Table of Contents

Pigeon toed

Cool shoes. As a child I had to wear corrective shoes because I was pigeon-toed. They were big and clunky, and I wanted to wear what the other kids were wearing, i.e. chucks. This frisson left me with a heightened interest in shoes, cool shoes.

Elastic gores. In Kenya the must-have style was ankle-high black boots with pointy toes and elastic gores, and I had 'em. I was no longer the kid in corrective shoes. In the 70s my fashion idols were cool hippies (eyeroll), so I started wearing Earth Shoes. OMFG, was there ever an uglier shoe? If so I don't wanna know about it.

Minimalist. Fast forward a few decades, and one night at tango I see a guy whose dancing I admired wearing minimalist running shoes. Immediately my cool shoe alarm goes off. I get a pair like he had, then other brands, and from then on my shoes, for both dance and walking, are some kind of minimalist.

Complaints. At some point my feet began to complain, and I was forced to back off minimalist dancing, but the fascination remained. I still loved walking around my hood in 'em. But complaints from my feet continued, and I gradually drifted back to normal shoes with cushioning.

Then along came covid, and walking replaced dancing as my main source of exercise. I discovered I was in terrible shape: dancing hadn't been keeping me aerobically fit. I got winded walking up molehills. I started a walking program, gradually increasing my mileage until I was walking 12-15 miles/day, with plenty of hills. Carkeek Park was my favorite destination because the woods were so pretty, and there were plenty of nice steep trails. I'd been a dedicated trail runner in Boulder, and a little of that resurfaced.

Bite me in the ass. The walking program was going really well when the minimalist bug came back to bite me in the ass. I started looking at minimalist walking shoes, and my wisdom helpfully steered me to the ultimate: water shoes. You know, for when you're playing in the water but it's rocky on the bottom so you need a little protection.

They weighed nothing, and I could roll 'em up like a burrito. They had 3D-printed mesh fabric that let water in and out, but not grit. On my first outing I wore 'em into the water at Carkeek, and they worked great. However, I vowed never to do that again. It was not much fun walking home in wet shoes.

Concrete. Part of the gospel of shoe minimalism is you can really feel the earth under your feet. And it's true. One thing I learned the hard way is asphalt is mighty hard underfoot, but not as hard as concrete. Lotta concrete streets in my hood.

Heel strike. So I had to learn a whole new way of walking, because heel strike. It wasn't a problem on the trails, but on the asphalt & concrete, ouch. It was over a mile from home to Carkeek, longer to my favorite entrances. And then back home after the park segment, all hard surface. Ow ow ow. I gradually learned how to replace the heel strike with a roll, but it was still dicey. So I dove into an in-depth deconstruction & analysis of my gait. I applied everything I'd learned in tango about walking; I reviewed what I'd learned in tai chi decades ago.

Technique. I developed detailed technique for walking uphill, downhill, and flat-track, but especially downhill. It's so much harder on my feet, the downhill heel strike; I would quail when a big downhill gaped before me. But I was gradually getting better at it. Meanwhile my poor feet were a mess: stone bruises, painful calluses, blisters on sometimes as many as 8 toes, blackening toenails. But I was gradually getting better at it, wasn't I?

Aha! I wish I could say I had an aha! moment, but there were several; it took 2 or 3 days. But it finally got through. My feet. Need. Protection. There's a reason shoes have cushioning, and a raised heel: to protect the foot. My feet are old, and what I could (unwisely) get away with before don't cut it no more.

Buttah. The upside was that I really had relearned how to walk, and I kept all that, only now in sensible shoes. My walk is now smooth like buttah; I glide through my hood uphill & down, at peace with the earth. I'm still pigeon-toed.