Letter: ‘Heel Thyself’ by going barefoot

Graphic by Lori Deaton

The article “Heel Thyself: Area Practitioners Offer Different Takes on Cause, Treatment of Leading Foot Complaint” that came out in the Jan. 30 Mountain Xpress was very interesting. But it does seem odd to me that with all the various foot problems suffered by people in our modern society, the obvious solution is not special devices to fix your feet or to wear special shoes, but to stop wearing shoes at all.

It has been estimated that approximately 90 percent of all foot problems are either directly caused by or exacerbated by shoe-wearing. Prescribing a different type of shoe will never get to the root cause of these problems, which is basically that any kind of shoe does damage to feet over time.

During a long working career when I was required to wear closed shoes, my own feet were severely damaged as a result, even requiring several surgeries to correct some of the problems. When I was able to retire, I was determined to have healthy feet again. So, after considerable research into any and all legal, medical and health issues related to going barefoot all the time and everywhere, I made the decision to never wear shoes again.

That was 16 years ago, and my feet are now the strongest and healthiest part of my body.

Human feet were designed and intended to function and serve us well without “support” or otherwise needing to be covered or bound up in footwear. There is no logical reason why anyone would ever need to have their feet covered or “protected” by shoes or other footwear, with the exception of certain conditions that would immediately or very quickly cause injury or damage, such as extreme weather conditions, caustic chemicals, fire or similar conditions. Mere risk or “what if?” are not necessarily good or logical reasons for needing footwear, but only personal preferences.

— Kriss Sands
Mars Hill

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47 thoughts on “Letter: ‘Heel Thyself’ by going barefoot

  1. Jason

    Perhaps you were wearing the wrong shoes? I find it difficult to believe that no shoes is better than a shoe that fits correctly, supports your body weight and offers protection. Not to mention how proper shoes wills ave your joints.

    • Kriss

      Any shoe fitting “correctly” is a myth.

      I’m curious. How do “proper shoes” save your joints? Save from what?

      The human body was designed to function just fine with the feet we were born with, without “support.”

      • Mike

        I infer that you never worked as a laborer on an asphalt paving crew. or in a ship yard where VERY heavy items are occasionally dropped, or as a LEO or EMT in San Francisco’s free needles and feces district(s). If you ride a motorcycle I would guess you eschew helmet and gloves along with your shoes?

        • Kriss

          Mike, you are exactly right in that I’ve never worked as a laborer on an asphalt paving crew or in a shipyard or those other places you mentioned. However, except for the fact that the employer at such places might *require* some sort of steel-toed boots or something similar in order to work there, technically there’s no reason I couldn’t work there barefoot. I’d just have to be very careful – as I always am anyway no matter what I’m doing.

          As to motorcycles, when I first got my motorcycle license I was living in a state that did not require helmets. It was really great riding without one. I don’t currently own a motorcycle, but since N.C. requires a a helmet, I’d be wearing one if I rode. Gloves? Depends on how cold it is. Shoes or boots? I would probably wear boots, since they often have to drag on the ground when riding.

          • Mike

            You can be as careful as you can but that won’t necessarily protect you from equipment failure or negligence of a co-worker. But fortunately, OSHA rules would protect you by making it illegal for you to be on a work site without proper protective gear and imposing massive fines on an employer caught allowing you to do so! I started riding in ’68 and have worn a full face helmet ever since they became affordable in the early 70s because I didn’t want to risk damaging my handsome face. Now at age 70 I will not ride with any exposed skin even though I did dumb stuff like riding in shorts and a tee shirt with my well protected head back in the 1970’s. But I never rode barefoot. A young female student of mine in her late 20’s crashed a few years back at 60 mph wearing running shoes, jeans, a decent armored jacket and a full face helmet. She ended up sliding FACE DOWN with the bike on her back. She needed skin grafts on her toes, feet and knees.. Her helmet was pretty much destroyed but she had no facial or upper body abrasions at all because of her jacket, helmet and riding gloves.

            Based upon 50 years continuous riding experience if you feel the need to put a foot down (a.k.a. dab) while riding at speed on pavement as opposed to stopping you are doing something seriously wrong though.

