Book Review: The Barefoot Book by Daniel Howell

  Here I am writing this, Barefoot (and have been pregnant)...just had to emphasize that last detail.  As a child, I was one of those ruffians who preferred running around the house buck naked and barefoot.  Now, I realize our society does not look favorably upon my youthful preference for nil attire.  Instead of running off to a commune amongst leftover Woodstockers, I relegated that fantasy to my edgy counterculturalists.  Barefooting may challenge the norm, but it will not send me to the jailhouse for over-exposure.  Bared feet are only immodest to those Victorian-era females forced to lace up for fear that a man might lust after that pointy ankle joint.  

 

For the past twenty months, I have been experimenting with minimalist footwear, specifically the Vibram FiveFingers.  This natural progression lead me to The Barefoot Book: 50 Great Reasons to Go Barefoot by Daniel Howell. Affectionately dubbed “The Barefoot Professor,” Howell has appeared on various popular media, podcasts, and radio shows proclaiming his message of barefoot living for foot health and overall wellbeing. I watched a Today show interview of shoeless Howell with two well-heeled females, and I was intrigued by his audacity to buck the normal attire prerequisite.  Can you think of any other interviewee who has appeared on mainstream television without shoes?  Nor could I.  

 

Having a Kindle, I can mark my favorite portions of the book for future reference.  Here are five of my highlights.

 

  • There have been injuries caused by trying to do too much barefoot activity too soon, before the feet and body can make the necessary changes that need to occur.  This can take months to years.
  • Encased within shoes whenever we exercise, our feet miss out on the action; while the rest of our body gets a workout, our feet are unable to flex, twist, grasp, feel, or breathe.
  • We can regard the modern shoe as a cast.
  • Habitual shoe wearing shortens the Achilles tendon to the point that simply standing without shoes can be uncomfortable or even painful.
  • Shod runner suffer more injuries per mile than barefoot runners.

 

Here are five of my thoughts about this enjoyable beachside read.

 

  • Though this book does provide a couple chapters with scientific diagrams and physiological explanations to support his hypothesis, the lay reader can either dig into the research or skip to the practical aspects of the book.  Personally, I found the research a fascinating complement providing validation to Howell’s proposal for barefoot living.  It is not meant to be a comprehensive tome of podiatry.
  • The book is divided into clear sections for ease of reading.  If you are only interested in the application of barefooting to your daily life, then skip to that portion.
  • I found the stories of barefooters to be an asset to the book. I took note of how a shoeless enthusiast can live in a footwear-obsessed culture reasonably.
  • The chapter about high-heeled shoes was enough to make me ditch my stilettos for good!
  • The last 1/3 of the book was by far my favorite, as Howell addressed obstacles and oppositions that those bared feet might elicit from society, family, friends, and businesses.  He provides resources for those who want to barefoot in public, including an online community of barefooters, relevant documents, and legal information.

 

How has The Barefoot Book impacted my daily life?  Here are five changes I have made (for the spring/summer/early fall…need some protection in the winter):

 

  • My home is a shoeless, sock-free, and no-slipper zone.
  • I ditch my shoes when walking around my neighborhood or taking out the trash.
  • I only wear minimalist shoes when training at the gym.  I might get brave enough to try a barefoot session in the future.
  • I drive barefoot.
  • When my hubby’s not with me, I go shopping without shoes.

 

Reading this book reverted me to the joys I experienced as a child while playing outdoors unshod.  Splashing in puddles.  Squeezing mud through my toes.  Climbing the backyard tree into my fort.  Wailing after squishing through doggie poo.  Blacktop barefooting contests on 100 degree days.  Ah – the memories.  Thanks to Howell, I get to experience a second childhood through baring these feet whenever I want.