Monthly Archives: December 2013

The Grandmother, the Elves and the Barefoot Grandson

Boys on a barefoot trail run

Boys on a barefoot trail run

Once upon a time there lived a barefoot grandmother.

This 21st century grandmother, aka Granny, enjoyed shoe-less gardening, running muddy trails in her bare feet, and writing poems about it all. When her grandchildren, who lived hours away, came to visit her she encouraged them to ditch their shoes and explore the garden.

This delighted the grandchildren and annoyed their parents—and made the grandchildren want to visit Granny’s every weekend. Granny’s children didn’t always approve of their mother’s “hippie” feet, and their spouses fretted over their little ones’ foot safety. However, Granny’s daughter slowly became more aware of the science behind what Granny was modeling and reassured her siblings that old age had not driven their mother to “barefoot madness.” In fact, many studies existed to back up Granny’s intuition that walking and running with her feet in direct contact with the ground was good for both her body and brain.

(Sometimes, though, even grannies have to wear shoes; when Granny wore her favorite pair, people would smile because they looked like something an elf would wear. Little did they know how right they were . . . )

Granny’s oldest grandson especially loved being barefoot at Granny’s house. He had sensory issues with clothing and shoes, and would have gone barefoot all the time if it hadn’t been for his father’s extreme regard for foot safety as well as the rest of society frowning upon bare feet in public places.

Luckily, the grandson attended a fabulous Montessori school, but even in that supportive environment he was having trouble learning because he couldn’t keep his shoes on. He couldn’t stand the feel of them, and would trip on them and kick them off in the classroom and on the playground.

Why can’t I just go barefoot?” he would ask.

The rules say you have to wear shoes at school,” his frustrated mom and teacher would reply.

Because Granny wasn’t really a hippie (she was born a decade too late), but was full of a desire to fill the world with peace and love anyway, she knew just what to do. She contacted the clever elves who had made her own comfortable moccasins. (They did not work at the North Pole, but at SoftStar Shoes in Corvallis, Oregon.)

If my grandson has to wear shoes, then he should have the perfect shoes that feel like he is wearing no shoes at all. Can you help him?”

Of course,” the elves replied, and got right to work.

When the custom shoes were completed, the elves shipped them via UPS to the grandson’s door. He opened the box and put them on immediately, exclaiming, “These feel so soft!”

At the end of school the next day, the teacher reported to his mother about the difference in his behavior: “I don’t know what it is about these shoes, but he keeps them on.”

And even his friends made comments like, “I want a pair of shoes just like those for Christmas!” while others wanted some for their birthdays. The grandson skyped that evening with his granny and showed off his magical new shoes. He thanked her and said, “If I have to wear shoes, then these are the only kind I will wear.”

Granny was happy, and went for a barefoot trail run to celebrate.
Custom shoes made by the clever Softstar elves

Custom shoes made by the clever Softstar elves

Perhaps you are in need of shoes that feel like you aren’t wearing shoes at all?  You can design your own in a variety of colors/patterns (including pink camo!).

Check out the elves’ work or buy a pair here. Sorry it is too late to get them in time for Christmas! I find this leather camouflage pair more stylish and impressive than the official ones the bearded duck hunters are endorsing.

So, how do Softstar shoes, or minimalist footwear, and being barefoot contribute to your brain health? I recommend you check out what Katy Bowman has to say.  According to her website, she is a “master’s level Biomechanist and the only human physics scientist that has focused her expertise to address our country’s epidemic-level health crisis and the mechanical causes of disease.” Find out more about Katy here.

In an article posted on, she summarizes how shoes are hindering our nervous system and contributing to more injuries.
The sole of the foot is the first interaction between man and ground. Sensory nerves collect data on temperature, pressure and terrain, staying finely tuned by constantly reading changing environments. Processing the same data every day for decades creates a physiological response that limits the nervous system’s ability to process new data. This makes balance and locomotion less natural and increases the risk of falls, ankle sprains or other lower-leg injuries (Nurse et al. 2005)
To read the full article,”Fit Feet: The Professional’s Guide to Training South of the Ankles,” by Katy Bowman, click here.  She includes exercises to help you get your feet and toes in shape before switching to a barefoot or minimalist shoe lifestyle.

I also found a short and interesting blog post by O. Alves Da Silva M.D. titled, “Shoes and Proprioception.”

The elves at Softstar have compiled a very comprehensive recommended reading list worth checking out as well.

For more barefoot inspiration, check out Thea Gavin’s Barefoot Wandering and Writing where you can read about her hiking the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim barefoot!

And don’t forget about another inspiring barefooter, Stephen Jepson. I blogged about him in my Inspiration for Your Brain- “Never leave the playground!” post, he is mainly barefoot in his videos and his balance, cognition, and ingenuity seem pretty stellar.

Take off your shoes and take on a happier healthier you!

Author: Tina Davidson

Where is your favorite place to be barefoot?

Where is your favorite place to be barefoot?


Filed under Barefoot

Super Microbes and Our Bionic Gut Flora

Superstar Microbes       I never knew gut bacteria could be so valiant in defending off germs!

Recently, I watched the online video, animated by Benjamin Arthur for NPR, about gut bacteria.  My favorite scene showed the “good” microbe spewing out its own antibiotics as it took on the “evil” microbes. Who knew microbes made their own antibiotics? Check out and learn all about the human microbiome.  Along with the video, there is an article worth checking out, “Gut Bacteria Might Guide The Workings Of Our Minds,” by Rob Stein written on November 18, 2013.  Science is in the early stages of researching how our gut bacteria may help solve neurological problems.

Here’s a couple other articles on probiotics and brain health to check out:

  • From the excerpts I’ve read of Julie Matthews’ Nourishing Hope book and blog, she seems to be a big proponent of probiotics  and that it can benefit those with ADHD, autism, and other neurological conditions. Her July 16, 2013 post, “Probiotics Affect Brain Function: Research Study” is an interesting read.

If I had a lot of time, I’d love to read all articles published by Glenn R. Gibson, a leading expert on prebiotics.  Prebiotics are the food our microbes eat.

The geek in me would like a copy of Handbook of Prebiotics, edited by Glenn R. Gibson and Marcel Roberfroid, for Christmas, but I’d also settle for some dark chocolate and wine (since they are considered prebiotic, of course!).

Here’s to feeding those microbes and keeping your brain happy and healthy!


Filed under Gut Brain Axis