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.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

What is Tyranny?

What if the government criminalized a healthy activity? What if jogging, for instance, was made illegal because it increases your immediate risk of a heart attack. Of course, running reduces your risk of a heart attack in the long-run, but what if the government got their facts wrong or just didn’t care because the act of running was deemed too risky? What if the government mandated that you take a medication you don’t want to take? What would you do if the government forced you to do something you know is bad for you?

In Ohio, a committee made up of elected officials decided that citizens must wear footwear or face arrest (for criminal trespass) at the Statehouse, the government complex ironically called “The People’s House.” This decision came after a long and protracted fight by a man named Bob Neinast, an Ohio citizen who frequently makes (made) use of the Statehouse, barefoot. Bob goes barefoot because he enjoys it and because doing so genuinely relieves shoe-induced aches and pains. Although he is an Ohio citizen and the Statehouse is where citizens go to conduct business with their government, Bob is not allowed there unless he conforms to their idea of decorum.

Actually, the reason stated for the shoe rule is safety. Here is where the government has their facts wrong. The irony is that shoes are responsible for the vast majority of the foot problems we have in the United States, from bunions to fallen arches to athlete’s foot. High heels put at least 20,000 women in the hospital each year [1], but officials didn’t ban heels from the Statehouse.

For Your Safety is quickly becoming the most hated phrase in America, and for good reason. Since 2001, For Your Safety has been used to tread on more freedoms than any other excuse in our nation’s history. In Ohio, whose safety is really being preserved by this shoe rule? If it’s not about safety, why are our officials blatantly lying to us? If it’s about decorum, is this the business of our government?

Just laws are those that protect us from others who wish to physically harm us or our property. A law aimed at protecting me from myself is an unjust law and a tyrannical meddling of the government into my personal affairs. Liberty is the freedom to do as I please as long as I’m not demonstrably harming someone else. Thomas Jefferson said it like this:

“Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.”

Several members of the Ohio General Assembly were part of the committee (JCARR) that voted to uphold the new shoe requirement at the Statehouse, a rule that was created in direct response to a citizen (Neinast) going safely shoeless in the Statehouse; a rule that serves no purpose but to obstruct the actions of Neinast and other citizens [2] on public property. The rule demonstrates tyranny. Since the Legislators that support this rule don’t seem to understand the true nature of law and liberty, I urge the citizens of Ohio to dismiss and replace those Legislatures at their first opportunity. They are Sen. Frank LaRose (, Sen. Kris Jordan (, Sen. Dave Burke (, Rep. Bill Hayes (614-644-2500), Rep. Mike Duffey (614-644-6030), Rep. Cheryl L. Grossman (614-466-9690), Rep. John Carney (614-466-2473),and Rep. Tracy Maxwell Heard (614-466-8010). Senators Charleta B. Tavares ( and Michael Skindell ( voted against the rule and they are to be commended. The minutes for the meeting are not yet posted online, but will be here when they become available.

A few miles south of Ohio, Beth Harwell is Speaker of the House in Tennessee. She is known for going barefoot on the House floor as shown in the photo. In Columbus, Madame Speaker could be arrested, hand-cuffed, and taken away from the government property for this dangerous barefoot activity (actually, she would be hauled off to another, even less genial government property). Thank goodness that House Speaker Beth Harwell and the Legislators of Tennessee have more sense than those in Ohio.

1. DP Manning and C Jones. High Heels and Polished Floors: The Ultimate Challenge In Research On Slip-Resistance. Safety Science 19 (1):19.

2. The Statehouse is often used for weddings and special events; bridesmaids, keep your shoes on or face going to jail.

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!