An interesting analogy between barefoot running and cycling:
For years it has been ingrained in to folk that go hill-walking that it
is *essential* to wear “stout footwear with proper ankle support”, with
the latter taken to mean a high lacing cuff and the phrase really
meaning big, stiff hiking boots.
In more recent times folk have started to realise that this is a lot of
tosh, and in fact the literature on foot injuries tells you
counter-intuitive things about how and when feet get injured (like more
often in shoes than barefoot). Such people have started taking to the
hills in sandals and trainers, realising that the human foot isn’t an
evolutionary misfire but is perfectly capable of looking after itself as
long as the user engages in the ancient Zen mind-trick known as “looking
where they’re going”.
But you tell this to the boot die-hards, and they look at the scuffs on
their dreadnoughts and say they prefer intact toes to bloody puddings on
the end of their feet, and how their boots have saved them from terrible
injury etc. etc.
I used to preach the gospel of Big Boots too, but entering a Mountain
Marathon had a curative effect. All these people doing this regularly,
faster and over rougher terrain than I usually do, and hardly a pair of
boots in sight, perhaps they know something I’ve not been accepting?
c.f. cycling trip in Amsterdam and helmets…
This analogy is from by Peter Clinch, from Dundee, Scotland.
I love this part:
the ancient Zen mind-trick known as “looking where they’re going”
This highlights the difference in philosophy between the two groups. One trusts the capabilities of the body, prefers less equipment, and takes responsibility for being cautious enough to avoid injuries. The other relies on technology to compensate for higher risk taking.
The belief in the “protection” provided by shoes is not much different from the belief in the “protection” provided by cycling helmets:
- Both appear to “protect”, even though they can result in increased injuries.
- Both seem so “obvious” than few people question them.
- Both are harmful in ways that are counter-intuitive.
- Both have their strong advocates who show an almost religious faith in them.
- Both tend to induce a false sense of safety, resulting in increasing risk taking and increased injuries.
In cycling, as the shoulders are much wider than the head, most falls do not result in the head touching the ground. Should it happen, the scalp makes the head slide, reducing friction and rotation. This reduces the risk of brain injury through rotational acceleration. However, with a helmet, the larger volume of the head makes it more likely for the head to hit the ground. If it does, the polystyrene helmet tends to stick to the road and generate high rotational acceleration, increasing the risk of serious brain injury. This is an odd form of “protection”.
It is strange how we can so easily be fooled into accepting “protective” equipment that is not necessary, and can even be harmful. After the helmet law was introduced in Australia, the risk of accidents doubled, while the risk of head injury increased. The commercial interests of helmet manufacturers have been a big influence in pushing for helmet legislation, funding favorable “studies” and inducing fear through scare-tactics advertising. It takes independent thinking to escape such insidious influence.
Next time somebody tries to sell you “safety” equipment, do not blindly accept it.
Ask whether the risks warrant additional equipment.
Consider whether the “safety” equipment could be doing more harm than good.