          • Kriss

            “Based upon 50 years continuous riding experience if you feel the need to put a foot down (a.k.a. dab) while riding at speed on pavement as opposed to stopping you are doing something seriously wrong though.”

            Well, let me put it this way. When I was riding, that was over 40 years ago. I haven’t owned a motorcycle since, though I still keep my license renewed. When I rode, I was not a full time barefooter as I am today, and I never rode it barefoot at that time. Would I ride one barefoot now? I’m thinking probably not, simply because I think there’d be times when my feet might need to slide on rough pavement. If you’re saying that’s not the right way to handle a motorcycle, maybe you’re right. But the point is, I don’t ride, and have no plans to in the near future. So it’s kind of a moot point as to whether I’d have on boots to ride or not. It’s just not a decision I need to make at this time.

  2. Mike

    “Mere risk.” I hike run and cycle through the woods all the time, work on my own cars, garden…also many people have medical conditions where they cannot “feel” their feet, may not be able to examine their own feet, and are prone to infection…the “mere risk” of serious injury or actual amputation is a very good reason to wear shoes for many folks. Recommending it as a wholesale practice for all makes as much sense as saying every person should wear the same size and type of footwear. I do believe a little bit of barefoot time feels good and should probably be practiced by most.

    • Kriss

      You’re probably referring to people with diabetes. Not everyone with diabetes has the degree of peripheral neuropathy in their feet that they feel nothing at all. I personally know of several people who have diabetes and who report that going barefoot regular has reduced their problems and increased the feeling in their feet,

    • Kevin Ball

      I live a fully barefoot lifestyle except for during the extremes of our Canadian winters (-35 to -40°C w/wind chill) and can attest to all the extensive health benefits of living sans shoes. I am also diabetic and have no issues being barefoot. In fact, as mentioned, I fully believe, if one is not in advanced stages of neuropathy it is a definite asset.
      I feel, to imagine that the state of an average relatively healthy human body is somehow naturally flawed and in need of artificial assistance or correction, is a distorted perception. Correct posture and body alignment starts from the foot and ANY kind of footwear will disrupt that alignment and cause problems over time.
      Imagine the issues that might arise one were to wear gloves all the time (even for some, at home in the house). How many more accidents might occur trying to function that way, not to mention your sweaty, stinky hands and eventual lack of sensory dexterity as well as the neurological apathy which would accompany decreased sensory stimulation. Why should it be different with our feet? Short of certain conditions or congenital abnormalities there is no good reason being barefoot would not be better for your overall health.

      • Denise Decker

        I have many Asian friends that hardly ever wear shoes. Their posture is better and I’ve noticed when they lay down their feet are at a 90 degree position. American feet at rest are more slanted down. Just a side bar.

  3. bsummers

    I first started going to Rainbow Gatherings 30 years or so ago. One year, when the site was rocky and cold, the medical tent had a big sign posted outside: “MAYBE WEAR SHOES.” This was as close to an order as you’ll see at one of those free-spirited events.

    If people want to go barefoot, they will. But not everyone realizes the downside until they wind up with broken toes, frostbite, or staph, all things that are common at Gatherings where people experiment with going barefoot. I’d be cautious about recommending it.

    • Kriss

      People who choose to go barefoot full-time obviously need to know what they’re doing and do a little research. Yes, there’s a certain amount of additional vulnerability, but anyone barefoot is naturally always much more careful that shoe-wearers. Plus, broken toes, frostbite, or staph infections aren’t confined to people who may be barefoot.

  4. DreadT

    “It has been estimated that approximately 90 percent of all foot problems are either directly caused by or exacerbated by shoe-wearing. ”

    They say sixty-five percent of all statistics
    Are made up right there on the spot
    Eighty-two-point-four percent of people believe ’em
    Whether they’re accurate statistics or not
    -Todd Snider

    • Kriss

      But can you name even one foot ailment that is not caused or made worse by shoes?

      • DreadT

        Stepping on broken glass or a nail. Bruised heel from jumping on concrete.

        Can you provide any source for the statistic that “90 percent of all foot problems are either directly caused by or exacerbated by shoe-wearing”?

