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Sunday, August 11, 2013

For Fellow FlyBabies...Regretfully (In a Way) Rethinking the Whole "Wear Your Shoes All Day Thing"...

Okay, so I'm feeling sort of guilty about this post for odd reasons.  I have no real use or reason to feel guilty, but I was and am such a "devout" follower of FlyLady that this whole thing I'm about to discuss has given me issues, lol.  But without further ado, here's my discovery- my back, legs and feet feel much better without shoes on all day.  Your mileage may vary.  But here's my tale.

About two years ago (a few years after adopting the FlyLady rule of wearing sneakers all the time, day in and day out), I started feeling shin pain (especially bad at night), restless legs starting in the late afternoon/early evening, achy feet, severely stiffening knees and decreased muscle tone in my legs and glutes.  I also realized I could no longer squat down or lunge down much to speak of (especially while in shoes), which was putting a great strain on my back.  Climbing stairs or even curbs was getting to be difficult, and not because it made me out of breath, but because of some decreased leg strength and how bad my joints felt in the lower body.  I also literally could do no more than unload a dishwasher before my lower back started giving me extreme fits of pain and burning.  Cooking was incredibly painful because standing in place was excruciating to my back.  I thought maybe I was aging way before my time due to my fibromyalgia, perhaps that it was a medication side effect or me not doing enough abdominal workouts- I didn't attribute it to wearing shoes.  Now, I've always worn sneakers which are not cheap, are designed for feet like mine (flat but with a fairly low instep), not old shoes, always with quality socks worn underneath, nothing constricting, always in the right size.  I didn't wear heels or even flats, either- I lived in sneakers 99% of the time.  Wearing shoes was certainly convenient when I needed to head out the door unexpectedly- but I didn't feel like leaving home very much anymore with my legs so weak and my whole body in so much pain.

I didn't set out to be rebellious to the FlyLady or her teachings.  But my legs were aching so badly that I just couldn't stand the thought of putting on shoes anymore unless I had to go out of the house this past spring when my college semester ended.  Shoes seemed to make me walk more slowly and made me feel heavier somehow.  I couldn't quite understand it, but it seemed like shoes were throwing off my sense of balance, too.  So I kicked them off, socks included!  Barefoot only in the house became my new rule.  Since it's been warm weather season, when I have gone out, I put on my most barefoot-type sandals, Tela from SoftSpots (not endorsing, just explaining).  And oddly, without any other changes in my lifestyle, my leg pain almost completely went away within a couple of weeks of going without shoes all day!  Just like magic, I'm telling you.  I moved through my house much faster, helping me get chores done faster.  My foot and knee flexibility returned, a bit slowly albeit, but it's returned.  My ankles and knees feel much stronger.  I can now squat and lunge down far more easily, which has also eliminated my back pain to a great degree (and that was BAD).  With my legs and knees feeling better, I could exercise much more, meaning that I could start to feel my muscle tone returning (walking without the shoes was already expediting the muscle tone coming back, though).   I can work out again without fatigue.  Since I work out at home, I can also work out barefoot.  Interestingly, I've found that my weight-training workouts feel more natural and I can get greater range of motion without shoes on, especially for lower body and abdominal workouts.  Stretching without shoes on also allows for a deeper stretch throughout my body, too.  And I've had no more back pain or burning that's worth worrying over!  Cooking became enjoyable again.  My balance is so much better.  I've gone from being able to do maybe fifteen minutes of housework before needing a break to being able to clean for over an hour without a break!  Doing laundry became effortless again.  My knees feel 1000% better and never twist out of place anymore.  I'm happy to get out of the house because I feel lighter, have less pain and am now more fit.  As a side benefit, my carpeting and bathroom rugs have also stayed cleaner in the house. 

After my discoveries of what the new and barefoot me were doing for my life (all of which are positive), I went on the Internet and researched to see if anyone else was in agreement with my experience.  WOW, what a lot of talk this whole subject has going on, shoes vs. barefoot!  And, yes, what I experienced has happened to a lot of people before me.  I had no clue that it was such a debate out there or that so many people believe in going barefoot for very logical reasons, but it is a fact.  I had no idea that there was a whole "barefoot movement" out in society, but there is.  I also didn't realize just how well-designed the body is to do what it needs to without shoes!  Who knew that most shoes actually weaken and deform the feet over time?  (I didn't.)  A lot of what they've said in the barefoot studies and movements, I've found to be true.  I'm not going to start walking the neighborhood or my college campus completely barefoot, but for college this coming autumn I am going to be buying shoes which are designed to let the foot do what it does best- work naturally.  In other words, these shoes just protect the foot from environmental damage, but otherwise do not alter the foot's movement or one's gait.  They are very lightweight and I know that's what I need now.  And when I'm home, I'm staying barefoot! 

As to the dangers of going barefoot, I think that they're overstated in most cases.  Yes, I've stubbed my toe once or twice.  It hurt, but it certainly didn't kill me.  Once I got an itty-bitty piece of glass in the bottom of my foot this summer, but thankfully I got that piece out and had no issue with my foot healing quickly or being able to walk that day or later on.  Those little annoyances are farrrrrrrrr outweighed by all the benefits I've gained.

To counteract the inevitable roughing-up that walking around barefoot gives to the bottoms of my feet, I use a foot scrub in the shower and  moisturize my feet after my nightly shower.  Once in awhile I use a Diamencel buffer to get rid of the excess rough skin, though I leave the callouses mostly alone (since they're actually quite protective to the foot).  I've never had the greatest of feet on the bottom anyway, always being prone to callousing and some dry skin.  Going barefoot didn't make my feet much worse in this regard.  And I'm now not convinced that "babying" feet via shoes is healthy, either.  Sometimes callouses are actually NOT a bad thing.

I've known for a long time that one has to adapt FlyLady to their own life.  Now I must advise that one must also be willing to listen to their own intuition above anyone else's teaching, no matter how much logic goes into what they say.  I learned that lesson years ago, but apparently not well enough!  I still see the FlyLady's point regarding shoes, I just can't live by her advice any longer full-time.  To be clear, I still completely agree in getting up, showering or bathing (if not done the night before), getting dressed, brushing teeth & fixing hair/face upon awakening each morning.  That tip drastically simplifies life.  I just keep my shoes off in the house and keep a pair of minimalist shoes near the front door now.  Problem solved!

Here's to being an occasionally rebellious organized minimalist,
Liz

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