Letter: Be considerate and wear a pair of sandals in public

Graphic by Lori Deaton

In a previous letter, the option to go without shoes was brought up as a preferable alternative to finding a more suitable pair of soles [“‘Heel Thyself’ By Going Barefoot,” Feb. 6, Xpress]. The ensuing discussion, I noticed, was largely based around the benefits or drawbacks of this practice to the individual — not to those surrounding them who might be affected by their decision.

Regardless of whether any concrete, factual information was presented in support of either side, it is pretty clear that engaging in the practice of wearing shoes likely limits the spread of certain diseases and fungal infections to others. It is common practice to wear “shower shoes” in public bath areas in order to prevent picking up nasty microbial hitchhikers — can you imagine the rate of infection we may possibly see if a large number of people stopped wearing shoes completely in public areas?

You could argue that the only people affected by this would be the other shoeless-by-choice individuals, but this is ignoring those who may wear open-toed shoes, young children and anyone who is barefoot for only a brief period in a conventional/necessary setting for the activity, such as a doctor’s office or the security area of an airport. With the contagious spread of different foot-borne infections rising due to the daily public traffic of shoeless individuals, the chances of nonshoeless people developing these afflictions may also spike, in much the same way we worry about the spread of the flu or other similar diseases throughout populations.

It is likely better, then, to benefit the multiple individuals who might have to put up with the mess of having an unwanted infection (via wearing shoes) than it is to serve only oneself by going barefoot everywhere. On the beach, in the woods, and around private property, feel free, but perhaps consider your fellow man and don a pair of sandals in public.

— Mackenzie McClay


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28 thoughts on “Letter: Be considerate and wear a pair of sandals in public

  1. Vickey

    What kind of nonsense is this? What diseases are spread by having bare feet? Yes, you wear shower shoes at the gym. It’s a warm moist environment. Perfect for fungi to grow. And so is the inside of a closed shoe. However, my dry bare feet don’t carry any more germs than the bottom of your shoe!

    • Kriss

      “However, my dry bare feet don’t carry any more germs than the bottom of your shoe!”

      Quite likely much less. Bare feet are washed regularly. Nobody washes the bottoms of their shoes. So whatever shoes step in pretty much remains on them forever.

  2. Kriss

    The writer seems to be under the erroneous assumption that everyone’s feet are afflicted with “certain diseases and fungal infections.” And only if everyone continually keeps their feet covered in public – or at least “don sandals” – will that scourge of humankind be kept at bay.

    She may be judging everyone else’s feet by her own, which perhaps do have “certain diseases and fungal infections” if she’s a regular shoe wearer. But if she remembered any of the basic biology she should have learned in high school, she’d know that fungal infections almost never grow and thrive on skin exposed to dry fresh air and light. People who never wear shoes do not have any these “foot-borne infections” that the letter writer is so worried about spreading around.

    The never-washed inside of shoes, with their hot, dark, and moist environment, are a virtual Petri dish of infection as the skin sweats and dead skin cells are sloughed off, encouraging bacteria and fungi growth. If there is an issue with “contagious spread of different foot-borne infections,” it’s from shoe wearers who may remove their shoes at inappropriate times, thus spreading their infections. Barefooters – that is, true barefooters who never wear shoes at all – do not have those infections.

    • Kriss

      You’re right, SpareChange. But if you research further, you’ll see this topic has come up well over a dozen times since then. Apparently myths never die. Yet facts remain the same.

  3. Jonathan

    “wearing shoes likely limits the spread of certain diseases and fungal infections to others”

    What a load of rubbish!

    Shoes cause 99% of diseases and infections, you stick a pair of feet in shoes, you sweat and your shoes get wet inside, your feet then get hot. In this wet, dark and moist environment is where the fungus and bacteria like to bread, not out in the open where it’s light and there is fresh air.

    The fact is, if no-one wears shoes these so called “diseases and fungal infections” would more or less disappear.

    It’s not the barefooters spreading all the diseases and fungal infections, it’s the shoe wears.

    So do us a favour and lose the shoes.

  4. EiresM

    This is preposterous. Unless you have open wounds on the soles or bottom of the heal the likely hood of disease entering your body is minimal. No different then opening a door of a store which is touch by hundreds of thousands a people a day. I would assume feet are honestly cleaner than shoes. People do not bathe or shower their shoes while feet are cleaned regularly. Instead of crucifying barefootes, or “naked feet” why not make an article on cleaning your shoes on a regular basis because the “diseases” you claim are spread by barefeet means it is spread just as much if not more by shoes. Below i will be attaching links to articles about barefooting as well as articles about how UNHYGENIC shoes are.


