Folklore isn’t a good guide to lightning safety, but it remains a big source of advice.
Probably the most common lightning folklore is that metal “attracts” lighting. One variation is that if you’re going out to play golf don’t wear shoes with metal spikes because they “attract lightning.”
Folklore also says metal or electronic objects such as cell phones, jewelry, and the ear buds that you’re listening to music with will attract lightning.
None will “attract” lightning, but the ear buds could block you from hearing thunder, which is nature’s way of telling you to get indoors, just as they might block the blare of the horn of the truck you’re about to step in front of as you concentrate on texting.
“Metal does not attract lightning,” says Dr. Mary Ann Cooper, a leading expert on lightning injuries. “It conducts electricity. If you have spikes on shoes you’ll get burned from the spikes heating up” if lightning happens to hit you.
The idea is that rubber shoe soles “insulate” you and prevent lightning going through you to the ground doesn’t make sense, she says. A lightning flash that’s traveled through a thousand or more feet of air, which is a very good insulator, won’t be slowed by less than a half inch of rubber.
The main lightning safety rule is “when thunder roars, go indoors.” In other words if you hear thunder you should rush to get inside a building with wiring and plumbing or into a vehicle with a metal roof and the windows rolled up.