I was watching for the glass on the path, partly because I always watch where I put my feet, but partly because it had been there a couple of days ago. It had looked like freshly broken bottles. But I didn’t see it, even though I knew exactly where it had been. I had picked my way through it several times that other day, running back and forth on the 4 mile stretch. On this new day, I thought to myself, “What a great clean up crew they have around here!”
I continued back and forth 3 more times without seeing the glass. I was running 12 miles, so I would go over that section 4 times total. Then – voila! On my fourth time through the section, there is was. Crushed glass was spread all over the path, from side to side across the whole path and for about 3 feet from front to back. Since I had run this portion, I had stepped on this spot at least once with each pass through. The sky had been overcast and it seems the light had been such that the glass had been blending into the asphalt visually. Now it was quite obvious and, well, sharp looking.
The question of glass is one of the most common concerns expressed when people see me in my bare feet. Part of my answer has always been that I watch where I am going. Another major point is that an occasional flesh wound is better than ongoing back and joint problems, not to mention fungal infestations. Still, I would rather not step on it.
In fact, the first time I ran through the patches of glass that day I mentioned in the first paragraph (there were actually 2 of them a hundred or so feet apart), I was trying to be careful and still got a small shard sticking into the lower side of my foot. I, of course, felt it immediately and stopped briefly to flick it off and kept running the remaining 4 miles of my 10 miles for that day. For the next 24 hours I felt the shallow cut once in a while, but it only barely entered my consciousness. I was barefoot the whole time.
On this second run, I never once got any glass in my foot, whether I could see it or not. I never located the second patch of it, either. I have heard other barefooters talk about walking on glass without getting cut, but I had still been leery. The other thing to think about, though, is that there really isn’t that much glass around most places. When it is there, it is not too hard to get around.
I have to think that being 3 years into being barefoot a lot had some impact on the outcome. The toughened bottoms of my feet are not easily penetrated. I have stepped on quite a few goat head weed stickers this fall and it has not been a problem. Once in a while a pointy piece of gravel draws a little blood, but the discomfort is minimal and short lived. This is not because I have a high pain tolerance. If I was to rate my “tolerance” of pain, I would say that I have a history of feeling physical pain very acutely. My feet still feel things, but it is not a tender, hurting sensation. Rather it is informative and usually pleasant, like feeling the breeze on your face.
It seems I don’t always see or feel glass. I may have stepped on it many times before and not even known it! It wouldn’t be the first time people were afraid of something that wasn’t really going to hurt them. Sure, glass can have sharp edges, but I expect most people have picked up pieces of glass without cutting themselves. There is no reason why larger pieces of glass would lay at an angle to cut deeply. Smaller pieces are apparently usually similar to gravel, indenting rather than slicing.
I am still going to be careful about watching where I run or walk. There is also the benefit that being barefoot generates a much lighter footfall. I have seen goat head stickers go farther into the soles of shoes than they go into my feet, even when I am running vigorously. But now I am less worried about “running into” glass. It is more likely to just get further crushed under my feet, becoming one with the earth again. Okay, maybe that’s getting too mystical. But when I see glass now, I’m just not going to get so broken up about it. 😉