        I love going barefoot, but this statement is misleading

        • Kriss

          Stepping on broken glass does not necessarily mean getting cut by broken glass. Most broken glass lying around flat is unlikely to actually pierce the skin of a barefoot person. I’ve never accidentally stepped on broken glass because I always watch where I’m stepping. I have stepped on broken glass on purpose, and it has never cut my foot.

          As to stepping on a nail, there have been scientific studies made which prove that a nail or other puncture wound into the foot is much more likely to get infected if the person is wearing shoes than if the person is barefoot (over 6 times more likely). I had the link, but can’t find it at the moment.

          In any case, those aren’t exactly foot ailments, like medical conditions. They’re just unfortunate accidents.

          As to the source for the 90%, this was the professional opinion of a prominent British podiatrist during a conversation we had. Note, I said it was approximate, as no hard and fast studies have been done that I’m aware of. But again, can you name a foot ailment (medical condition) that is not caused or made worse by shoes? I actually don’t know of any, so that 10% possibility is probably quite liberal.

          • DreadT

            I’m not a foot Dr. , nor have claimed to be. You provided a statistic without any source to backup your claim and still have not provided such information.

            I think most reasonable people would agree that a cut or puncture on your feet from a sharp object would most likely be prevented by wearing shoes. Stating how careful you are when walking around barefoot to avoid stepping on sharp objects does not change this.

          • Kriss

            I told you the source of the statistic. If you choose not to believe it, I really don’t care. Perhaps your argument against its validy would be more credible if you could provide even one medical condition of the feet that does not fall into that 90% category. So far, all you seem to come up with are things like cuts and punctures – accidents that could just as easily happen to hands or any other part of the body. Give me a *medical condition* of the feet that is not caused by or made worse by shoes.

          • Mike

            Stepping on and impaling your foot upon a hypodermic needle discarded by an Aids infected IV drug user… I know , I know… It is conceivable that after you pull the needle out of your foot you won’t be HIV infected..

          • Kriss

            “Stepping on and impaling your foot upon a hypodermic needle discarded by an Aids infected IV drug user…”

            Has that ever happened? Great hypothetical horror story, but I’ve never, ever heard of any documented case where it happened to anybody. Besides, like DreadT, who can’t come up with a real medical condition not caused by shoes, you’re referring to some potential (however unlikely) accident, not a medical condition of the feet.

      • Mike

        Broken toes caused by a heavy item falling on the foot in a facility in which steel toed boots are required.

        • Kriss

          That would certainly be unfortunate accident. But that’s not an example of a medical condition of the feet not caused by shoes. I think that’s the point here.

  5. Smart Feet

    This letter makes a lot of sense. Shoes generally weaken and deform the feet, and while they can be helpful in certain situations, too many people use them when they don’t need to, resulting in atrophy of foot muscles and a kind of disconnect from the body’s foundation. I started making it a point to walk barefoot on natural surfaces a few decades ago, and I must say not only does the practice improve how my feet feel, it helps my back feel better, too. No question about it, going barefoot strengthens the feet. Even 10 minutes walking barefoot in the park or your backyard can provide amazing health benefits. I wouldn’t advise going barefoot in sub-freezing temps or junkyards, but for the most part, walking without shoes is not nearly as “dangerous” as some people think it is.

    In response to the commenter who mentioned Rainbow gathering, I know a woman who went barefoot 24-7 for 10+ years back in the days of Grateful Dead tours. She is almost 60 today, and she still goes barefoot about 90 percent of the time. Her feet are strong and the picture of health. A misconception about going barefoot all the time is that it will turn your feet into caveman (or cavewoman) feet, but that’s not true so long as you care for them as you would any other body part.

    One of the problems at places like the Rainbow event is that sometimes people who have very little experience going barefoot much decide to ditch the shoes and their tender feet are vulnerable. Once you work up to going barefoot on a regular basis, you’ll know what terrains you can handle safely and when it might be a good idea to wear shoes.

  6. Alan Adler

    An excellent source is Dr. Daniel Howell’s book
    The Barefoot Book.
    Dr. Howell is a professor of human anatomy at a US university, and also holds a PhD in biochemistry.
    There is also a Facebook page for the book, in addition to his own personal page, plus a website for the book.

