And it pains me to say this, because I so love being barefoot. Wearing shoes just doesn’t feel… the same. I want to feel every speck of gravel, sand and broken glass beneath the raw skin of my feet. I want to experience the wetness of the earth, and splash my naked feet in every passing shore or puddle. I want to squish the mud between my toes. I want to feel the heat of the pavement penetrate directly into my feet, burning them with stimulation.
But the truth is, the same beautiful earth I yearn to feel licking and burning my bare feet is also the host of many hazards, to which my naked feet are highly vulnerable. I learned this the hard way. Everyone’s had the occasional careless encounter with a splinter or a shard of broken glass. Uncomfortable, but no big deal. No harm done, on the long run. Some occasional, minor irritation is inevitably fated for your feet, considering how frequently you use them.
But the real danger lies in the great outdoors, which is full or foreign substances and objects, unbeknownst to you and your delicate and unsuspecting feet, but which your feet are sure to find, if you forget to wear your shoes.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t go outdoors, don’t get me wrong. Nature exists for you to explore, discover and experience, that’s why evolution gave you feet to, to walk with, but Mother Nature is a temple shared by many, and there’s no telling who’s tread the path you walk before you, or what they’ve left behind. So go, immerse yourself in nature, but be responsible. Wear shoes. Protect yourself.
And you can be as free and naked as you please, everywhere except your point of impact. So strip down, by all means, but keep your boots on. Being naked in nature is a basic human right. But whatever you do, don’t get naked and barefoot at the ruins of a demolished dump in Albany and blindly step on something invisibly embedded in some ivy that penetrates your foot with all the force of your entire body weight, which hurts a lot on impact, and continues hurting well over a week, immobilizing you and forcing you to finally apply for health insurance and seek legitimate medical care, or risk losing your foot forever.
And trust me, I’m the last person to encourage doing any of these things. I avoid both shoes and hospitals at almost any cost. I’ve spent the first 23 years of my life avidly neglecting these responsibilities. That’s how I figured out they’re so important. So take it from me, the girl who impaled her foot on a what I can only hope wasn’t a used needle or rusty nail that almost cost me my ability to venture out into nature ever again.
In the past, I’ve stubbornly always relied on the pull-out method, which can seem like a sound alternative to the barefoot-enthusiast still in denial of the very real risks attached. Which you’d think I would have learned the first time I treked barefoot through the same abandoned dump, through sand, debris and dirty water, predictably resulting in a gnarly gash at the base of my left heal. I remember thinking, “I should be more careful next time… maybe keep my shoes on.
Which I did not, predictably resulting in the stab wound to the same spot on the opposite foot. And whereas the pull-out slash soak-in-baking-soda slash minor-home-surgery-reopening-with-needle-to-remove-debris-still-trapped-in-wound method was effective on the minor surface scrape, the same method would have failed my potentially-tetanus-infested possibly-fatal-if-left-untreated-accidental-right-foot-piercing. Because although the object did, indeed, pull out, I shudder to think what it might have left behind, and who else’s feet it may have penetrated prior to penetrating mine.
So if you must go traipsing naked in the woods, or overgrown abandoned dump, or any other pointy-object riddled territory, aka anywhere outside your house, make sure you keep your shoes on. Immerse yourself in the ecstasy of the great outdoors, but know that space is shared by filthy, disease-infested strangers.
And don’t forget your socks.