Saturday, January 1, 2011

2011 - The Year of Barefoot Living?

Last year was a banner year for barefooting. Although Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run was released in 2009, I think it had its biggest impact on the world in 2010. This is probably because the book was published in July; people spent the next few months (i.e., the winter 2009) reading the book and then put it into practice in spring 2010. That summer several more related books hit the market: Jason Robilliard’s The Barefoot Running Book and Michael Sandler’s Running Barefoot continued the running-barefoot-is-best theme, but my book, The Barefoot Book, took the concept a step further and demonstrated how shoes are not just harmful when running but also when walking, standing and when just plain wearing them. Like Born to Run, The Barefoot Book was published in the summer. Will the public, after a year of experimenting with barefoot running and a winter to contemplate barefoot living, be ready this summer to take barefooting beyond exercise and into daily life? I believe the answer is YES.

If 2010 was the Year of Barefoot Running, then I believe 2011 will be the Year of Barefoot Living. Maybe I’m just filled with New Year wishful thinking, but I truly believe the tide will turn this year with respect to going barefoot in public. I base this hope on several observations:

1/ The Barefoot Book is generating a lot of conversation. Since the release of the book, I have been interviewed by The Washington Post, Popular Science magazine and dozens of radio shows from New York to New Zealand. I’ve appeared on national and cable television, the Drudge Report and even a documentary in Korea. Clearly, people are interested in the topic of barefoot living and the mainstream media is picking up the conversation. Wow! [Most of these can be found at]

2/ Positive comments are on the rise. Every now and then an article appears online about some ‘barefooter’ or living barefoot. In keeping with the popularity of the subject, those articles usually generate a lot of reader comments. In 2010, there appeared to be more articles than ever on the subject and the comments seemed more positive than in the past (I haven’t done a rigorous study on this). My Washington Post article written by Daniel De Vise, for example, generated over 150 comments in just 48 hours. By contrast, the ten following articles written by De Vise obtained no more than 14 comments. The Today Show article about me garnered 128 comments and most of them were positive.

Online articles about barefooting still receive negative comments, but they are the same old comments we’ve seen for years (e.g., broken glass, dog poop, etc.). This time, however, those negative comments are being overwhelmed with intelligent responses debunking the myths. And when the article itself is negative, it gets slammed! The article “Poly students should eliminate barefoot trend” quickly received 26 responses, all which were critical of the article and in favor of barefooting.

3/ Barefoot running precedes barefoot living. In my own experience and that of many barefoot runners I know, barefoot running led to more barefoot living. It’s an obvious and natural next step. Once you experience the thrill of running barefoot you want to experience the thrill of driving barefoot, shopping barefoot and just living barefoot. No one denies that barefoot running went main stream last year. Will all those runners start going to the mall barefoot? No, but some will and all of them will be more open to the idea. And even those who don’t run see others running barefoot and so the idea that bare feet are okay in public is gaining traction.

The days are getting longer (in America) and summer is coming. Let’s make 2011 the Year of Barefoot Living!


  1. I long for warmer weather to be barefoot! I have a hard time staying warm here in Iowa in the winter and we don't keep our house very warm in the winter either and try not so use the furnace unless we have to so my piggies are always cold.
    I do take advantage of every warm day I can though to run, walk, and live barefoot.

    I took a survey over the phone a couple months ago and some of the questions were about fashion. Spring 2011 is supposed to be all about barefoot on the runways! The surveyor said I must be cutting edge :) hahaha!

  2. I was barefoot at home most of the time and just came to experiment going out in the backyard under the trees. I loved it so much that I did some additional research on the internet. Then I just decided that it was for me. I had no issues with being barefoot in public. Once you live a barefoot lifestyle you cannot go back!

  3. If it becomes fashionable to take off your shoes look out. I agree with angle about barefoot fashion in 2011!

    For myself I am wearing shoes less and less. In the summer i started having barefoot weekends and spending most of the time at work in socks. At the end of summer I ran a half marathon barefoot.

    In 2011 I am planning to take the barefoot living and athletics even further with triathlons and a marathon barefoot. The more time I spend out of shoes the better.


  4. I have noticed recently a change in the reactions random strangers exhibit to my bare feet. Last week the wife, the dog, and I were walking in the woods on a cool day. I was barefoot as usual (so was the dog - Wonderful wore her boots as there was still some snow on the ground here and there).

    We met a couple walking in the opposite direction. The woman remarked on my bare feet, saying "I have heard of that!" She had read several articles recently espousing the health benefits of natural walking, and we had quite a discussion on the subject.

    I have had that reaction several times lately in various contexts. This is a new phenomena.

  5. Dan,

    For me it was just the opposite. I started to BF in the gym environment over two years ago. This is how I exposed myself to it to begin with. In fact I eased into that slowly. I've had many discussions during that time with gym buddies mostly muscle activation specialist on why shoes are bad for your feet.

    More recently after two years of being BF in the gym. I decided to take it into my everyday life. I really had a lot of passion for it as well. So I was doing gym, and everyday life BF.

    Then I finally took up BF running. I was never a runner prior to this cause I always thought it was to hard on joints to what I now know as shod running. So now I run BF, and plan to do a organized run at end of month BF. Apparently my local NBC station wants to interview me as I have been in contact with them(hopefully that will pan out).

    Now I consider myself a hardcore advocate. Yup I get harassed in stores, and I nicely try to open up intelligent dialogue. Their reaction seems to get on the defense. Many stores though do not bother me. Mostly grocery stores pest me, and Borders books bothered me yesterday. Some of these stores I no longer spend money at. The borders books employee strikes me as being very ignorant. He did not even know why the shoes required policy existed. He just knew he wanted to enforce it. He pulled the health code thing, and I called him on it. At that point he was just stumbling all over himself. I think he was partially embarrassed as he did not know how to respond to me. Each store has a different excuse. You can probably relate that it is very frustrating.

    Thanks Dan for national attention of this subject ! I agree fully with your stance on conventional shoe design.

  6. Barefoot Butner: Borders probably carry a few books on being barefooter but they don't let you actually do it at their store...kind of doesn't make sense, uh? hehe

  7. Angel: Borders also filed for bankruptcy this year did they not?

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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.