      • SpareChange

        “Dr. Howell is a professor of human anatomy at a US university, and also holds a PhD in biochemistry.”

        Just for clarity’s sake it should be noted that he is in the Biology Department of Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, where the biology course required for all students teaches young earth creationism, asserting that the earth is less than 10,000 years old, and that God created all life in a matter of days. These are not normally credentials and associations which would bolster one’s credibility as a scientist. However, if he has published research on the subject of his supposed expertise in refereed scientific or medical journals, I’d be genuinely interested in seeing it.

        • Kriss

          While I certainly do not agree with the religious ideology of that particular university, I have the book and have read it, and the author in no way advocates, reflects, or even mentions in any way those views. It is a well-written, well-researched document outlining all the known facts about being barefoot, as well as debunking common myths.

          I think an actual read of the book would lay to rest any prejudgment based on those unrelated issues.

          • SpareChange

            It was another commenter, whose statements you then endorsed, who invoked the good “doctor’s” affiliations and credentials in a manner clearly intended to validate what he had to say, not me. If you now want to say that you nonetheless find his book convincing “despite” (instead of “because of”) his credentials and affiliations, then that seems reasonable.

            However, rather than just citing Howell and an as yet unnamed British podiatrist, it would provide a lot more support for the case if some actual research published in refereed scientific or medical journals was cited to support the argument. I personally don’t care if people wear shoes or not (as made clear in another comment, it is just not on my list of top 100 human rights causes), but if you are going to write the initial letter, and you and other advocates are then going to proceed to throw around all these arguments about health and well being, then the onus is on you to actually provide some credible research from credible sources to support the very strong, uncompromising case that you are making. Thus far that has not been done.

          • Kriss

            “It was another commenter, whose statements you then endorsed, who invoked the good ‘doctor’s’ affiliations and credentials in a manner clearly intended to validate what he had to say, not me.”

            Nothing of the detail you’re stating was ever posted here.

            The commenter wrote only, “Dr. Howell is a professor of human anatomy at a US university, and also holds a PhD in biochemistry.”

            I responded only that it was an excellent book. Nothing about Howell himself.

            “If you now want to say that you nonetheless find his book convincing ‘despite’ (instead of ‘because of’) his credentials and affiliations, then that seems reasonable.”

            The book is convincing, notwithstanding any “credentials and affiliations” Howell may or may not have. I will have to say though that there wasn’t much in the book that I didn’t already know. Nevertheless, it’s a very good book for those who don’t already have that knowledge and experience.

            As to actual research published, there is a list of articles cited on the Society for Barefoot Living website, http://www.barefooters.org/medical-research/. In addition, there are two particular individuals, Daniel E. Lieberman, PhD, of Harvard University and Steven E. Robbins, MD, of McGill University (Montreal), who have and continue to do extensive research on human bare feet, footwear, and related issues, and have published numerous studies over the years.

          • Alan

            Dr. Irene Davis also published peer reviewed pro- barefoot studies at a major US university in no way affiliated with a creationist philosophy, and now
            working with Dr. Lieberman at Harvard continues to back the case for barefoot mobility as being biomechanically superior to the footwear option.
            Spare Change, you are obviously an intelligent person, I can only assume that your unwillingness to accept barefoot life and access for those who choose that option to be based on a personal disgust with bare feet.
            Unless you can otherwise explain your dedication towards attempting to debunk the current science on the subject.

          • SpareChange

            Maybe I’ve just watched too many episodes of Portlandia, or seen too many people experiencing real discrimination and real adversity in life to take this as seriously as you’d like. But within that context, let it also be noted that nowhere do I in any way question what you call “barefoot life.” And asking for some credible research to back up sweeping, uncompromising health claims is not seeking to debunk anything. It is part of any normal discourse. I think it is probably true that many shoes (especially those that put form and fashion over function) cause as many or more problems as they prevent. Had the original letter simply expressed the reasoned preference, and asserted potential benefits of not wearing shoes for themselves and some other people, instead of turning it into an ideological crusade and human rights cause, then the reactions (including my own) would have been much different. To borrow from “Spinal Tap,” the volume started at 11, when it really only needed to be set at 3.

