Friday, March 16, 2012

The Society for Barefoot Living & The Primalfoot Alliance: Steps in the Right Direction

If you are reading this blog, you are probably interested in the health benefits of going barefoot more often. Maybe you’ve started barefoot running (or you’re thinking about it). Maybe you have a particular foot ailment and found this blog while searching the internet for answers. Maybe you are die-hard “barefooter” and follow anything and everything barefoot.

This blog exists to promote an idea, or actually a simple set of premises:
1.       Going barefoot is healthier than wearing shoes in almost all circumstances.
2.       Going barefoot should be a non-issue (that is, it should be socially acceptable).

Premise #1 is a fact. It is based firmly on science and a proper understanding of human ambulation. There is simply no dispute that shoes negatively affect our bodies in multiple ways and that going barefoot is both natural and healthy. There are disputes about the safety of going barefoot, but most fears are based on ignorance and misunderstanding, both of which are easily remedied in open-minded people.

Premise #2 is a goal. Most of you reading this blog live in a Western society which generally expects you to wear shoes virtually everywhere, all the time. Fortunately, that expectation is not codified in laws, only in social norms. It is perfectly legal to drive (barefoot) to a shopping mall where you can shop (barefoot) in every store and eat (barefoot) in the food court. For this we can all be truly thankful! However, if you attempt to do this you may run into social resistance, from store managers, security guards, even other customers. I believe the only way we can change this social expectation is to not acquiesce to society’s demand that we put on shoes.

I realize that confrontation is uncomfortable and I recognize that most people don’t even want to become hardcore barefooters, but I also believe firmly that most people want to go barefoot more. Indeed, a facebook poll revealed that 3 out of 4 people would go barefoot in public if it were socially acceptable. News flash: If 75% of us want to do it, it is socially acceptable!

It’s hard to take those first bare steps into the public realm. Nevertheless, it can be done. I routinely drive (barefoot) to my local mall where I shop (barefoot) and eat (barefoot) in the food court. The last time I went to my local mall I was seen by no less than three security guards and none of them said a word to me. Last year, I was escorted to the exit by a guard for being barefoot in that same mall. Times have changed. But why have times changed (and relatively quickly)? It would no doubt be arrogant to think I alone caused this change, but my persistence has surely been a large factor. After my ejection experience last year, I waited a few months and started going back to the mall again (still barefoot). I have done this for every place I’ve ever been ejected. My discovery: they stop hassling me.

If you want going barefoot in public to be an option, I would encourage you to just do it (yes, that’s irony).  Nothing is more powerful at turning the tide than your willingness to just do it. Not only is it liberating to you, it’s liberating to those who see you. When (not if) confrontation arises, be ready to educate, but always educate politely. If the discussion turns nasty, you turn… and walk away. Don’t be a jerk; that just gives us barefooters a bad reputation.

So, what’s up with the title of this post? I want you to know that if you long to go barefoot and carefree, you are not alone. Many other people share that longing and we’ve formed  groups to share stories, encourage each other, and advocate for the cause. If you’ve made it this far in this post, I encourage you to join the Society for Barefoot Living on facebook ( If you want to advocate for barefoot freedom, check out The Primalfoot Alliance and consider how you can help. Finally, if you want to truly understand your feet, how they are supposed to function and how shoes harm us, then of course you should check out my book, The Barefoot Book: 50 Great Reasons To Kick Off Your Shoes.


  1. I greatly appreciate the work you've done promoting barefoot living. I read your book last year and began my barefoot experiments because of your advocacy of public barefooting. I happen to work at a university and have managed to go barefoot during most of the day without issues (colleagues took forever to stop commenting on my state, but eventually did stop). Disappointingly, there are actually signs saying "shoes required" at the university gym and I have been yelled at by security in the gym for even just stretching inside the facilities barefoot. I don't know what I can do about that. I wear minimalist shoes in the gym as a result.

    My barefooting is still quite an experiment. I have not gone to a grocery store or the public library barefoot yet, for example. The risk of being yelled at is very unpleasant.

  2. For some reason, gyms can be the worst offenders. The gym at my university won't even allow FiveFingers!!! Apparantly, this has nothing to do with function or protection... if it doesn't LOOK like a shoe, you can't come in here (crazy).

    Keep it up, Franklin! It's crazy how our culture tolerates and fights for some things (e.g., homosexuality) and yet can be so absolutely intolerant toward other things (e.g., barefooting). It's a shame that we even have to think about getting yelled at, as if we are children.

    1. Do you know how new this meme really is? In my college gym during the 1980s, and gyms everywhere, many of the weightlifter and bodybuilder types did it barefoot most of the time or all of the time. Not a word was ever said. It was normal to do that.

  3. In addition to the resources you mentioned, let's not forget about the organization that started it all and has been for years the primary source of research, myth-busting, and factual information about going barefoot, the Society for Barefoot Living. Nothing, so far, even comes close to the depth of resources available through that organization, not only from the website, but from the archive of over 71,000 email postings over the last 13 years by members.

  4. I had similar problems at my gym. It appears that gyms are very barefoot unfriendly places. I choose to leave, I'm not going to pay money to someone, and then feel like I'm being discriminated, it's not a very condusive environment to workout in. I've been working out this past winter at my gym at work. Fortunately no one has complained about my lack of shoes, despite there being some type of footware rule. It's spring now anyways and I can go back to running outside, so it's likely I won't have any more problems until winter again. Anyone have any idea why libraries, and gyms are so barefoot unfriendly?

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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.