A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Mindful Walking (2)

The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art. LEONARDO DA VINCI

The feet of the Solitary Walker encased in a pair of Keen walking sandals.

Where does it start? Muscles tense. One leg a pillar, holding the body upright between the earth and sky. The other a pendulum, swinging from behind. Heel touches down. The whole weight of the body rolls forward onto the ball of the foot. The big toe pushes off, and the delicately balanced weight of the body shifts again. The legs reverse position. It starts with a step and then another step and then another that add up like taps on a drum to a rhythm, the rhythm of walking. The most obvious and the most obscure thing in the world, this walking that wanders so readily into religion, philosophy, landscape, urban policy, anatomy, allegory, and heartbreak. REBECCA SOLNIT Wanderlust: A History Of Walking

You don't have to embark on a long and significant trek before engaging in a bit of mindful walking. You only need swing your legs out of bed in the morning, plant them on the floor, and you can begin.

But first let us consider briefly the human foot, that masterpiece of engineering and work of art. It's a wonderful, remarkable thing — one of the most complex mechanical structures in the human anatomy. The foot comprises twenty-six bones (only the hand has more, one more to be exact), thirty-three joints (twenty of them articulated) and over one hundred muscles, tendons and ligaments. The hands and feet alone contain more than half the total number of bones in the human body, and just two bones in each foot carry the bulk of its whole weight.

It's taken four million years of evolution to walk upright. Walking on two legs distinguishes us from the rest of the animal kingdom (ok, birds and kangaroos also manage on two legs, but they hop rather than walk, and use their tails for balance). This miracle of bipedalism was an essential evolutionary step forward in the development of the hominid, leading to our present unique human shape: straight toes, arched feet, long straight legs and spine, flat stomach, flexible waist, low shoulders and erect head.

Now back to those feet on the bedroom floor . . .

Click here for Mindful Walking (1)

(Click here for the daily Turnstone quote.)


Loren said...

Scary. Those could almost be my feet. Love those Keens.

Here in the Northwest, though, we usually wear socks with our sandals.

The Weaver of Grass said...

The trouble is Robert, as I can vouch, the old adage that you start on four legs, go to two and end up with three (an added walking stick) is all too true for me these days.

George said...

i'm interested in those Keen walking sandals, Robert. They appear to be constructed well enough to support a fairly long and arduous walk. Is that the case? I often take walks of five or six miles in sandals and find the whole experience to be quite pleasurable. Sandals always seem to infuse me with a sense of "lightness of being."

Laura said...

I am a runner and regularly appreciate what my feet do for me. For what I love to do - running and walking, my feet are the only required piece of equipment. They are looking more gnarly each year, but I thank them for hanging in with me.

Keen's are great shoes - I use the walking sandals as well as the hiking shoe.

Nick said...

It's the "mindful" bit that's difficult - I find I keep bumping into things. Is there a cure?

The Solitary Walker said...

Like the Germans and the Pacific Northwesterns, I too often wear socks with sandals, Loren!

In that case, I still have four legs, Pat — if you include two walking poles.

George, Keen footwear is excellent: well constructed, hard wearing, grippy and comfortable. I wore these sandals on my last Camino and loved them. As you say, sandals are so "liberating" to walk in — they are so light, flexible, cool and comfortable. I know people who have walked the whole way to Santiago in a pair of these (without socks). They are just as comfortable with socks or without — if I wear socks, I like a pair of thin walking socks or liner socks. Fine in the rain too, as long as it's a warm, summer rain. I couldn't recommend these sandals highly enough and, according to Laura below, the hiking shoes are great as well. The toeguards are essential and brillianbtly effective. One minor irritation: grit and small stones can sometimes get inside. Also, be careful in the fitting to get the right size — I bought some once which were too small (even though they were theoretically my correct size) and very soon my little toes pinched and chafed. Even if the size is slightly larger than your normal size, the design "hugs" and holds firm your foot really well, and it doesn't matter that there's a bigger space than usual between your toes and the toeguard.

Thanks for this, Laura — I've certainly had no problems with my Keen sandals.

Nick, try opening your eyes first and progress from there! Seriously though, bumping into things can be a problem — especially with a hangover.

George said...

Thanks for the helpful information on the Keen Sandals, Robert. I'm sold! Off to my outfitter in a couple of days to see if I can find them.

Dan Gurney said...

Robert, have you tried the Vibram "five finger" shoes? You, know, the ones with little pockets for each toe. I have a pair of their Trail runner model, a gaudy orange color. They are the bees knees for mindful walking. Almost like being barefoot, but with no worries about glass, thorns, sharp rocks underfoot.

The Solitary Walker said...

Glad to be of help, George . . . and Dan, I haven't tried those, but they sound good. Thanks for the tip.

Goat said...

Oh jeez, you've made me feel a little guilty about what I've just subjected my miracles of engineering/works of art to!

Today I'm lavishing them with goodies from the staff-room first aid kit, including some Korean genius-in-a-can spray-on anaesthetic I would love to pack on my next adventure!

My experiment with sandals (Chacos) beach-hiking in Queensland was disastrous as sand got in and rubbed the be-jesus out of my toes till blood was flowing (a familiar story, I know). I have heard good things about the five-fingered shoes, and would love to give sandals another shot. In fact I should try Keens as that's one of the few footwear brands I've never used. The toe lugs look good -- on my cheap running shoes it's always the first part to start unfurling.