The seasons are changing and the weather is warming up in the northern hemisphere. People are ready to kick off their shoes and I’m getting lots of emails about barefooting and, in particular, how to avoid hassles when going shoeless in public. Here are some tips to avoid the “shoe police”:
1. Walk with confidence! This is the number one rule of successful barefooting. When going out in public barefoot for the first time (or first fifty times!), many people feel self-conscious about it. Unfortunately, this puts a massive bulls eye on your back and makes you a target for confrontation. I guess it’s a body language thing. Anyway, the converse is also true: the more confident you are in your bare feet, the less likely you are to get hassled. So when going out and about barefoot, hold up your head and walk with assurance. After all, you are the one making the healthy and natural choice, not all those shoddies just mindlessly following the culture to bunions and stinky feet!
2. Wear jeans or long pants/dresses. Having said the above, it also might be useful to evade comments or confrontations by being stealthy. Wearing long pants like jeans, especially those that are a bit long and cover most of your feet, will make your barefooting less obvious. Certainly, wearing booty shorts will make your bare feet stand out more!
3. Wear barefoot sandals. Barefoot sandals are exploding in popularity. Many people wear them just because they’re straight up cool, but they can also help you avoid confrontations, especially if worn with jeans or long dresses. If you are not familiar with barefoot sandals, just do a Google search and you can find tons of info and/or pictures of them. I predict they will be sold in mainstream outlets (like JC Penny) before much longer, maybe even this summer. At first glance, barefoot sandals look like traditional footwear, but they have no soles. Millions are available for women, but there’s even two or three masculine versions out there, too. (I have some).
4. Be the only one, but not alone. For some odd reason, you're more likely to get called out when you go shopping barefoot alone, so try to go with friends or family whenever you can. And while I certainly encourage people to go out barefoot in groups (that is great fun and often brings its own kind of success), it can also lead to its own kind of trouble. Only twice have I gone to a restaurant, for example, with a group of barefoot friends. Both times we got confronted; once we got kicked out and the other time we managed to convince the management to let us stay. Actually, both experiences were fun! (It's much more fun getting kicked out together!) But if your goal is to shop, eat, etc. and just be left alone, being the only one barefoot in a group helps a lot.
5. Go to barefoot-friendly places first. Until you get some barefooting experience (which increases your confidence), you might want to go to barefoot-friendly places. Local parks, trails and other outdoor venues are usually good to barefooters. Outdoor community events like concerts or festivals are also great for bare feet. When you gain some confidence you can explore grocery shopping, retail stores and other indoor public spaces. Consider yourself a barefooting expert when you conquer the shopping mall sans shoes!
Those are my best tips. Please leave a comment if you have other tips to share, or just to tell us about your public barefooting experience!