Early last month, I heard a story on NPR about the US Army taking a stance on so-called ‘minimalist shoes’. Basically, the top brass decided to crack down on these alternative shoes and that servicemen and women must now wear standard footwear. When the story came on the radio, I thought, “Well, duh.” I can’t say I was really surprised that the Army made this ruling and prohibited the use of minimalist shoes by its personnel: they claim these types of shoes “detract from a professional military image”, and I’m sure they do – the whole point of a uniformed standing army is that you’re all supposed to look the same.
Apparently, the Army isn’t having a problem with grunts wearing these shoes while out on missions (which would be absolutely silly, but not for the reasons you’d expect), but instead when they’re out doing PT (physical training). This is where I have to disagree with the ruling. If you want your personnel to be in top physical condition, minimalist shoes —since there is no way on Earth the Army would let people train while actually barefoot (like hippies!)— are the way to go. The benefits of this type of running have been espoused byplenty so I won’t bore you with a retread of the topic. I usually run barefoot and I’ve seen the advantages, but I hate pushy folks who try to convert others to their way of thinking, so if somebody wants to give barefoot running a try, it’s up to them.
Actually, I kind of wish some Army guys had been running missions while wearing these kind of shoes before this ruling went out, so that I could point and laugh.
Not because of how silly a decked-out-in-full-battle-rattle grunt would look while wearing colorful rubber gorilla feet but because of how incompatible the conflicting ideologies are.
Your average Army man—wearing combat boots and body armor, carrying an 80 or 100-pound ruck and some kinda black rifle—is a product of the ‘civilized’ world’s military-industrial complex. He carries everything he needs on his back. He’s big, loud, and heavy, and you can be sure his feet strike heel-first when he runs.
Compare him to your barefoot Bushman. This fast and light fellow carries little more than a bow and a handful of arrows, because as a hunter in his natural habitat, he is in his element. Everything he needs, Nature provides. He’s ‘uncivilized’, but he’s healthier and happier than you or I. Emulate him.