Thursday, August 25, 2011

Shoes & Psychology

This week marked the beginning of a new school year. Over 13,000 students have flooded onto the campus of Liberty University and more than 200 have found their way into my classroom. A few of these students knew a thing-or-two about me before they met me this week (they say I’m famous – or infamous), but most of them did not. And to them I got the joy of introducing myself and my “funny” ways.

So during these introductions I was reminded how many people (students or not) are skeptical when first presented with my proposition that shoes are harmful, unnatural and largely unnecessary. Many times they genuinely think I’m nuts. When I ask them to defend the use of shoes they usually recite a few myths and what-if’s but otherwise have no serious counter-argument. They say shoes are normal and going barefoot is not normal. The end.

But it’s not the end. Here’s the rest of the story: shoes are unnatural and going barefoot is natural and healthier, even if it’s not “normal.”

Those shoes may be "normal", but they are not healthy.
What amazes me is that so many people don’t know this already. They seem absolutely ignorant of the fact that shoes are unnatural, unhealthy and harmful. It’s not like it’s hard to demonstrate. Examples of the unhealthy nature of shoes are everywhere; just find someone and look down at their feet. I found a girl walking this morning and captured her gait on video. Watch the video closely; pause it anywhere and look at the still frame. Walking in those shoes is so obviously unnatural, unhealthy and down-right dangerous, yet no one bats an eye at her as she walks by; they’re too busy looking at me in my bare feet. I’m sorry people… I just don’t get it. I look around and see girls walking in shoes like those everywhere, and yet strangely all eyes are on me and my feet. Why is it not obvious to everyone else that these shoes are unnatural and unhealthy? Why is there so much resistance to the healthier option of ditching them? Why can she teeter onto the bus in those things, but I can’t walk on sure-footedly behind her? Why do security guards allow her to wobble through the mall on those monstrosities, but they escort me to the door? Why are bare feet not allowed on the airplane, but those things are?

Okay, enough questions; I need answers. But this is a problem of human psychology and, unfortunately, I don’t know much about that. Help!

*Two apologies: First, I apologize for the shaky video, my cell phone doesn’t have digital stabilizer. Second, my apologies to the young woman in the video… I’m not picking on you personally!!


  1. Was this a student? I'm not sure recording it was very advisable. Could be taken the wrong way by administration.

  2. @dgrichmond: How might it be taken?

  3. Two things.......I keep thinking how uncomfortable she must be. And, is there some deep-seated acceptance in our culture, or in humans in general, that encourages us to keep women hobbled, helpless, and incapable and convinces them that being so is a good thing? What about comfort and health and well-being?

  4. I know you see tons of flip-flops on campus, especially this time of year. Any thoughts on these? I have read in several places regarding their negative impact. Would a pair of Hurrcaches style sandals be better?

    PS - Walked into my first "corner stop" market barefoot the other day and my neighbors are finally not staring as much during my daily barefoot walks!

  5. Larry... Flips flops are the unofficial shoe at Liberty University! Flips flops are definitely better than "traditional" shoes, but they are not perfect. They have relatively little impact on gait and are thus "minimal" shoes, but many people tend to 'claw' at them with their toes and they are horribly slippery on wet floors (and hazardous when driving, too).

  6. I was just asking whether this was on campus and whether the person approved of recording. What are campus policies about recordings?

    It just concerned me that it could be misconstrued by someone seeing a faculty member taking videos of someone's legs. Those of us who appreciate what you do would hate to see your work jeopardized.

  7. Doc,
    I go barefoot pretty much everywhere but I have to take issue with your comment that shoes are not normal. Shoes are absolutely normal.
    "Normal: Conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected"

    If you used the word natural instead of normal I would completely agree with you. Shoes are definitely not natural any more than cars and computers are. They are a technology that has been misused.


  8. Warren, I think you misunderstood me. I have always said that shoes are normal but not natural (there's even a chapter in The Barefoot Book titled that).

  9. I would attribute part of it to a conditioned thinking that feet equal germs. I think there's also a safety concern, in that you don't want to be stuck with a random sharp object while walking down the sidewalk.

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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.