“Slap, Slap, slap, flap, flap, pinch, squeeze, groan.”

The sound of me, woggling. (To woggle: a verb that describes my: walk/run/wobble exercise technique.) It’s not pretty.  I woggle like a hippo crosses a bed of  hot coals. But, as many have pointed out: I’m doing it. One step, one block one mile, at a time, I’m heading toward heath.

This morning, that journey took me in a direction I wasn’t expecting.  My shins were hurting so much that no amount of stretching, or gait manipulation helped.  I started out with them wrapped- hoping the compression would keep the inflammation down. It didn’t. Around mile 2 I unwrapped them. By mile 4, my gait was so impaired, that other things started hurting.  The balls of my feet felt a little numb.   I felt less than stable in the knees.  All I could think was: I need to get these (very expensive and professionally chosen) shoes off my feet.

Walking barefoot, sounded amazing. Slightly risky and crazy.. but amazing.

So, I took off my shoes and flung them over my shoulder. “Ahhhhhhhh.” My toes uncurled and my feet and lower legs relaxed.

The first few steps were tentative.  I pawed at the ground gingerly, as if it would reach up and grab me by the ankles and pull me down toward my unprotected doom.  It didn’t. Actually, it felt pretty good. Good enough to move to the grass and run a bit. (Yes, barefoot. I’m a risk taker.) While running, I flashed back to being a kid.. I remembered running in the dew-damp grass without ever tiring or feeling sore the next day. I remembered feeling wind in my face while I ran and thinking it was good to be fast.

“CLUNK. POUND. POUND. PAIN.” I hit a driveway. Ouch.  I moved back over to the grass. “Ahhhhh, so much  better.” Every once in a while I hit a wet spot in the grass.. the cool water and grass combination felt wonderful. It was a free foot spa.

I’d forgotten how wonderful it is to run barefoot. My feet, like the rest of me, are usually kept bubble wrap safely away from the world.   They are usually encased in poly-propyl-(whatever maybe they are sup from spiderman silk.. they should be for what they cost) super wicking socks and then ensconced in high tech motion control, gel enhanced( maybe they once belonged to wonder-woman), shoes.

I’ve been doing a bunch of reading about running. (Reading about running.. is pre-training.. AKA: a nice way to avoid actually DOING it..) There is a lot of new research and anecdotal evidence that by creating super “safe” shoes and wearing them exclusively, we’ve managed to create a dependancy on them. The more we wear them, the less exercise those tiny bones and muscles get, the more we need shoes to support and protect our weakened feet… We are: shoe dependent.

I’m not about to give up shoes.. (Puh-leeze. I loves shoes. No matter how fat I am.. they FIT!)  But, I have to admit that today, while I woggled that mile without shoes.. I wondered if  I should do this more often. It was a risk.  I could have stepped on a rock or glass or something worse. But I didn’t.  It felt great.

When I got home.. I wondered about the myriad other ways I keep myself (and my loved ones) safe.  I layer them in warnings and cautionary tales. I ensconce them in helmets and pads and well intended advice. I protect them from rocks of risk and broken bits of glass along their paths.. I remove hazards like I’m on some mom-version of a work-release program..cleaning up the roadside.

What if I’m weakening those small muscles and bones that would enable them to later run whatever path they find themselves on? What if this was part of my training them t grow up strong and healthy?  What if I helped them navigate their paths and chose where to step instead of constantly moving to protect them?  What If I allowed them to hit patches of pavement that were jarring reminders to keep on the grass?

What if I let them take off their shoes and run in the grass?

What if I joined them?

Proverbs 22:6

Train a child in the way he should go,
and when he is old he will not turn from it.

For the record- I wrecked a perfectly good pair of socks this morning….. For my next ‘barefoot” run… I’ll plan ahead and most likely will wear these weird contraptions...vibram five fingers I’ve had them for a year.. may as well be sensible and not worry about actual rocks and glass so much:)