  5. Steve

    I don’t mind wearing shoes but I’ve known a handful of people over my life who were just so much happier when they could go barefoot. It sincerely annoys me that they can’t get that little slice of happiness without encountering a lot of silly judgments. It seems incredibly obvious to me that we ought to all just be able to make our own footwear decisions, but even on that small matter we can’t seem to live and let live. Rather we contrive reasons why others ought to abide by our preferences. We are all entitle to our own hangups and neuroses, and if seeing someone barefoot bothers you, fine. I get grossed out by people eating mayonnaise. I find it repulsive and can’t imagine why anyone would ever do it. But this is just my deal. I don’t seriously expect others to conform their eating habits to my issues. I don’t try to say that mayo spoils easily so that by eating mayo they are increasing their risks of getting illnesses that they might then spread to us non mayo-eaters. Nor do I attempt to elevate my sensibilities to rules that should be followed by asserting that eating mayo in public is disrespectful or ill mannered. For goodness sake, just let people do as they choose without desperately contriving a reason for it to be your business. The chances of you actually be substantially harmed by others going barefoot is completely trivial no matter what far fetched stories you conjecture.
    When it comes to what people wear on their feet, how they dress, where they breastfeed, what they eat, what music they listen to…just let them be. True respect for your neighbors is letting them do as they please even when you don’t dig it. If you try hard enough you can always dress up your preferences as something more objective, but make no mistake, that’s all you’re doing.

    • Kriss

      Very well said, Steve. I completely agree. Someone’s choice to not wear shoes when everyone around them is wearing them is no different from someone’s choice to not wear a hat when everyone around them is wearing one. Neither of those choices has any effect on any other person whatsoever, and neither of those choices is anyone else’s business.

  6. SpareChange

    As the Sans-Culottes proclaimed during the French Revolution:
    “No pants… No jock itch!”
    (Liberté, Égalité, Génitaux)

  7. Robert

    All of the things that the writer describes negatively about bare feet are actually CAUSED by wearing shoes – fungus, odor, bacteria, etc. A shoe is one of the most germ-infested items in a household (Studies have confirmed this – even “dirtier” than a toilet) as a shoe is a closed, moist environment that is a breeding ground for these types of organisms. Putting your foot in a shoe is akin to sticking it into a petrie dish full of growing bacteria. The same thing would happen to your hands if you put them into a tight-fitting glove each morning and never took it off until bedtime. People that don’t wear shoes have no such conditions, do not spread any kind of “infections,” and are generally much healthier than those that do. It’s ashamed that this kind of prejudice still exists in today’s society, where science and facts backs up the opposite.

  8. Colleen

    Society is impacted far more negatively by those making choices that have documented risks and economic impact than any barefooted person passing by. For example, obesity and smoking both have striking implications for the public in increased health care resource consumption, lost productivity, self-chosen disability and increased risk of early death. We are the people “surrounding them who might be affected by their decision,” confirmed by years of research and science. No such risks are associated with those who choose, or need, to be barefooted and bias towards these people is generally rooted in cultural preconception and ignorance of the science.

  9. SpareChange

    The topic itself is fine. If people want to express a preference for going barefoot and explain their perception of its benefits — great. Turning it into a civil rights issue is what brings out the ridicule. It really does set a new high bar for silly first world “problems.”

    As expressed the last time the issue came up on these pages, “I will continue to worry more about those in the world who want shoes, but who lack the means to obtain them, than I will about those who feel their rights are violated if a public or private institution requires them to wear shoes prior to entering.” It is not and will never be on my list of top 100 (or 1,000 issues).

    You did get some social media attention over on the Asheville subreddit though. Someone was lamenting that he/she “missed the old school Asheville nutjobs.” In response, another poster directed people here.

    • Kriss

      “Turning it into a civil rights issue..”

      The only person who seems to want to turn this into a civil rights issue is you. Which is typical of the comments you made on the other letter as well. You make up points and issues that were never said or even implied by anyone so you can vigorously state your arguments against those made-up points.

      May I suggest you just read what is written and respond to what is written rather than what you wish had been written that best fits your agenda.

