So you’ve been leaving your car at home and walking to work. You’re strolling to the bus stop, or to the subway; walking to the grocery store, and to pick up the kids at school. You think you’re doing everything exactly right. At the very least, you’re taking a step in the right direction. But, says Adam Sternbergh, a writer for New York Magazine, pedestrians may be making an ecological choice, but not an ergonomic one. Sternbergh’s verdict? “You walk wrong.”
It’s not you or your gait that’s at fault, he says. It’s your shoes. To solve this quandary, Sternbergh suggests what for many is the unthinkable: go barefoot.
From New York Magazine:
Shoes are bad. I don’t just mean stiletto heels, or cowboy boots, or tottering espadrilles, or any of the other fairly obvious foot-torture devices into which we wincingly jam our feet. I mean all shoes. Shoes hurt your feet. They change how you walk. In fact, your feet—your poor, tender, abused, ignored, maligned, misunderstood feet—are getting trounced in a war that’s been raging for roughly a thousand years: the battle of shoes versus feet.
Sternbergh cites studies and scientific evidence to support his case against footwear. He also notes that, until recently, “walking was for peasants.”
…The idea of strolling idly through urban environments has only been fashionable, or even feasible, in Western society for about 200 years. Before that, cities had few real sidewalks, the streets were swimming in sewage, and walking as a form of locomotion was associated with poverty and the working class. “Only the upper classes, and especially women, could wear shoes that clearly defined an inability to walk very far,” writes Peter McNeil and Giorgio Riello in the essay “Walking the Streets of London and Paris: Shoes in the Enlightenment.” Walking was for peasants, who were “barefoot and pregnant”; the rich, or “well-heeled,” took carriages.
It’s no coincident, then, that the noun “pedestrian” doubles as an adjective to describe a layman. I find it curious that cars are—and always have been—a status symbol. Outside most major cities like NYC, many people regard taking public transit as something only “poor people” do; if you have the cash, you drive a car. Other stereotypes support the idea of cars as status symbols: if you drive a clunker, or don’t have any wheels, you’ll never land a girl; if your car is more than a decade old, it’s time to trade up, even if it works perfectly (what would your friends/co-workers/clients say?). We even watch shows like “Pimp My Ride,” and salivate over the biggest, most bone-crushing vehicles (perhaps because this makes us feel more manly?). Countless drivers see cars as an extension of their being, or a comment on their character (if they drive a Hummer, they’re fronting toughness; a red convertible screams mid-life crisis, unless, of course, you’re Christie Brinkley). As a culture, we have yet to let go of the idea that cars, like any other material bling, make us more valuable.
If you’re a dedicated ped and want what’s best for your feet, stick to the simplest kind of kicks; forget air cushions and supported arches. Curiously, Sternbergh discovered that sneakers priced under $40 were the best for your body. Walk on, peds.
- Pasadena for Peds
- Ciclovia Helps Peds Take Back Baltimore Streets
- Car Dealerships Push Peds Off Streets in Queens, NYC
- As Bangalore Gets Bigger, Peds are Pushed Aside