I have been engaging in a secret pleasure lately. I have been taking walks in my neighborhood in my bare feet.
I have been doing it for a couple of reasons. One reason is that it bothered me that I couldn't walk down my own driveway to get the mail, or even on the wooden steps in my back yard without pain. My feet were too tender. What if the house caught on fire in the middle of the night and I had to run out but couldn't because my feet were too tender? I admit that is an extreme scenario, but still, with such tender feet I feel vulnerable.
Another reason is for the healing aspect of it. My feet hurt so badly when I returned from the PCT I could not even walk bare foot in my kitchen. The pain wasn't the pain of tender bare feet but of broken feet. The kitchen floor was just too hard and my feet just too damaged. It feels like a victory over the damage that I can walk on the pavement and the asphalt at full speed in my bare feet now. The secret to my healing has been the loose freedom of movement that sandals allow and now, bare feet.
Walking bare foot is just as I remembered it as a kid. At first my feet felt tender and when I returned home from a walk the soles felt hot and raw. But they toughened up quickly like I remembered they did when I was a child. It probably helped that they were already a little tough from walking hundreds of miles with sand and small rocks in my shoes. The little tricks I used to have for walking on hot surfaces still work. I walk on the painted lines of the cross walks or the concrete because the heat is reflected and it feels cooler than the blacktop.
I noticed that my toes are more separated than they used to be. I believe this is a result of all that time walking on the PCT wearing men's size 10 shoes. The shoes were very much too big, but they worked for me because my feet were completely unencumbered by them. They kept me from getting blisters and neuromas. It is too bad they wore out and I traded them in for the ones that did the damage. The good side to that experience is now I understand the problem of shoes and how feet really were made good enough just the way they are. Too much support and padding really does harm the feet. It is better for them to be free. Hopefully they will not be crippled again by overly supportive shoes. This is now something I look out for when I buy new shoes.
Summer will end soon and my feet will go back to their shod existence inside their shoe and sock prisons where they will wither and become weak and tender again. But for the remainder of summer, they get to be young and free again.