Growing Up Barefoot

by Guest on April 11, 2011

Guest Post by Ariele M. Huff.

“Let your feet feel the power of the earth,” my father would say as we did our yoga practice.

My parents would have been called “bohemians” when they first got together in 1948. Artists with definite but offbeat opinions about health, they embraced first the “beat” generation, and then the hip culture. They were promoting bare feet from the beginning.

Since it was common to have a boat motor being built in the living room and mirror balls constructed on the kitchen table, we were encouraged, for those activities, to wear the only shoe we ever wore at home—Capezio Rhythmic Sandals. They were sand-colored and made of suede—a thin layer for upper and for sole with a light elastic across the top of the foot. They looked a bit like elf shoes without the pointed curled toes and were certainly used along with such costumes at school.

We wore them to clamber all over the gravelly roof shingles (yes, that’s right!), to build the brick fireplace, to paint the house, to dance (especially good for dances requiring sliding), and to do anything else parents wanted a thin protection between us and potential pointy things.

At about ten, my high arches caught some doctor’s eye, and he suggested a specialist who, unscrupulously, proposed an operation on both my feet. In my memory, he was recommending bones and muscles moved to different locations, though I hope that’s incorrect. I’d hate to think any children experienced this at his hands!

Fortunately, my parents openly scoffed. They did allow him to create a pair of orthotics for me—devices of torture that I wore for a few days until my knees literally buckled under me, sending me tumbling to the gym floor. Goodbye orthotics…and, for me, good riddance!

Take a walk in the sand!

My one childhood foot wound was a two-inch-long sliver received from a barky log on an unpopulated island where we were camping. Any doctor was hours away by our small motorboat, and evening was fast approaching. My father whipped out a tiny emergency scalpel, some analgesic cream, and his best bravado while my mother held my hand and went pale. Out came the splinter and our month on the island could continue for another two weeks.

At sixteen, still barefoot, I was training for a Physical Education test involving fancy rope jumping. Wanting to get a great grade, I pounded my arches into a paste—laming up before the test could even be taken.

Determined not to take me back to the cut-and-sew specialist, my parents took me for a consultation with a local naturopath who had guru status in the Seattle area at that time. Dr. Gold listened patiently to my foot history, gently handled and noted my already nicely thickened soles, and parted with one sentence to cover diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis.

“Perfect feet if she runs in the sand…barefoot.”

Imagine our delight! We lived close to a dozen lovely beaches, and, in the sixties, they were still quite clean and sparsely used. My feet were back to normal in a week or two. (I did, later, take the jumping rope test and got an A+.)

Photo Credit: jenny downing on Flickr

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