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Pigeon toed: a minimalist mistake

Chucks. As a child I had to wear corrective shoes because I was pigeon toed. They were big and clunky. I wanted what the other kids were wearing: chucks.

This frisson left me with a keen interest in shoes. In Kenya the style was ankle-high black boots with pointy toes and elastic gores. I had them. I was no longer the kid in corrective shoes. In the 1970s my fashion idols were hippies (eyeroll). I started wearing Earth Shoes. I would have been better off with what my body asked for: chucks.

Minimalist. Fast forward a few decades. One night at tango I saw a guy whose dancing I admired wearing minimalist shoes.

My cool shoe alarm went off. I got a pair like he had. I started wearing minimalist shoes for both dancing and walking. My feet complained, forcing me to back off the minimalist bullshit. I was back to normal shoes with cushioning. Wisdom had prevailed.

Carkeek. Then along came covid. Walking replaced dancing as my main source of exercise. I was in terrible shape. Dancing had not been keeping me aerobically fit. I got winded walking up molehills in Crown Hill. My wisdom engineered it so I would find that out and be forced to get in shape. It was all in the timing.

Rockin' live version. I started a walking program, gradually increasing my mileage until I was walking 12-15 miles per 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.

Burrito. The walking program was going really well when the minimalist bug came back to bite me in the ass. I shopped for minimalist walking shoes, and my wisdom steered me to the ultimate: water shoes. They weighed nothing and I could roll 'em up like a burrito. These are selling points? The gospel of shoe minimalism proclaims you can 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. I was fixated on the water shoes. My wisdom had given them to me, right? So I had to learn a whole new way of walking. I did OK with them on Carkeek trails, but on asphalt and concrete, ouch. It was a mile from home to Carkeek, longer to my favorite entrances. And then back home after the park segment, all hard surface. My poor unprotected feet. I learned how to replace my heel strike with a roll, but it still hurt. So I dove into an in-depth 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. I developed a detailed technique for walking uphill, downhill, and flat-track, but especially downhill. Meanwhile my poor feet were a mess: stone bruises, painful calluses, blisters on sometimes as many as eight toes, blackening toenails.

Buttah. I wish I could say I had an aha! moment. There were several. It took two or three days. But it finally got through. My wisdom had given me enough rope, a favorite teaching strategy. 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. The upside was I 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 and down, at peace with the earth. Minimalist footwear was a mistake I needed to make.

Ramping up. Twelve to fifteen miles per day was great for ramping up, but more than I need ongoing. Now I walk in Merrell hiking shoes with lugged Vibram soles. In a twist of fate it was Merrell minimalist running shoes that caught my eye back in tango that night. Before I moved to my new home, and for a little while after, I did intense stair workouts using the principle of fartlek. That gave me a great workout with lower mileage. Now I, well, here. Read all about it.

I'm still pigeon toed.