      It appears you’ve also bought into the popular myth that there are people in the world who desperately “want shoes, but who lack the means to obtain them.” That is the hype that certain shoe companies would have you believe so they can sell more shoes to gullible Americans, with their special enticement being their “donation” of a second pair of shoes to the poor shoeless children of poor countries. It’s all a scam, as nothing is “donated.” Those shoes are bought and paid for by the inflated prices paid for the original pair.

      The main purpose of these programs is to build markets and create demand in third world countries. People who live traditionally barefoot in some parts of the world can easily get shoes if they want them – including from local craftsmen right there among them. They don’t need big American shoe corporations coming in and attempting to change their traditional culture with the ultimate purpose of increasing the shoe corporations’ bottom lines.

      As to the needs of people who live in actual poverty in places such as Africa, shoes are so far down on the list of real priorities, they really aren’t even on any rational list. Instead of wasting money, time, and lip service, as well as helping some shoe corporation’s bottom line, people should be contributing towards what these people and these children really need, school supplies, food, and medicine. These are necessities. Shoes are not necessities, particularly in countries with year-round warm climates. But they soon will be as we brainwash the children into believing so.

      Someone once said, “Of course they’ll be better off, because we know how to make them ‘better off.’ We just make them like us.”

        • Blue Rizla Girl

          Hookworm is caught by walking barefoot over ground contaminated with human faeces.

          What these people need is proper toilets, not shoes.

          • Kriss

            Not just human feces, but hookworm infected human feces, that is, containing hookworm larvae in their infective stage from an infected person.

            But you’re absolutely right. Proper toilets and modern sewage systems would eliminate that problem – as it has in the United States and most other developed countries of the world.

      • SpareChange

        “…the popular myth that there are people in the world who desperately ‘want shoes, but who lack the means to obtain them.'”

        Tell you what… go spend an hour at the WNC Rescue Mission and talk to the Director, Micheal Woods, about how his work began with spending his own money to buy and collect shoes for people right here in Asheville who needed them. Better yet, volunteer on April 19 (Good Friday) for their next free foot care clinic and the free shoe and sock giveaway, and talk to some of the people who show up believing in the “myth” that they need shoes. Maybe you can convince them that they are just brain-washed pawns in the shoe industry conspiracy.

        As for MY turning it into a “civil rights” issue — Just a few quotes from only one of the many, many threads of discussion on these pages stretching back at least 12 years:

        “It is about time that our right for the barefoot option is understood by retailers, restaurants, and municipal building security guards.”

        “…people have – or should have – the RIGHT to make their own personal decision about whether they want to be barefoot or not, without being confronted by a rude, unwelcoming sign at the door of a business or being hassled by some “shoe-police.”

        “The problem is with people like Jason who admittedly hate feet, and want to deny us barefoot people our legal rights rather than merely avert their eyes.”

        “We already have the right to go barefoot in all public institutions.”

        ““Sucking it up” and following the rules may be your way to handle problems but that doesn’t solve the problem. I suppose Rosa Parks should have just sucked it up and followed the rules in 1955 Montgomery. That probably would have been your advice to her back then.”

        “No, we need to speak up for our rights when they are denied to us each and every time it happens.”

        “A fellow that is an attorney representing a barefoot rights group…”

        “Surely you know the Unruh Civil Rights Act is a California law and has no application whatsoever to North Carolina or any other state… Actually, I wish it did apply here, because courts and legal scholars have interpreted that law as having application not only to sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, etc., but to arbitrary discrimination in general, and in fact courts have found that discrimination due to “unconventional attire” is illegal under that law.”

        “…acknowledge that adult customers have the right to make their own decisions about what they wear or not wear on their feet.”

        “Not everyone here buckles under to convention, and we have a right to dress as we please…”

        • Kriss

          As I said, people who really do want shoes can easily get them. And you have confirmed that with your examples.

          As to your quotes, thanks for that. I’m really glad you’ve been reading some of those old posts. Hopefully you’ll learn something from reading all the comments. I hope you have found all. There are actually 15 different articles or letters related to going barefoot that have comments from me (not counting this current one). You may also want to look at my comments under other topics as well, including 8 articles or letters regarding towing, 3 regarding breastfeeding in public, and one regarding circumcision. I can provide you (or anyone) all those links if you like. Or you can just search for my name – which is my real name.

