Barefoot in Asia – Regev’s Review

Posted by | Posted in Barefoot Hiking, Barefoot Sandals, Barefoot Shoes, Minimalist Running Shoes | Posted on 06-03-2012

I just realized that I have a strange history with barefoot running, barefoot walking, and minimalist shoes.

First, like most of us, I spent a lot of time barefoot as a kid in the Summer. I went to a camp in the Pocono Mountains (Camp Shohola just in case any readers also went there) and whenever I had the chance, I was barefoot (made easier by the fact that I spent half of my days doing water sports). I was a competitive diver, too, so that kept me out of shoes.

In junior high school and high school, I was a gymnast, so that was even more barefoot time every day.

When I was 18, I went to New York City to be a street performer. I had already been doing this in Washington, DC, doing a magic act in Georgetown, and on K Street, near the White House. When I got to NYC, though, I found it much harder to get a crowd and, even worse, within a few weeks, the other street magicians had stolen all my bits! I asked one of the veteran street acts what I should do and  he said, “Simple, write an act that nobody would dare steal.”

I pondered this for a while, until I landed on the answer. I created an act that had a bunch of crazy gymnastics in it (I did a running front flip over someone’s head, stealing their hat and placing it on my head while in mid-flip), and a finale where I… wait for it… walked on broken glass in my bare feet.

Now let me back up. For the gymnastics part of the act, I wore minimalist shoes. They were some old Adidas (I can’t remember the name), with zero-drop, very little toe spring, not much padding. Just enough between me and the ground so I didn’t kill my feet. This was in 1980-81, BTW.

I loved these shoes. I bought every pair I could find. When I could no longer find them, I asked the local running shoe store what happened and he answered, “Adidas stopped selling them; they were lasting too long.”

I don’t know if his info was accurate but, if it was, it wouldn’t be the first time a company pulled a product that didn’t wear out or go obsolete fast enough.

Luckily, I found a company that sold shoes to prisons (you can find ANYTHING in NYC), and they had the last few pairs of these shoes… I bought them all. And they lasted through some serious abuse.

Okay, back to walking barefoot on glass, though. Let’s just say that it’s part physics, part showmanship, and part some-hard-to-describe-thing that, if I could convince you to jump onto a 3″ high pile of shattered beer bottles, you would instantly get a knowing look in your eye and say, “Ahhh… I get it now.”

In 5 years and thousands of shows, I only got one small cut. But by the end of the day, my feet were FILTHY from being barefoot on the street.

CUT TO: Going to Asia in 1989.

This is where I got hooked on being barefoot. Aside from the fact that you never wear shoes into almost any building (I was in China, Nepal, India and Thailand), there were plenty of opportunities to be barefoot outside as well. There were also plenty of times where you wanted something on your feet, but not much because it was really hot when I was there, and anything more than a sandal was way too much.

When I came back from Asia, I stuck with the habit of removing my shoes whenever I went into someone’s home (we’ve saved a fortune on carpet cleaning by not dragging dirt in from the outside).

Okay, so why this long story?

Simple, I was reminded of it all when Regev Elya did his review of Invisible Shoes, which he took on a 7-month trip through Southeast Asia (I’m SO jealous).

Of course, I think that Invisible Shoes are the best minimalist shoes for a trip like that… but check out what Regev says.

Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro Barefoot

Posted by | Posted in Barefoot Hiking | Posted on 01-02-2012

Congrats to Ross Tucker and his co-climbers who climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro totally barefoot!

One of the things Ross discusses is how, when he told people that he wanted to make the barefoot attempt, he was met with disbelief, mocking, and all manner of non-support.

Sound familiar, barefoot runners?

I emailed him in advance of his trip to show him my video of shoveling snow barefoot and let him know I was positive he would make it, and have fun doing it. In fact, I was totally jealous and wished I could make the flight to do the trip with him (besides, since I live at 5600′, I thought I’d have an advantage).

Now, Ross and his team didn’t take this mission lightly. They didn’t wake up one morning and think, “Hey, let’s take a hike… barefoot… up the tallest mountain in Africa!”

They did a lot of preparation — Ross did less than the others because he joined later. I argued that they did more than they needed. But the point is that they built up to the task rather than simply pretending they were still wearing shoes. I say this to the runners who think that they can simply take off their shoes and pop a barefoot marathon (I know people who’ve done that without a problem, but they’re the exception, not the rule).

I can’t wait to see what new barefoot adventures people tackle in the future.

Congrats again, Ross and the team!

Barefoot hiking and walking are fun, too!

Posted by | Posted in Barefoot Hiking | Posted on 06-01-2012

Barefoot hiking may be the next minimalist/barefoot trend.

While barefoot running is the thing that became popular (thanks in large part to Christopher McDougall’s book, Born to Run), I’ve noticed in the last few months that:

  • Many new barefoot runners haven’t read, or even heard of, Chris’s book
  • A significant percentage of our customers are not runners, but hikers, walkers, gym-goers, yoga practitioners, and CrossFit-ers

And, more and more, I get emails and photos from people showing them at the top of some mountain, either barefoot or in their Invisible Shoes. A lot of times their emails will say, “I brought my running sandals with me to use around the campsite or if I was going through water and didn’t want my shoes to get wet. But it was so much more fun to feel the ground as I hiked, that I just put my hiking boots in my pack and wore my huaraches instead.”

I know the feeling. I haven’t worn real shoes for anything like a hike since the Summer of 2009, and the idea of balancing on my stiff hiking boot soles instead of gripping the rocks and roots isn’t at all appealing. And it’s  definitely one of my favorite moments when I come upon a small stream to cross, and see a handful of hikers trying to figure out how to make it without getting their feet wet… and then I just plod through the water without breaking stride ;-)

Frankly, I love the idea that minimalism and barefoot and natural movement make it beyond the world of running, beyond the question of performance (e.g. “do you run faster barefoot?” or “is barefoot running better than shod running?”). After you’ve been barefoot for a while, you simply love the way it feels in every circumstance.

Granted, I also think that being barefoot or truly minimalist has other advantages — all those nerves in the bottom of your feet are there for a reason; use ‘em or lose ‘em. But if the only reason people take off their motion-controlled shoes is for fun, that’s good enough for me! And if they decide to wear Invisible Shoes for those times where a little bit of protection or style are needed, I won’t complain ;-)

Oh, backing up to the reason I wrote this post: There’s a great story today about a woman who climbed Kilimanjaro barefoot.