Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I Need Your Help!

Kids do not have to wear shoes to school in Aukland.

I’ve never done this before, but I’m asking my shoe-wearing friends to help me out. If you are not a barefooter, if you have no desire to become one, then we barefooters could really use your help.

I ran into a friend recently who got kicked out of two stores in as many days (for being barefoot, of course). She went through the usual routine that has become a habit for us barefooters: she asked why, she was told the myths (health code, liability, etc.) and she debunked them, then she was ejected from the building anyway. After going through similar situations myself for the past five years it has become abundantly clear that having the facts [1] on your side is irrelevant (that is an especially hard pill to swallow for the one who literally wrote the book).

My friend’s recent confrontations illustrate the discrimination that barefooters face: if I go barefoot into a business today I run a significant risk of being bullied and thrown out. Seriously, if you are not a barefooter you likely do not understand the level of vitriol I’m talking about – I’ve been called an idiot and disgusting by managers; I’ve had security called on me to escort me to the nearest exit; I’ve been asked to leave an airplane sitting on the tarmac! In short, I have literally been treated like a criminal for not wearing shoes.

If you think this is wrong, then help us.

Sadly, I believe businesses will continue to discriminate against barefooters until/unless enough people go barefoot that they are forced to stop. Kroger cannot kick out 10% of their customers! To do so would impact their bottom line and even they would see that kicking out that many people is rude on their part. So what can you do to help us?

Go barefoot.

Now you don’t have to go barefoot all the time, just please consider going barefoot in public occasionally. Every now and then just slip off your flip flops and go into that store barefoot. If you don’t get hassled, then no harm came of it. Indeed, it will be beneficial because it will demonstrate to others that going barefoot in public is okay. If you do get hassled, then just put on your shoes and go about your business. Preferably, you can explain to the shoe police [2] that you are not a barefooter but you are sympathetic to their right to go barefoot and that’s why you did it. Who knows, the managers and policy makers may actually respect and listen to you; they certainly are not respecting and listening to us.

So there you have it. Please consider helping us barefooters by simply kicking off your shoes when you run your next errand. By doing so, you may play a significant role in helping to end discrimination against us. And hopefully, you will enjoy the experience!

[1] For example, it is factually correct that there are no health codes that prohibit bare feet in a grocery store in Lynchburg, VA; it is also factually correct that going barefoot is healthier and safer than balancing on the 3-inch heels the store manager is wearing.
[2] Shoe police = that employee that forces you to put on your shoes.


  1. I agree with you 100% on this. Strangers are willing to help Sumatra, Haiti, and Japan so why not help your fellow Americans and support a good cause.

    Being barefoot is 500% better than shoes:

    100% legal, 100% healthy, 100% washable with easy drying, 100% friendly for the environment, 100% FREE!

  2. I would be curious to see how many non-'footers participate. I have had a couple friends try it on occasion just for kicks. But it would be interesting to see somebody get harassed that wasn't accustomed to it. That might alter some perceptions.

  3. The problem is that business can afford loosing some of "uncomfortable" custormers. Barefooter is such a customer. Many people claims that barefooting is disgusting. Beeing barefoot in some public places is considered a kind of taboo. Breaking the taboo may cause some to feel uncomfortable. Business has to take care of a good mood of the major part of customers... They don't care about opinion of a few... I don't think the 10% is a correct number.

  4. I know this situation very well, because I had two similar experiences. One for entry barefoot in a supermarket, and the second for my entry in the subway. It's a strange feeling to see how a thin rubber sole that makes the difference between normal and abnormal. Too bad!

    Barefoot Dinu.

  5. I agree with you, the more people see bare feet in normal everyday life the less "traumatic" it will be for them.

    I've been asked to leave a store occasionally when barefoot (VitaminShoppe and Bed, Bath, & Beyond), but "allowed" to finish my purchase first. I've found that it helps to be presentable, ie. nice clothes, nice watch, hair in order, etc. Then they know I willfully choose to be barefoot, instead of people thinking I'm some "dirty homeless guy". Also, I will often patronize a local business wearing shoes for the first few times until I become a familiar "regular", then switch to barefoot. Store owners give more slack to their regular customers.

  6. The situation really is out of control. You have all these people who are wearing shoes that are damaging their feet--often bizarre debilitating high heels or sneakers with weird air pockets, shock absorbers, and unscientific motion control devices--dictating to the rest of us what should go on our feet. Flip flops, paradoxically, have become ubiquitous, so the sight of bare feet itself doesn't seem to offend. But one glimpse of a bare sole touching the ground or floor in public, and then it's OMG! Bells and sirens start sounding, guys in white suits come running, you must be crazy, who would ever, how could you even...!?

    I can't think of anything else in society comparable to it, and I don't know what can be done about it. Virtually no one has ever attempted walking barefoot outside of their home or the beach. They can't imagine that it is safe or even doable. Healthy, forget about it. And they all complain about their feet hurting.

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  8. The reasons we get ejected even after debunking the myths about health codes and liability are prejudice and pride. In this incidence, while prejudice certainly played a role, probably the store manager was too prideful to change his mind in front of the customer. Managers like to exert power on others, so for him to admit that he was wrong and revert his order for her to leave would have been too much for him to swallow.

    I believe strongly that while prejudice and hatred of bare feet in public play a major role in this type of discrimination, many store owners and managers have a real fear of liability and suppposed health codes, and these are the primary reasons that they eject us. If we could somehow educate all of them about these issues, they would have less fear of barefooters and may actually tolerate us, even though they still hate bare feet. Only the most adamant haters of bare feet would still continue to discriminate, which I feel are in the minority.

  9. We could use this kind of help in BC Canada, aspecialy Metro Vancouver area.

  10. I've been to the Kroger in Lynchburg on Linkhorne. Maybe next time I'll try it barefoot.

  11. I just went to the Kroger in Forest (A few miles North of Lynchburg) and they told me to leave. Sad.

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Welcome to The Barefoot Professor blog, intelligent talk about running, walking and living barefoot. I encourage your comments, even if you disagree with me. In this spirit I don't even moderate the comments. However, PLEASE use critical thinking skills when leaving comments, and avoid inflammatory words. Please keep your comments short and to-the-point. THANKS.