          As to a right to be barefoot in public as a civil rights issue, yes, it indeed is. Though nothing in the current letter and nothing in the current comments made any reference to this being a civil rights issue. You brought that up on your own, and that was my point. You often make up issues that aren’t there or claim someone said one thing or another that they didn’t actually say just so you can argue against it.

          • SpareChange

            I’m beginning to understand. First you state that, “the only person who seems to want to turn this into a civil rights issue is (me).” And, that in doing so, I, “make up points and issues that were never said or even implied by anyone.” You had also encouraged me to read letters and comments from past discussions. So, that’s what I did.

            Based on that, I then show you multiple examples of you and others making the exact arguments I attributed to you (that you do in fact assert that going barefoot is a civil right and should be defended as such). So, then you confirm that I was correct after all, and that I was not making it up, but (here’s where it gets interesting…) apparently by demonstrating that I had (at your prompting) actually read what you and others have written in previous discussions, and then referring to that, somehow I’m still accused of making things up, because “nothing in the CURRENT letter and nothing in the current comments made any reference to this being a civil rights issue.”

            So, despite your apparent pride in beating the same dead horse of an issue for the past 12 years, I guess from now on readers will know that you only want them to discuss these issues important to you on your terms, and that they should only hold you to the statements you’ve made which you choose to be held to, and only those made within the past 48 hours. Meanwhile, ever mindful and assertive of your own extremely vital and important “rights,” you’ll nonetheless get to tell everyone else, including the neediest of people, what is and is not important or needed in their lives, and if they don’t agree, you can just dismiss it as myth, and brainwashing, and corporate conspiracy. Got it.

          • Kriss

            “Got it.”

            Apparently not. I’m afraid this last comment of yours is too confusing for even I to fully interpret.

            But based on what I think you’re trying to say, I’ll try to clarify a few things.

            “So, despite your apparent pride in beating the same dead horse of an issue for the past 12 years,…”

            If it’s a “dead horse,” why are you so intently interested in it? Interested enough to spend all that time and effort going through everything that I and some others may have posted on this general topic in the past 12 years. This topic is obviously of great interest to you, or you wouldn’t be so obsessed with it.

            “I guess from now on readers will know that you only want them to discuss these issues important to you on your terms, and that they should only hold you to the statements you’ve made which you choose to be held to,…”

            I have no control over what readers post or discuss. Of course, if someone does make a comment on something I feel is important, it gives me the opportunity to further state my position or provide additional facts.

            “and only those made within the past 48 hours.”

            Again, I have no control over what others may choose to discuss. It does seems logical that such discussion would remain in the context of the current letter or article, but I suppose if someone wants to go back and dig up previous comments I or others may have made in past years and talk about those, that’s fine with me.

    • SpareChange

      Inspired! Maybe a Spotify playlist?

      “Ain’t No Soul (Left In These Old Shoes),” Major Lance
      “Another Man’s Shoes,” Carmol Taylor
      “My Shoes Keep Walking Back To You,” Johnny Cash

      And on the flip side:
      “Burnin’ Feet,” Chris Rea
      “Cold Feet,” Albert King
      “Dirty Fee,” Jenny’s Daughters
      “Barefoot In Baltimore,” Strawberry Alarm Clock

      Hundreds of possibilities.

    • Kriss

      It’s really ironic that how you attempt to come across as socially progressive and caring for fellow humans, with your frequent examples of helping the homeless and other concerns with problems in the world. Yet in fact, behind that phony facade apparently lies a bitter, vindictive and quite intolerant person who continues to attack those of us who have made a choice to simply dress in a different way from the average person, a mode of attire that does no harm to you or anyone else.

      You really have a lot to learn. Not so much about the facts of going barefoot, but about treating your fellow human beings with a little more dignity and respect, especially those whose appearance or lifestyle is different from yours or not what you’re used to seeing.

      The videos that you have linked here have nothing to do with a true barefoot lifestyle.

      It is unfortunate that in the last few years we have seen quite a bit of negative publicity on social media as well as some pop culture TV talk shows about that rather boorish behavior by a few individuals on airline flights who have removed their shoes and invaded the space of other passengers with their bare feet. People who have done this are not barefooters at all; they are shoe wearers who just don’t know how to behave and be respectful to others in a public place.

      No true barefooter would behave like that on a plane or anywhere else. But obviously some shoe wearers do.

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