            You’ll take me at my word, or not, that I really could not care less about your or anyone’s footwear (or the absence thereof). But I do get a bit concerned with people who seem to circle the wagons so tightly and so zealously around what may be my new choice for being the ultimate “first world problem.” I know that this will be greeted with a long list of assertions about one’s “rights” and “health,” and that signs reading, “No shoes, no shirt, no service” rank right up there with those signs which designated “white and colored” for public facilities, or which proclaimed, “No Irish need apply,” but 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. As I had already said, it’s more a matter of proportionality than it is one of what is being advocated.

          • Alan

            I have no choice but to advocate for the shoeless.
            With an advanced osteoarthritic condition in both feet, the major joints now bone on bone with no cartilage remaining, it’s impossible for me to wear even the most minimal of footwear or soft coverings like socks.
            Sadly, that leaves many premises off limits to me.
            I’ve learned from experience that Nigel and his band’s hard driving upping the thing to “Eleven” method works wonders.
            I don’t know you, but having experience in the barefoot access movement for over a decade now,
            (one of my battles was featured in a front page Wall Street Journal article that was also published in the European as well as Asian editions), my assumption is that you are being disingenuous with your claim of personally not caring if people are barefoot in public establishments.
            In every case of refusal of service that I’ve fought (several hundred), the denial of entry was prompted by a manager or other worker who later admitted to finding bare feet in public places disgusting.
            You may be an exception, and if so then you are the first person I’ve come in contact with that cares enough to even think about the issue and it’s relative importance that isn’t a true hater of bare feet in public.

          • Kriss

            We all experience the world in different ways, obviously. I’ll have to say that I have never gotten the impression that a lot of people “hate” bare feet in public or find them “disgusting.”

            That’s not to say that I’ve never had any opposition or concerns from anyone relative to my bare feet. When there is an issue (which, for me, is rare), it more often than not centers around someone’s fear of liability should I sustain some kind of injury. It’s a misplaced fear, based on ignorance of how negligence and liability laws actually work.

            Occasionally, someone may bring up “health codes,” which they claim ban bare feet for customers. It’s an old myth, and nothing could be further from the truth.

            SpareChange, I do believe you when you say that you couldn’t care less about this issue. Though you obviously cared enough to comment several times. And I appreciate that. But I fail to see where my letter is “turning it into an ideological crusade and human rights cause.” Nothing of the sort is written or even implied in my letter.

            I guess by reading into or claiming such a message in my letter, it gives you a better context to make the comparison to other issues, such as racial discrimination or “real discrimination and real adversity in life,” and therefore more easily belittle what you characterize as our “first world problem.”

            Basically, all I wrote was that shoes cause a myriad of problems, problems which wouldn’t exist if shoes were never worn. And that I, a full-time barefooter for many years, am living proof of that.

  7. MENINGAND LAURENT

    J’ai découvert le fait de rester pieds-nus et de vivre comme cela depuis une opération du genoux.J’ai discuter avec un podologue sur le fait que je me trouvais tellement bien sans chaussures et celui ci m’a bien dit que d’etre pieds-nus le plus souvent possible était un bienfait. Cela fait deux ans maintenant que je ne mets plus de chaussures et je garantis réellement de ne plus avoir de douleurs et de ne plus etre malade . Je marche sur tout type de sol et je n’ai jamais eu de problemes . Je marche meme avec des températures négatives jusqu’à -10°c et je me sens parfaitement bien….

  8. David

    Kriss is absolutely correct. The idea that the part of the human body that evolved (or was designed, take your pick) to be the foundation for upright walking somehow needs artificial “support” in order to function properly doesn’t stand up to logic or evidence. I’ve been living barefoot for about five years, and the effects on my well-being have been so dramatic it was shocking to me. I was previously using opioids to control joint pain, and I was unable to tolerate cold weather due to the symptoms of Reynaud’s, a circulatory disorder. It turns out that everything I was told about how to manage Reynaud’s was wrong. Gradual exposure to cold has eliminated the symptoms entirely. In the case of joint pain, learning to walk with a natural gait and correct alignment, impossible in almost all shoes, has all but eliminated that as well. I use shoes as tools, in only very specific circumstances and only for the time necessary – just as I use gloves, or hearing protection. As for the risk of injury to someone who lives barefoot, it’s greatly exaggerated in the imaginations of people who are thinking about the vulnerability of their own feet. If you’ve been habitually shod your feet will be soft, weak, and prone to injury. This isn’t a matter of just taking off your shoes one day, conditioning is required. It’s worth it, or at least it was for me.

