This past week, I was rather disturbed by a commentary article posted on the University News’s website. This article, titled “The UD Barefoot Phenomena,” shocked me in its unmerited libel of the barefoot persons of our University. The article, the structure of which surely wishes it could be as eloquent and flexible as the five paragraph essay, levies an assault on those who find themselves more comfortable with less shoes. While I myself am not a member of this community of shoeless wunderkinds, I do consider myself an ally of the the community, and here intend to support them in the best way I know how: relentless deconstruction of the arguments of those who wish to asphyxiate the phalanges of our student body.
The essential thrust of the argument is the threat barefootedness poses to the health and well-being of shoeless persons. While there is certainly some validity to this claim, there is just as much “science-supported” evidence that advocates for the health benefits of stepping out of the shoes. Leaving aside the totalitarian desire to force shoeness on our student body, I hope to briefly deconstruct the objections, and prove that barefootedness is not something Frodo would “DISAPPROVE” of, but something that he would celebrate.
While it is clear that the ground poses certain dangers to unburdened feet, such as glass, holes, and the alleged flood of legos that have taken over the Mall, the writer fails to account for basic awareness on the part of the shoeless persons of the community. While those of us who blunder around heavy-footed may have long ago ceased to pay attention to where we place our feet, those enlightened free-footed folks by necessity have a more keen and discerning awareness of their surroundings. If this were really an issue, it seems peculiar that in my four-and-a-half years at this university, I have never once seen an unfortunate soul suffer evisceration at the “hands” of a lego brick.
Now, the writer astutely observes that things can fall on our feet. This is quite true. Leaving aside that flip-flops and sandals provide exactly as much protection as barefootedness, I would say that most shoes do not really provide any important degree of additional protection. Using the writer’s example, if a weighted bar at the gym were to fall on my foot when I was wearing my sneakers I work out in, my first thought would not be a prayer of thanksgiving for the sixteenth of an inch of fabric that cushioned the blow. It would more likely be something unpublishable. Now, perhaps if the options before us were only barefootedness and steel-toed boots, this worry would be legitimate. But, as this is not a steel mill, I do not find this objection compelling.
As a veteran of a high school JV Cross Country team, I understand the threat of shin splints only too well. Had I run as far, fast, and often as the varsity runners, I may even have been in danger of getting them at some point. But the association with bare feet and shin splints is overstated. One is just as likely to get shin splints if they fail to replace their normal athletic shoes. And while perhaps heavy athletic activity in bare feet could raise the likelihood of shin splints further, the inclusion of the effects of exercising barefoot seems out of place in what is effectively a rant directed towards people sitting around the cap bar patio.
To conclude, this article is nothing more than an unwarranted public gripe against those brave members of our community who are able to bare their authentic selves, unafraid of the judgment of others. And, if we were to ask any average hobbit, I think they would be less interested in chewing out humans who go barefooted, and more interested in minding their own business.