Walk a mile in another man’s shoes.

One of the big issues in our family this week has been shoes. My little granddaughter is 14 months and is now walking everywhere. In the old days (a few weeks ago) I would take her out for a walk in her push chair and she would sit there quite happily watching the world go by, pointing at the seagulls (birdies) and the dogs (woow woows).  Now we barely get half way along the prom and its all arms in the air and a little grizzle to make her point that she wants out.

At the moment its sort of ok. We usually keep to the grass and I go ahead to check for anything untoward in her path.  Her mum has now decided that the time has come for shoes.  She spent quite some time measuring the little feet and even more time on choosing what sorts of shoes to buy.  If you go on line you will be amazed at the variety of shoes on offer for kids who in truth will grow out of them almost as soon as you open the box.

She loves her new shoes…she just doesn’t want to wear them!

Our first attempts at getting her to wear her beautiful brand new sandals didn’t go too well. She likes them.  She likes taking them out of the box and then putting them back in again.  She likes to bite them and throw them it’s just the putting them on and wearing them is where we have a problem. 

No problem at all getting her to wear Bampy’s shoes!

It is difficult being a parent for the first time and I think now more than ever before because there is so much information about.  The trouble is a lot of it is contradictory and confusing. When I became a parent, we had the health visitor and the odd good parenting book and of course we had a generation of parents and grandparents who had seen it all before. Nowadays the internet is a mine of information with all sorts of advice from people, some who are qualified and many who are not.

For example, there are sleep apps for baby, or if that doesn’t work you can bring in a sleep consultant if baby won’t get into a routine.  In fact, the routine they suggest usually means the whole family has to join in too.  There is the process of winding down with coloured lights, soothing, heartbeat tempo’d music and essential oils vaporised by a very expensive diffuser bought from Amazon.  All of which reminded me of being in a spa rather than a kids bedroom. I have to say I found it works.  I did the routine once and within 10 minutes I was fast asleep!!

There’s a food app which seems to suggest no sugar and no salt rule until they are nearly into their mid-teens.  No chocolate or ice cream???  For goodness sake I’m a grandfather, buying chocolate and ice cream are in the grandfather’s job description.

Of course, at times like these I like to bring my long years of fatherhood into the discussion.  My daughter and I concluded that in time she would get used to the shoe wearing regime. Then it struck me, why does she have to wear shoes? 

A couple of years ago I came across ‘The Barefoot Running Book’.  The basic idea is that as jogging gained in popularity in the 1970’s people took to buying running shoes which had padding, and shock absorption built in that actually changed the way people ran.  Some believed that instead of preventing injuries they actually caused problems including ankle sprains and lower leg problems. So, some runners went back to the future by starting to run barefoot.

It’s not as crazy as it might seem.  Think about it for a minute, for thousands of years people didn’t wear shoes, they walked and ran and hunted bare foot and over time their feet got calloused and developed such a hard natural covering that they could walk over any terrain. I suppose that as humans spread to colder wetter climes wrapping their feet for warmth and protection was a good idea but I’m pretty sure they didn’t have stilettos or platform shoes in mind when the idea of shoes first started catching on.

Anyway, the new breed of barefoot runners claimed many positives from ditching the trainers.  Benefits like strengthening the muscles and tendons in the foot which meant they ran more as nature intended. It reduced Achilles tendon and calf muscle injuries, improved balance and helped to connect the runner to their environment making the runner one with the world.

Of course, the more I read, the more convinced I became that going bare footed was for me.  One of my great inspirations was Rick Roeber.  It is said that dedicated barefoot runner Rick has been running bare foot since 2003.  The first thing that struck me when I read that was, firstly, he must be pretty tired by now. My second thought, I wonder how far he was from home!

Taking Rick as my guide I thought I’d give it a try. After years of socks and shoes I was definitely a ‘tenderfoot’ so I decided that I would walk down to the prom in shoes before taking them off and hiding them under a bush. I would then start running barefoot along the front, sticking as much as possible to the grass verge.

To be honest I liked it.  I found that it really did change the way I ran.  Instead of landing heavily on my heels I found that I ran more in a ‘tippy toe’ fashion with the impact being taken on the ball of my foot.  This meant that the first few times I ran bare foot my feet, ankles and lower legs seemed to ache a little more the next day. This wasn’t because of the impact of running but because they all had to work harder to keep me going. After a while that aching disappeared. I also got to like the feel of the grass and the occasional tarmac path under my feet. I really did feel more connected to the earth.

For a week or so that summer I continued with the barefooted running regime.  I got used to the funny looks from people as I ran past them lifted my knees and feet like some show pony at an expensive gymkhana. I even found my feet toughening up so that I didn’t feel the little stones and other bits of detritus on the path as much as I did at first…but eventually summer turned to autumn and then winter and before I knew it I was back to a full track suit and trainers.

I understand that my granddaughter will eventually wear shoes.  All of her friends and family wear shoes, society expects it but if it means for a few months more she can enjoy the feel of the earth beneath her feet, as long as I make sure the path is clear, well I hope she enjoys the freedom.

1 thought on “Walk a mile in another man’s shoes.”

  1. Just read your article- lovely to see you and your grand daughter this morning in Langland. She is beautiful and yes I agree why force her to wear shoes. She will be wearing then fur the rest of her life.

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