  9. Greenbare

    Thanks for sharing that wisdom, Kriss. I suffered from very painful gout in my big toes for two decades and was advised by doctors that I would have to take blood thinning pills for the rest of my life. My feet were also getting painful bunions. Then I figured out that I got more gout with some shoes than others. I finally learned that gout is almost entirely caused by shoes and the socks that we wear with them to keep from getting blisters. And, and so are bunions. Shoes do not fit human feet. Natural human toes splay wide for balance, but virtually all shoes narrow in front and squeeze toes together in unnatural crippling positions. Big toes on shod feet become permanently bent toward the middle toes and the unnatural joint position becomes inflamed. Our little toes are also permanently bent toward the middle, often curling under so many people walk on the sides of their little toes. The socks and lacing are tight to keep socks up and shoes on, and that restricts blood flow to our feet. Restricted blood flow exacerbates gout in the bent joints. Restricted blood flow exacerbates diabetic problems that cause amputations. The older we get and the more years we have worn ill fitting shoes the worse it gets.

    Bunions are also caused by shoes. Many people, especially older people, suffer from painful bunions. Shoe doctors do lots of money making surgery to remove painful bunions, but none of them will tell patients how to avoid pain and surgery by throwing away their shoes.

    Shoes also cause humans to walk with an unnatural “heel strike” gait. Over time the shock of heel strike walking or running causes injuries to ankles, knees, hips, and backs. Bare feet tend to walk toes down first and ease the heel to the ground with muscles that have become weak by not being used. Statistics on slip and fall injuries are also higher for shoe wearing people. Bare feet have nerve endings that sense how slippery the surface is that they stand upon. Shoe’s don’t. Bare feet flex to fit uneven ground, shoes don’t. Shoe people have more falls and fall injuries.

    Have all you shoe people ever actually looked at your shoes and compared to a picture showing the shape of a natural human foot? Natural feet are WIDE in the front with toes that reach outward for balance and to sense the ground upon which we walk. Shoes are universally made narrow at the front whhich doesn’t fit. They usually are longer in the middle, as if our big toe was in the center. One has to wonder if shoe makers have ever even looked at a human foot.

    Thank you Kriss for sharing this information.

  10. ARCWuLF

    I’m a forty- three year old man, and have suffered from chronic foot pain through much of my life. Within the last 10 years or so I have taken to going barefoot more and more, and within the last two years I have been going barefoot full time except for work, where I am required to wear protective footwear (the moment I get to the car, they come off). On the rare occasions that I do wear shoes, it’s because of social anxiety over ignorant people expecting me to wear them, even though I have suffered far less injury to my feet, legs, and spine since starting a barefoot regimen where I frequently go on 6+ mile hikes through the woods.

    I guess what I’m saying is, I will gladly accept the risk of going barefoot for my improved well-being, and if you don’t want to go barefoot I’m not going to judge you; please do the same for me

  11. SpareChange

    What’s most head shakingly ridiculous about much of this discussion, and this intense advocacy of going barefoot, is how perfectly “Ashevillian” it is. It’s not enough to just write a letter advocating something which the writer has found works for her (i.e., going barefoot). No, that would be too moderate and sensible and reasoned. Instead it has to be raised to a level of commitment and purity that rivals a political ideology or religious dogma. “Going barefoot is the ONLY way to walk the path that will lead one to the true enlightenment of the sole.” Bunions and hammertoes were the forgotten 11th plague inflicted upon the people of Egypt because they chose to wear sandals!

    One commenter even refers to “the shoe people,” making it sound like there are threatening hordes of out there armed with everything from wing-tips to flip-flops, seeking to overrun society.

    It is enough that here in A-ville we are already besieged by so many groups of messianic true believers — militant vegans, anti-vaxxers, and just about every other kind of phony lifestyle radicalism and belief system one can come up with. There’s not enough dividing us politically, socially, and culturally already — do we really need to be divided over barefootism too?

