Monday, May 31, 2010

The problem with "adamant"... when doors close tight in a "solutions" store!

Reader alert: If this looks like it’s gonna to be about barefoot or minimalist running or paddling a skinny boat on the ocean or any other such "crazy" ideas, it's not. :-) It’s about “the problem with adamant”.

My dictionary defines adamant as "intransigent, not capable of being swayed or diverted from a course". To be adamant suggests an inclination to be unyielding and inflexible. And you know, that`s OK, if we’re adamant about working together for peace on earth, or if we’re adamant that all human beings must be valued and respected. Heck, if we’re adamant about taking all necessary steps to prevent any more oil spills or adamant about finding alternative and safer energy sources – that’s just plain reasonable. The problem, as I see it, is being adamant about sticking to a way of thinking or being inflexible about possible new paradigms or ways of doing things. This serves to close doors tight to fresh ideas, and to new directions. Forgive me if I`m taking this too far, but, I believe that adamantly clinging to "convention" (the way things are) can serve to limit personal growth. The state of being adamant can cause one to completely miss the richness of potential experience that awaits us in every moment of time when, and if, we are open to newness.

There`s a big church at the corner of Bloor Street and Prince Edward Drive in Etobicoke (Toronto). A large sign board welcomes visitors but what struck me was the thought of the day, "Believe those who are seeking...doubt those who find". Makes a lot of sense. It’s in life’s seeking that we experience growth and the fruits of new experience. When we think we’ve found "it", however, the search is often over. And when the searching ceases, especially in terms of the quest for knowledge, we no longer grow and develop. Difficult to imagine what the "up side" to what that would be!

So here`s the story. Joan and I were walking along Bloor Street in Toronto yesterday, appreciating the experience of the big (really big!) city. The day had begun with an early morning and very pleasant six kilometre run through the streets and amongst the stately, old, maple trees of the residential area near where we were staying. Running on the sidewalks and streets in minimalist footwear was a good reminder that, no matter what some folks say, you can safely run "barefoot" just about anywhere, and not just on the more forgiving trails that we are used to on the Island. Nope, there were no issues at all on the hard, city surfaces.

As we browsed the store fronts along fashionable Bloor Street, we came to a store whose advertising immediately caught our eyes. They specialize in "proper fitting footwear" and custom orthotics. An international franchise establishment, they provide "solutions" to consumers who, presumably, endure foot problems. They even offer a free "digital foot scan" which I must confess I found immensely tempting - but didn’t have the nerve to request. I had a sense, however, that they would have provided me with evidence that my feet were "broken" and in need of something that they would be pleased to sell me. I hope that doesn’t sound unfair. Anyway, my feet felt fine so I didn`t think any more about the free "scan".
We went into the store to see what they offered and we were both curious to hear their opinion on minimalist footwear, which have clearly been a "solution" to many of us who have been injury-prone in regular (cushioned and supportive) running shoes. The store had just opened and there were no other customers so I felt it was OK to take a few minutes of their time with our questions.

A very cheerful thirty-something sales person greeted us and so I asked him if they sold Vibram Fivefinger shoes to which he replied with a rather emphatic, "NO". He added that several other folks had been in and had asked the same question but, "No, we don`t sell those here." There really was some disdain in his voice but I want to be fair, he may have guessed that likely, there was not going to be a sale involving us this morning. In my new role of investigative reporter, I pressed on, asking him his opinion on VFFs and other such minimalist footwear. (I should say that I am not a confrontational person and really quite gentle in demeanour – my question should only have been understood in the context of curiosity.) Yup, our cheerful salesperson clearly had an opinion. He said that it was too bad more people didn`t buy the minimalist foot wear because that would be VERY good for his business. I inquired as to why that would be. He stated adamantly that it was because "wearing that kind of footwear will destroy your feet." Yikes, I thought (but not out loud), only several hours ago, on the paved streets and concrete sidewalks of Toronto, we were destroying our feet! Who would have thought that destroying our feet could be so much fun...and feel so good!!!

Our sales person proceeded to explain to us that "we (human beings) were never meant to run in bare feet." (Gosh, many of the world's indigenous people will be surprised to hear that!). He went on, "Our feet NEED cushioning." He allowed that it might be all right to go barefoot on the beach but when I asked him about actually running in minimalist footwear, such as Vibram Fivefingers. His response was adamant, "Never! You will destroy your feet." When I shared with him that I had heard that an increasing numbers of folks who enjoy running were transitioning to minimalist footwear, he allowed that it was very "noble" that some people would want to "adopt a natural approach to footwear" but (again) "they will destroy their feet". Hmm, well at least we’re "noble".

So what’s the bottom line here? Well, this "solutions" store assumes that, as human beings, our feet are generally "broken". We could, however, regain proper mobility and experience reduced pain and discomfort if we buy their highly cushioned, orthotic-filled, arch-supported, corrective-design footwear "solutions". And hey, I'm pretty sure that’s just what the free "digital foot scan" would have proven! The salesperson at the "solutions" store was more than adamant in his belief that anything to the contrary was simply – wrong. Sadly, as one whose expertise is probably rarely challenged, our "foot and shoe expert" is dealing out misinformation.

I’m not adamant about, in the context of this example, everyone throwing away their conventional running shoes in favour of barefoot or minimalist running. In fact, if I meet someone who finds joy, happiness,and good exercise (injury-free) running in cowboy boots or stilettos, that’s great. It’s the refusal to be open that I find difficult to understand. If our salesman had said something like, "Yeah I’ve heard that some folks benefit from minimalist footwear", this posting would have gone in a different direction.

The trouble with "adamant" is that it can close a lot of doors. Your mileage may be similar, or quite different?



  1. Hope you guys are adamant about having a great time in the Big City at least! I am enjoying your blogs.

  2. even without the indigenous peoples running barefoot, we evolved as a species running barefoot on all types of terrain, and did so for thousands of years before shoes were invented. A closed mind is a terrible thing.


  3. Hi Jill and PO,

    We're back on the Island and appreciate your comments, thanks for taking the time. Duncan.

  4. I take great pleasure running barefoot (FiveFingers) in the city. Kind of proves the point, doesn't it!

  5. Duncan you should have asked to get the scan. I did one time at what sounds like a similar store and the results were actually very helpful. First the lady helping me said that whatever I have been doing I should keep doing as there was nothing about my foot that said I needed help and that my knee pain (I used my knee pains as my reason to be there) was probably from something else and not my feet. The best part of the visit was that the force plate machine she had me on showed I put too much weight on my heels but that was an easy fix so she kindly gave me some exercises to try and showed me some shoes she thought would be good for me. Sounds like your poor salesman has just been beaten down by people wanting answers other than the ones he has to offer. Good read!

  6. Thanks Jimmy. Yes, I probably should have - I need to be open too. Always appreciate your perspectives, and the ongoing guidance your blog provides. Duncan.