Finger Shoes

This is a break-out box from "Sentient Feet," Chapter 8 of Your Body Mandala.

I love wearing my “five finger” barefoot shoes when I hike on mountain trails. The shoes’ minimal foot beds let my feet respond to the varying surface of the path, and that invites the rest of my body to adapt and respond. My feet, legs, hips and spine all feel in tune with one another. Of course, it helps that the tall pines urge my midline to join them in praise of the sky.

I love the feeling that each of my toes is independently awake. The shoes make my toe pads want to investigate the ground. When my toes press down onto the ground, activating the inner springs of my arches, I appreciate how delicious it feels to walk.

My friend, Harmony, wears her finger shoes every day and tells me how free it makes her feel. One morning I decide to wear the shoes on my neighborhood walk. Ouch! Going semi-barefoot on concrete feels nothing like walking on a trail. The concrete offers no “give,” and the impact of each step jars my lower spine. My feet are incredibly sore after only half an hour and my lower back aches the whole next day.

My experience differs from Harmony’s because, being a millennial, she still has fat pads on her soles. Thanks to seventy years of living on concrete, mine have worn away. So, while there are benefits to wearing minimal footgear, the benefits vary depending on the terrain in which they’re worn, and on the adaptability of the feet wearing them. I wonder whether my Paleo ancestors suffered from fat pad atrophy. Since they lived only to about the age of thirty, probably not.