    • Kriss

      Interesting observations, and I mostly agree.

      One quick note. You referred to me (the letter writer) as “her.” I know my name is somewhat androgynous, but I am a “him.”

      I think the reason some of us may sometimes refer to “the shoe people” in a less than flattering context is that so often these “shoe people” turn out go be rude busybodies who try to impose their own choices and standards of attire onto others and think that others should conform to shoe-wearing habits at all times just like they do. Most people don’t like to be criticized and told how they should dress, and neither do we.

      “There’s not enough dividing us politically, socially, and culturally already — do we really need to be divided over barefootism too?”

      Divided? Of course not. There is no need or reason whatsoever that someone’s choice to be a barefooter or go barefoot in public should divide us. We are hurting no one. It’s no one’s business. We don’t tell others they should be barefoot, and nobody should be telling us we should be wearing shoes. I did suggest in my letter that to avoid or relieve the medical problems discussed in the article that ditching shoes was the logical solution, but that’s not the same as condemning others for their choice of footwear or no footwear. We just want to be left alone to enjoy our lives as we see fit to live them.

      • SpareChange

        This is why it has gotten so hard in Asheville to be an even somewhat serious minded political progressive concerned about real issues of economic, social and political equity and justice. We’re contending with people who choose to go barefoot possessing the political consciousness of an oppressed group. You don’t want to just be left alone. You want to be affirmed, validated, acknowledged and have these issues taken seriously as grievances. There’s just no proportionality. I’ll put it on my list of causes — ranking somewhere between thinking banning straws are the answer to pollution and climate change, and stopping the Brasstown, NC New Years Eve possum drop.

        • Kriss

          Are you seriously saying that someone, anyone, who occasionally makes a point that being barefoot is perfectly legal as well as a natural and healthy choice is somehow interfering with your political activism? I’m afraid I don’t quite get the logic of that.

          We do indeed just want to be left alone, but often we aren’t, almost always due to ignorance and mindless prejudice based on commonly believed myths. If you were discriminated against based on such stupidity, I’m sure you’d want to speak up for the truth and your rights as well.

          • SpareChange

            No common ground here — but I will ask this. Take all your unwanted and unneeded shoes and donate them to the WNC Rescue Mission on Patton Ave. While there, try to spend 10 minutes talking with Executive Director Micheal Woods. Ask if he’d mind telling you the story of how he began his lifelong work dealing with real people, experiencing real problems (it has to do with shoes).

  12. Albert Dobson

    Speaking only about myself, I have been barefoot for a little over two years. Prior to that, I lived with daily chronic pain for 30+ years. Drugs were not effective other than masking the problem. I am and have been pain free since ditching my shoes. Logically, there is no way creation or, evolution, whatever you prefer, the human foot is not designed to carry us anywhere across just about anything. To think otherwise is absurd.
    The polarization of shoes or, no shoes is mostly an American ideology. In reality, most other countries find our commitment to wearing shoes is absurd. Especially that we wear them inside the home. In addition, the whole debate didn’t exist until the late 50’s, early 60’s. That’s why there’s no laws in any state that requires anyone to wear shoes in any place including driving. The problem is that there’s about two generations of people now who were raised in thinking shoes are necessary and without them its a vulgar dirty thing.

  13. Jason W

    If shoes are so bad, why were they invented in the first place? What drove early man to cover their feet with animal hide?

    • Kriss

      As ancient humans began to move around into areas that were less and less hospitable for living comfortably with little to nothing covering their natural bodies, shoes, along with other body coverings to protect from extreme temperatures or harsh terrain, were invented. Animal hides were the easiest and strongest material available for such purposes. Of course no one then knew or cared that shoes would evolve over the centuries into the rigid and unhealthy “foot prisons” that most people wear today.

      Lots of inventions have turned out to be very bad for human health – cigarettes and other tobacco products immediately come to mind. Also such things as land mines, sarin gas, agent orange – the list could go on and on.

