In a recent issue of New York magazine, Adam Sternbergh accuses, "You Walk Wrong." And I can't help but think that his insight into feet has spiritual application for Western Christians.
As the title suggests, Sternbergh claims that none of us walks correctly. But it's not our fault; it's shoes. "Shoes are bad," he claims. In fact, he cites researcher William Rossi as saying, "Natural gait is biomechanically impossible for any shoe-wearing person." After comparing the feet of 180 people from different cultures, along with a few feet from 2,000-year-old skeletons, researchers concluded that feet were healthier before shoes became fashionable (the skeleton feet were better off). And people who don't wear shoes - Zulus, in this case - have healthier feet than we Westerners. Athletes who wear cheaper, less padded, shoes have fewer injuries. Elderly people with back, knee, and hip problems report less pain when barefoot. This is, to oversimplify, because feet absorb shock better than shoes (because they flex) and because we walk lighter when barefoot (because we can feel the ground).
Growing up, I loved the feeling of shag carpet and cool mud between my toes and feeling the earth as God made it, with all its points and sharp edges. So I was particularly pleased at Sternbergh's conclusion: that our feet - and the rest of our ambulating parts by extension - are healthier when we avoid the temptation to wrap them in foam. Lacing up to avoid the momentary discomforts of walking unshod causes long-term problems, because although our feet adjust to walking without shoes, our joints never adjust to walking with them.
Now for the spiritual application.
Our culture is determined to mediate its own experiences, so that we feel what we want ...