Monday, May 18, 2009

Walking Barefoot: Fun Fitness Trend or Scientific Practical Joke?

Now, if I’d only had these babies…

Like many of my ideas gone awry, it seemed like a good plan at the time. First, it involved walking on a beautiful day and that alone can mitigate many a bad consequence. Second, walking is a time honored bipedal tradition - and one I’m learning to embrace more fully as a legitimate fitness method (Charlotte to Brain: “It is TOO a workout! Shut UP!!”). And lastly, many fitness experts backed up by current research extol the salutary effects of walking. You know I’m a sucker for anything involving research and experts.

Besides, all I needed to do was walk home from my church, a distance just over 4 miles. How could I go wrong with walking?

Problem 1: Footwear. Many of you chimed in over at Cranky Fitness’ insightful and interesting post on what is the deal with women wanting beauty to the exclusion of almost anything else - including comfort. She ‘fessed up to being a lifelong tomboy and I then had to admit to a horrifically stereotypical female adoration of all things girly. Especially tall shoes. And today’s sassy little spring dress called for an adorable-yet-still-aware-of-the-chilly-weather boot. Namely these:

(No, I wasn’t wearing a different color on each foot. I own the brown ones thank you very much.)

With the built-in platform, these babies are 5-inch stiletto heels. Cute but not definitely not up to a 4-mile power walk. (In fact, if I’m being completely honest, they’re barely up to hobbling around indoor spaces for any length of time greater than an hour.) I contemplated my options, roaming my church building for anyone I might know who could give me a ride as I’d had to stay late for a meeting and sent my long-suffering husband home ahead of me with all the children. No rides in sight and hitchhiking not a good option, I decided to just strip off the boots, stuff them in my backpack and walk home. Barefoot.

I was even excited about the prospect as barefoot walking is supposed to be one of the new health crazes (crazies?) and the way home is quite picturesque. Besides, what could be more idyllic than a girl in a spring dress wandering barefoot through the dandelions? I felt like a Monet come to life.

For about the first half mile. Turns out that dandelions are very prickly and lawns in my suburban neighborhood are actually very sparse in comparison to the vast amounts of concrete and asphalt. You think running on concrete/asphalt is hard on your body? Try walking on it. By two miles the soles of my feet were in so much pain that I briefly considered going native and trying to weave myself a pair of sandals… out of plastic bags, fast food wrappers and - most strangely - a Swine Flu mask that I found on the side of the road. (Seriously, what up with the litter Lakeville??)

By mile three I knew I could go no more. My feet burned and my toes were swollen and I was stepping in such a weird way that I’m pretty sure my calves will be in mutiny tomorrow. Stupid boots. Who wears non-functional footwear? Scratch that, who wears non-functional feet?! What is wrong with my pampered tootsies that they can’t even take a four-mile jaunt across sidewalks and lawns? Dejected, I dropped my crazy-heavy backpack and plopped down on top of it, leaning up against the street sign between a lube shop, a Pizza Hut and a motel of a dubious nature. Which is when I realized I’d gone from Girl Walking in Flowers to Girl Doing Apparent Walk of Shame (except I’m already knocked up so it’s like twice the shame!).

I called my husband from my cell phone. “Look honey…” He was worried, “What did you do now?” I hung my head. “I’m just down the street but you’re going to have to pile all the kids in the car and come pick me up. Literally. As in you might have to carry me to the car.” After what seemed like an inordinate amount of time to drive a mile - during which I was amused by Turbo Jennie’s texted adventures in Wal-Mart and the honking of several cars - my family arrived with the two-year-old hoisting a “rescue flag” out the window (handy had I been in an avalanche).

Having spent the rest of the day limping around my house and wincing everytime I stepped on a cheerio, I think I have learned my lesson. And that would be to never trust a researcher wearing shoes. No wait, it would be to always carry a pair of flip flops. Actually, what I learned is that things that sound good in the lab don’t always translate very well to real life.

Any of you ever had to hike in ridiculously inappropriate shoes? Or, like Cranky, do you refuse to suffer for fashion? Anyone else wander barefoot and pregnant through their city streets this weekend?