  14. Jason W

    Your argument is fallacious, because you’re ignoring the inherent purpose each item was invented for.
    Land mines, sarin gas, and agent orange are all inherently designed for destruction. While one may argue with my assertion that shoes, in general, are designed to protect your feet, you’d have a hard time arguing they are designed to destroy or kill people.
    Whereas one might argue that both cigarettes and modern shoes were designed as a profit making venture, Tobacco, which of course wasn’t invented, but grown naturally, is mostly used for its mood altering properties. One would also have a tough time arguing that shoes provide the same mood-altering experiences.
    So maybe we can both agree that shoes were first designed for protection, since in your statement above you say, “As ancient humans began to move around into areas that were less and less hospitable for living comfortably with little to nothing covering their natural bodies, shoes, along with other body coverings to protect from extreme temperatures or harsh terrain, were invented.” I also think we agree that clothes, like shoes, were also invented for protection. Would you then argue that in our modern climate controlled societies, there are no reason to wear clothes? Would you call underwear, “genital prisons?” I kind of doubt it, because it is a unspoken moral contract in modern society that we clothe ourselves when we head into certain public spaces, and especially into privately owned establishments. If you don’t you’re going to at the least be thought of as weird if not something else.
    Honestly, I really can’t tell you how to live your life. If you want to walk around barefoot in your home, yard, on the Appalachian Trail, or in downtown Asheville I really have no business telling you otherwise. However you must realize that just like there are people who don’t want to see your nipples, or butt-crack, or your genitals while in public spaces or private establishments, there are some people out there who would rather not see your feet. Is it logical, or rational? Probably not. But it’s more or less what a majority of society expects.
    You have every right to buck against societies norms, but be prepared for some push-back, especially when you call people’s widely accepted notions, illogical. Hey I would love to wear my roller-skates everywhere I go, but I know and accept that there are just places where it is inappropriate.
    You are tenacious, and I admire that you are so committed to your beliefs. However, you have an very uphill fight convincing an overwhelming majority of people that shoes are bad for them. I don’t envy you. I’m glad that going barefoot 24/7 has cleared up your podiatric problems, but I doubt it will ever be the absolute right choice for everybody out there.
    I promise to let you go barefoot in peace, if you’ll let me enjoy collecting my “foot coffins” in peace.

    • Kriss

      You asked why shoes were invented (if they “are so bad”), and I tried to answer that. I never said they were originally invented to hurt anyone. Cigarettes (as one example) weren’t invented to hurt anyone either. Whoever came up with that idea centuries ago had no way to know the harm it would do. We know better now.

      “Would you then argue that in our modern climate controlled societies, there are no reason to wear clothes?”

      I don’t think there’s much climate control outside of most buildings or homes. There are many reasons to wear clothes, which is a whole other subject unrelated to going barefoot.

      “Would you call underwear, ‘genital prisons?'”

      Of course not. There’s practically no comparison between underwear and shoes. Underwear (and clothes in general) do not bind, constrict, and damage the body in a hot, damp, unforgiving environment that is a virtual Petri dish of bacteria and fungus growth due to constant sweat and dead skin cell accumulation, as is the case with shoes.

      “However you must realize that just like there are people who don’t want to see your nipples, or butt-crack, or your genitals while in public spaces or private establishments, there are some people out there who would rather not see your feet. Is it logical, or rational? Probably not.”

      If you’re asking if it’s logical or rational for people to equate a view of bare feet with a view of nipples, butt-cracks, or genitals, of course not. That’s patently ridiculous. If any body part is even close to a comparison to bare feet, it would be hands. Hands are almost always bare. Bare hands do no harm to anyone either, and they never suffer the afflictions resulting from being constantly bound up and covered, as most people’s feet are.

      “You are tenacious, and I admire that you are so committed to your beliefs. However, you have an very uphill fight convincing an overwhelming majority of people that shoes are bad for them. I don’t envy you.”

      I appreciate that. Honestly, convincing anyone that shoes are bad for them is nowhere near the top of my list of priorities. If the topic comes up (as it did in the article I wrote about), I won’t hesitate to express my views. My highest priority is trying to convince people that my being barefoot (or anyone being barefoot) does absolutely no harm to anyone or any business, and should not be of anyone’s concern whatsoever. It’s no different from a choice, for example, to not wear a hat.

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