Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Why Are Nipples Less Shocking Than Toes?

First, a word of clarification: I'm talking about my nipples. Some people's nipples are more shocking than others.
This was the most recent blogger-appropriate picture I could find
Over my running career I've run in a variety of states of dress and undress.  I've run in a shirt and shoes, I've run in a shirt and no shoes, I've run in shoes and no shirt, and I've run with no shirt or shoes. Now, it's perhaps not surprising that someone might raise an eyebrow at any one or all of those combinations, but what really surprises me is how much more of a reaction I get barefoot than shirtless.
There is a correlation between barefoot running and heart attacks; it's just other people's hearts that have the problem
And it's not just a difference in the level of reaction, either; there's a difference in the type of reaction. If you go about your day without a shirt on you'll get a reaction--specifically, a get-out-of-here-you-smelly-bum sort of reaction. However, if you go around without shoes on people assume you need helpAre you okay? Did you lose your shoes? Were your shoes stolen? Were you in some sort of shoe-related accident? Were you chased by an ax murderer through wet cement? Barefootedness is something for which people desperately need an explanation. 

Once I was running barefoot along the road and some people stopped their car and asked if I needed help. I thanked them and said no, I was fine. But they couldn't let it go.  "But... but you're barefoot..."  Had I been a more experienced barefoot runner I would have had a ready retort ("Oh my goodness, you're right!  Where did my shoes go?!"), but instead we both stared at each other quizzically for a brief moment until they drove on.  
"Roll up the window honey, and don't point at the crazy man"
Another time our apartment manager saw me running barefoot near our apartment and concluded that I had either gotten locked out or had been kicked out by my wife. Guy running around barefoot? There must be an explanation. 

I can't help wondering if this also explains the way people react to footwear. When I wear minimalist shoes like my Merrill Trail Gloves, no one really notices. When I wear Vibram FiveFingers (where people can tell that I have toes) I start getting weird looks. (I once was standing in a race corral wearing my VFFs when a small boy walked up to me, looked me in the eye, and pointed at my feet.  He didn't say anything but it was pretty clear he was thinking "Dude, what is wrong with you?"). When I'm in huaraches (where people can see my toes), I start getting much weirder looks. When I run barefoot--well, at that point people usually feel they need to intervene.

So what do you folks think? Are your experiences the same? Or do I just need to start waxing my toes?
I thought it looked more masculine this way


  1. The most common comment for when I pass runners or regular bystanders with naked feet is generally the same word. "Ouch".

    The funny thing is I just ran the Seattle Rock 'N Roll 1/2 marathon in Lunas. I got lots of comments and they were mostly "That's badass. You're hardcore" and one lady telling me I was a Roman / Greek god. In Luna's home town I heard just one spectator say "Check it out, he's wearing Lunas". In a race of 22K entrants I saw a handful of VFF runners and a few others in minimal shoe models but only one other fellow huarache runner rocking the Invisible Shoes connect.

    It was also amusing to show up to a recent Seattle road 15K that had a Barefoot division with special prizes (VFF, Lunas, and naked feet counted) and I was the only person to run with naked feet.

    Super minimal running footwear is still very much a fringe thing!

    1. I get "ouch" a lot. I ran the San Diego RnR marathon this month in Lunas, and I was struck by how few of the 50k+ runners were wearing minimalist shoes--usually I see a bunch of VFFers.

      I like the term "naked feet." Maybe that's what barefoot runners will start using now that "barefoot" has been co-opted by the shoe companies.

    2. It is not much different here in Brazil. Last sunday I participated in a Half Marathon and I did not see anyone wearing VFFs or Lunas or Invisibles.

      And in that particular race I was shod (because of a Top of Foot Pain).

    3. That is so true but I can one up it. I ran with some buddys (on a dare)at a nudist camp. It was a 5k and Of corse I ran barefoot which I always do if at all possible. It was very hilly and ran through a lot of homes on paved roads. At one of the turns a large group of full time residents had gathered for coffee and to cheer us on, about 200 people, and as I ran through the crowd got real quiet until one lady literally yelled out, he's not wearing shoes! I started laughing as I was leaving the crowd, I was running butt naked except for a hat and they were freaked out because I was barefoot. Another girl screamed out "don't stub your toe". When I finally got to the end of the race it took me a while to find my friends since we were all wearing the same outfits.

    4. I've got to say, more than any story I've heard that sums up how weird people are about bare feet.