Last year, I wrote a post explaining why I don’t wear shoes.
Recently, a reader emailed me with a few questions about barefooting. This turned into a fairly long conversation. I thought I’d share it with you, in case you have any similar questions (or, if you’re a barefooter yourself, so you can help me answer some of these questions!)
Q: I’m curious regarding your barefoot lifestyle, how can you handle hot asphalt/other surfaces in the summer while being a barefooter? What about thorns? Broken glass?
A: Hot asphalt can be tricky on really hot and sunny days, but (a) I don’t actually spend that much time in the city or on asphalt, and (b) you develop habits to help you avoid prolonged exposure to the hot black surfaces. For example, I often walk on the curb, the white painted lines, etc. Usually, there’s a sidewalk or some other path to take which isn’t nearly as hot. It’s only difficult when walking across a really big parking lot, which I rarely do. Moreover, your soles get thicker and tougher when you go barefoot a lot, so they become a lot less sensitive to heat and better-protected.
As for broken glass and the like, it’s never been a problem. When you’re barefoot, you generally have a heightened sense of your surroundings — you become more conscious of the surfaces you’re walking on, and you use your eyes more. I find that it just happens naturally, without conscious effort. As a result, I’m generally able to avoid dangerous surfaces quite effortlessly.
And if I do happen to start taking a step onto something sharp, I feel it right away and can take my weight off it instantly.
The thing is, when you’re not wearing shoes, you start to walk differently — more gently, more carefully, with the front (balls) of your feel rather than the heels. Your gait becomes more springy, with less weight on your heels.
And, like I said above, after a while your soles get tougher while remaining flexible, so they’re a lot harder to puncture.
I’m part of Facebook community called the Society for Barefoot Living, where folks share photos and stories, ask questions, and encourage each other in their barefoot pursuits. Someone recently shared a story about helping a family on the side of the road that had been in a car wreck, where there was glass all over the ground. After spending quite a bit of time in the area, she didn’t get a single injury. Pretty cool, if you ask me.
Thanks for your answer. It sounds that you just barefoot everywhere and all the time. Does that include trips, vacations, public transportation, even flights? What is the longest time for not using any kind of shoes?
I don’t barefoot ALL the time — I live in Canada, so it gets pretty cold during the winter months! But I do whenever I can.
I usually go barefoot on trips, though I often take sandals along just in case I need them. Yup, I use public transport and everything. I’ve spent weeks in big cities (Montreal, Toronto) without shoes and have had no problems.
The only time I have run into problems are occasional restaurants and grocery stores that don’t like me being barefoot because they think it’s a health code issue. But most don’t even notice.
I assume that your soles are dirty most of the time. Doesn’t it bother you? Do your family and others comment you regarding that?
My feet get kind of dirty, but surprisingly not that bad. Because the soles of your feet are smooth (unlike shoes), they don’t pick up much dirt. I just give them a wipe-down before bed. (Okay, confession: I forget more than half the time. But there is no telltale smudge on my bedsheets as a result, so I don’t stress too much about it.)
Interestingly, my feet are a lot cleaner after a day outdoors in nature (even after walking through puddles) than a day in the city or a mall. The two worst scenarios are when I go berry-picking or mow the lawn barefoot.
It doesn’t bother me or my husband (who is NOT a barefooter). It might bother other people, but they don’t mention it to me and I don’t really care either way.
You said that your feet become more tough and thick. Does that cause you to lose sense to the varied surfaces you walk on? Gravel? Little stones?
Yes, they get calloused enough that they can easily tolerate rougher surfaces (like gravel), but still sensitive enough that they can detect danger. And they also stay sensitive enough that walking on varying surfaces is highly pleasurable – I love the feel of warm concrete on a cool summer evening, or the transition to a floor of fallen leaves after a long walk on rough gravel.
What about sport (running, biking)? Do you train and if so do you do it barefoot? Any tips?
Sorry, I’m not much of an athlete. I do bike barefoot, and I’ve gone on the occasional (short) jog barefoot.
I’ve read that there are lots of benefits to running barefoot — it encourages you to take a healthier, more natural stride, which is gentler on your joints. But I don’t have any personal experience. I would google “barefoot running” to learn more.
What about public toilets? If you spend much time outdoors and on trips you need to use public toilets. Do you enter those places barefoot?
Yup. I do. That probably grosses a lot of people out, but I believe it to be perfectly safe. Germs can’t enter your body through (intact) skin. We put our bare bums onto toilet seats; why are our feet on the floor any worse? I don’t eat with my feet!
I’m lucky that I’m a woman: most women’s washrooms in North America are fairly clean. I guess I would perhaps be more wary of entering men’s washrooms (more risk of urine on the floor), but a woman’s washroom is unlikely to have anything objectionable on the floors. On top of all that, I also instinctively watch where I step, avoiding any puddles (though if there are any puddles, it’s probably just water).
I agree. Men’s toilets are really gross. Can you remember what is the longest period of time that you didn’t wear any kind of footwear? Do you go out at evening barefoot (also hard to see where you step on)?
I can’t say what is the longest period of time I’ve gone without footwear. As a stay-at-home mom, I can go a week at a time without putting on shoes. (I was able to go barefoot at my last job, too, so that wasn’t a problem.) Typically, I don’t wear shoes from April to October, except for the occasional event.
This summer I got a pair of “barefoot sandals” (i.e. sandals without soles), which I’m starting to wear into places where the owners might give me a hard time. (I hate confrontation.) Their only purpose is to fool people into thinking I’m wearing shoes (and also to look cute). But most of the time, nobody even notices my bare feet, or if they do, they don’t usually hassle me about it.
I do typically still go out barefoot at night, although you’re right — it’s harder to see where you step, and so it’s riskier. I mostly just do this when walking around my familiar neighbourhood. I DID once step on a slug, though, which has made me more hesitant to do this. :)
Do you have any questions to add? Or if you’re a regular barefooter, what would you add to my answers?
Read more: 14 Reasons I Don’t Wear Shoes