orthotic. Good thing, too, because these babies aren’t always cheap. The orthotics industry makes millions upon millions of dollars every year in the US. From Dr. Scholl’s to Superfeet to custom orthotics, many living in the US turn to orthotics to offer some relief to their feet. But adding something else, it seems, is not what the foot needs at all.

Another recent study by Dr. Nirenberg found that increasing barefoot or barefoot-like activities led to an increase and return of the natural foot arch. Bolstering this study is many anecdotal stories across the western world describing how barefoot activies led to a return of the foot’s natural arch and improved function as well as reduced pain levels and injury risks.

So what are you waiting for?

Get out there and go barefoot!

Not ready to jump in whole-hog? No problem. There are lots of shoes out there designed to help you make the transition.