Sunday, March 4, 2012

Advice for Going Barefoot Successfully


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!

18 comments:

  1. Not only hold your head up but look up. Timid barefooters tend to glance at their feet...which draws others' eyes to their feet, as well. Don't look down, make eye contact, and proceed with confidence.

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  2. Very nice. And I, for my birthday, I gave me the greatest gift: I went barefoot in the park, for first time in this new spring - 3 hours. This joy was more than the fear of meeting someone know me ! :)

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  3. Give thumb up to all barefoot friendly comments on fresh articles like this: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2109140/Georgia-Salpa-sports-painful-looking-puncture-wounds-wearing-Louboutin-spiked-heels.html#comments

    or any article that remotely touches on shoes and feet.

    and make such comments..this way barefoot could be made to be more acceptable with the 'follow the crowd' types. It's a very easy thing to persuade barefoot forums to 'lobby' the crowd like this.

    The daily mail readers are a good target. I'm yet to see someone other than me here in the UK walk barefoot.

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    1. I know what you mean, Globy. Since I started going out barefoot last spring, I've not seen anyone else doing the same except for my barefooter friend. I think we're lucky here in the UK, though: I've never been refused service in any shops. I've even had meals in restaurants while unshod.

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  4. And surprisingly my comment there has a net positive without any persuaded votes.

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  5. How about a follow-up post on how to respond appropriately when you ARE confronted? That is when you have the chance to be a good barefoot ambassador, challenging herd thinking and possibly changing minds, or else to come across as an arrogant jerk, re-enforcing an association between bare feet and obnoxiousness.

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  6. Daniel, excellent article. And I especially agree with your first point. You are doing nothing wrong, so don't act like you are.

    Basically, you are likely to have a problem ONLY if these 2 conditions are met:
    1. You come close to someone who has some "authority" in a store or restaurant who does not like bare feet, and
    2. That person actually notices your feet.

    But even if those conditions are met, you still may not be confronted unless you are seen as "easy target." A barefooter who displays a less than confident demeanor is an easy target. A barefooter who is alone is an easier target than one who is with one or more other people who are not barefoot. (As you pointed out in both cases.)

    A lot of this is simply psychological gamesmanship. But the better we learn to play the game, the better we'll be at winning the game.

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  7. I'm with Vivian (unless you've already done a post on how to respond to confrontation?). I've found all your tips to work. Folks also tend to notice my bare feet sooner if I'm wearing skinny jeans as opposed to baggier jeans. I've never tried the barefoot sandals, though. I'm gonna have to get (make?) myself a pair because I really get tired of getting kicked out of restaurants.

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  8. Here's a post I wrote some time ago on dealing with confrontations. http://barefootprof.blogspot.com/2011/07/new-barefooters-dont-be-jerk.html

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  9. Also... I find that people (barefooters) give in way too easily. BE PERSISTENT. Even if you get kicked out of a store for being barefoot, give it some time and GO BACK (barefoot of course). You might not get hassled the second time. They might never hassle you again. This has happened to me *everywhere* I've been ejected. I just keep going back. I don't know if they just get accustomed to the barefoot guy or what, but I now have free reign in my town to go barefoot wherever (except my classroom!). Also, believe it or not, there really are other people going barefoot, too (even though most of them are not "barefooters"). You're not the only one getting kicked out or helping to educate the discriminators. (It may actually be those non-committed occasional barefoot types that make the most impact on social acceptance).

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  10. All good ideas but I haven't tried the barefoot sandal gambit yet.
    I have some 'barebottoms' sandals designed in 1967 that I got through a friend who found a close-out.
    I should really try them some time.

    I can offer an additional tip for coffee-shops and resturants etc.
    I bring some birkenstocks in my pack (which I have no intention of actually wearing) and as soon as I am seated, I pull them out and place them on the ground near my feet.
    We barefooters, who've been hassled a number of times, read body-language and glances very well.
    I've seen them (waitroids, other customers) look, twitch, see the sandals and then I see the
    'oh!' expression. I swear they are an excellent talisman to ward off the shoe-cops.

    It also further shows how profoundly silly the concept is that it *matters* that person is going barefoot.

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  11. Sorry, somehow that posted as 'Unknown'
    This is Mike Berrow

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  12. All of these points are absolutely correct, especially the first one. Whenever people tell me that they're too afraid to walk with their shoes off I tell them that doing do so with confidence, held high and with an attitude of "I know what I'm doing!" will always get people to leave you alone. I've walked in malls, stores, airports and airplanes. In all the years since I ditched my shoes, only three times has someone stopped me and told me that I had to have shoes on, and one of those was actually on false pretenses. The rest of the time, while I may have caught people looking at me out of the corner of my eye, I have primarily been left alone except from those people who were actually jealous of the fact that I was doing something that they wished they could do, but were too afraid...

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    1. That's completely right

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  13. The pic of the girl shopping barefoot is my pic ........not yours please remove it thankyou

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  14. We have to be tolerant of other people and of their sexual preferences whether we agree or not. At the same time we barefooters should expect the same from others. Walk confidently and don't give in too easily. When harassed, I won't back down.

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  15. Dont agree. I would never do that well wearing pants.

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    ReplyDelete

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.