A pair of feet on a stormy cloud with shoes and on a regular cloud without shoes

The Power of Bare Feet

Recently, actress Christina Applegate accepted her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She did so barefoot and posted an image of her bare feet on her star to social media.

For someone like me, who’s lived with MS longer than he hasn’t, and who also grew up watching Applegate, this post was powerful and full of meaning. A simple social media post managed to not only educate people about a seldom-known MS symptom but also managed to make many others with MS feel less alone.

A lesser-known symptom: skin sensitivity

Applegate captioned her picture, “Barefoot. For some with MS the feeling of shoes may hurt or make us feel off balance. So today I was me. Barefoot." The reality for many people with MS is that bare skin can sometimes be an absolute necessity, not only for our feet but for other body parts as well. Like Christina, I am someone who sometimes has issues with pain.

I have areas that become very painful to the touch, such that wearing shoes or other articles of clothing can be extremely painful. I have long worn the most minimal of shoes because the pain has just been too much to bear. Similarly, I am often one of those people you see wearing shorts, even in the dead of winter, not because I enjoy the cold (though obviously, with heat being an issue for me, that is an added bonus) but because my legs, particularly my lower legs, hurt when touched. That area becomes so sensitive to touch that something as seemingly harmless as the fabric of a pair of pants grazing my leg is enough to bring me to tears.

Stability is a constant quest

Even without considering the pain some people with MS feel, there is another important aspect that she mentions about bare feet: balance. So many people with MS have tremendous trouble staying on our feet. Balance issues and muscle weakness are common problems for us. They can be dangerous symptoms too, as they can lead to very bad falls. 

I’ve written in the past about how difficult it can be to find good footwear for someone with MS, but the truth is, sometimes the best footwear is nothing. When you already have trouble with balance, or your foot is extremely numb, having any additional layer between your feet and the ground only makes the situation worse.

Bare feet with MS and feeling seen

The thing about Christina Applegate’s post that struck me the most was how real it was, how it felt like it was something I would have said or posted. I wanted to respond and be like “Whew, yea, I hear ya girl, same."

There are many of us with MS that like to say that you don’t “get” MS until you get MS and here was someone on a worldwide stage that clearly understands what it’s like to live with the disease. It was raw. It was honest. It could have been any one of us with MS. I would never wish this disease on anyone, but damn if it doesn’t feel good to witness someone else who understands it. Who has had the same experiences I have. It’s a club no one wants to join, but it does feel like a club. A fraternity of ups and downs that are unique to us, that most of the people we see on a daily basis simply can’t understand. That can make life a bit lonely. That’s why her post was so powerful to me.

I could go on and on about how educational it is and how it will help others understand me, but the biggest thing for me was how it made me feel to see someone else who clearly understands a little bit about what it’s like to be me.

Thanks so much for reading and feel free to share! As always, I would love to hear about your experiences in the comments below!


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