I just realized that I have a strange history with barefoot running, barefoot walking, and minimalist shoes.
First, like most of us, I spent a lot of time barefoot as a kid in the Summer. I went to a camp in the Pocono Mountains (Camp Shohola just in case any readers also went there) and whenever I had the chance, I was barefoot (made easier by the fact that I spent half of my days doing water sports). I was a competitive diver, too, so that kept me out of shoes.
In junior high school and high school, I was a gymnast, so that was even more barefoot time every day.
When I was 18, I went to New York City to be a street performer. I had already been doing this in Washington, DC, doing a magic act in Georgetown, and on K Street, near the White House. When I got to NYC, though, I found it much harder to get a crowd and, even worse, within a few weeks, the other street magicians had stolen all my bits! I asked one of the veteran street acts what I should do and he said, “Simple, write an act that nobody would dare steal.”
I pondered this for a while, until I landed on the answer. I created an act that had a bunch of crazy gymnastics in it (I did a running front flip over someone’s head, stealing their hat and placing it on my head while in mid-flip), and a finale where I… wait for it… walked on broken glass in my bare feet.
Now let me back up. For the gymnastics part of the act, I wore minimalist shoes. They were some old Adidas (I can’t remember the name), with zero-drop, very little toe spring, not much padding. Just enough between me and the ground so I didn’t kill my feet. This was in 1980-81, BTW.
I loved these shoes. I bought every pair I could find. When I could no longer find them, I asked the local running shoe store what happened and he answered, “Adidas stopped selling them; they were lasting too long.”
I don’t know if his info was accurate but, if it was, it wouldn’t be the first time a company pulled a product that didn’t wear out or go obsolete fast enough.
Luckily, I found a company that sold shoes to prisons (you can find ANYTHING in NYC), and they had the last few pairs of these shoes… I bought them all. And they lasted through some serious abuse.
Okay, back to walking barefoot on glass, though. Let’s just say that it’s part physics, part showmanship, and part some-hard-to-describe-thing that, if I could convince you to jump onto a 3″ high pile of shattered beer bottles, you would instantly get a knowing look in your eye and say, “Ahhh… I get it now.”
In 5 years and thousands of shows, I only got one small cut. But by the end of the day, my feet were FILTHY from being barefoot on the street.
CUT TO: Going to Asia in 1989.
This is where I got hooked on being barefoot. Aside from the fact that you never wear shoes into almost any building (I was in China, Nepal, India and Thailand), there were plenty of opportunities to be barefoot outside as well. There were also plenty of times where you wanted something on your feet, but not much because it was really hot when I was there, and anything more than a sandal was way too much.
When I came back from Asia, I stuck with the habit of removing my shoes whenever I went into someone’s home (we’ve saved a fortune on carpet cleaning by not dragging dirt in from the outside).
Okay, so why this long story?
Simple, I was reminded of it all when Regev Elya did his review of Xero Shoes, which he took on a 7-month trip through Southeast Asia (I’m SO jealous).
Of course, I think that Xero Shoes are the best minimalist shoes for a trip like that… but check out what Regev says.