The Goal of the Society for Barefoot Living

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In some sense, our main goal is to put ourselves out of business.

There is no Society for Bareheaded Living. There is no Society for Bare-armed Living. There is no Society for Wearing Shorts. There is no reason for such groups. People who choose to dress in any of those fashions simply are not discriminated against.

The last of those hypotheticals actually illustrates the issue fairly well. In the 1950s and 1960s, no grown man in the United States would wear shorts, certainly not out and about. Yet, in the 1970s and beyond, shorts-wearing men became increasingly common, and uncommented upon (despite a plethora of skinny and/or hairy specimens). Some of that may have been influenced by such shows as Magnum P.I., but still, the conversion took place without men in shorts being tossed from grocery stores. Maybe a few fancy restaurants still have problems with the shorted, but in general, anybody can go into most restaurants these days wearing shorts, without anybody batting an eye.

That can be contrasted with the situation going barefooted. Stores have signs that say “No shirt, No shoes, No service.” Libraries often have codes of conduct that require shoes (and a shirt). While, if challenged, they will say that is it for safety concerns, it is hard to imagine a location safer for bare feet than a library. What, they’re afraid we’ll get paper cuts on our toes?

So, we’d like to put ourselves out of business. We’d like to see going barefoot generate as much controversy as wearing shorts (that is, going bare-legged). If that were the case, we could fold up our tents and go home.

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8 Responses to “The Goal of the Society for Barefoot Living”

  1. Anemone Says:

    Yaay! I’m in a situation with my library banning bare feet, but I can’t find shoes that fit, and I have to somehow explain that to people who are so brainwashed that they can’t see the possibility. I see shoes as being somewhat like corsets that way. (Though I do agree with having to wear shirts in the library – they won’t hurt you.)

    There was a wave of publicity this summer that did change at least one store policy that I know of, though. So there is progress.

    PS I’m in Canada, and I’m thinking of filing a human rights complaint against my library.

  2. Pete F Says:

    What a wonderful world it would be – a barefoot one.
    My whole life I lived wearing shoes everywhere except in the comfort of my own home, then several years ago I discovered a few things. I discovered that medical research is uncovering the truth about how healthy bare feet are that shoes actually change our gate and restrict proper foot function. I discovered that shoe companies are figuring out that our feet are far more capable than anyone had previously thought and are responding to this knowledge with new shoes that try to simulate being barefoot such as “Nike Free”, “Masai Barefoot Technology”, “Vibram Five Fingers”, “Rebok Easytones”, “Skeetchers Shape-Ups”, and “Asics Kinsei” Just to name a few. I also discovered that there are no health codes demanding that shoe be worn by people visiting stores, shops, restaurants, or any other type of place of business. So I decided to take off my shoes and give barefooting a try. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was a tenderfoot. My muscles were weak and sore at the end of the day, my soles really didn’t like stepping on little pebbles and such, and the lack flexibility in my feet and ankles left me walking around quite gingerly at first. These however, were temporary conditions that corrected themselves over time. My muscles strengthened, the flexibility was re-gained, my soles had an inner tissue that I didn’t even know I had that built up while leaving the outer layer of skin supple and free of those isolated calluses caused by my shoes, and foot odor, which was so prominent after spending days growing germs and bacteria in my warm moist and dark shoes was all gone. Even the blood vessels and capillaries in my feet were re-awakened and began to distribute increased blood flow into my feet in order to keep them warmer in the winter time. I was very impressed as to the enormous capabilities my bare feet had once conditioned. They have never failed to handle anything I asked of them. I work construction barefoot, I can throw a 20 lb. day pack on my back and easily walk 15 to 20 miles with ease, I can walk around in the winter leaving the coolest footprints in the snow, and be comfortable and relaxed all day every day. The only thing that could make it better would be to not get the stares by gaulking people who act as if they’ve never seen a pair of bare feet before, or to not have to worry that some Walmart employee on a weird ego trip will try to kick me out of the store because I don’t have shoes on. And most of all I would love for people who think feet are gross, to realize that the shoes they are wearing have not been washed in months are far grosser than feet that get washed every time the owner of said feet takes a shower. I don’t think its necessary for everyone to go barefoot just because I believe its better, just to have a little tolerance for bare feet and allow people to choose any attire they wish to wear (or not wear). Yes – What a wonderful world it would be.

    Pete the Barefoot Carpenter

  3. Jeff Pages Says:

    Yet people join hiking groups, not because hikers are discriminated against, but to share their enjoyment of hiking with other like-minded people. The same with model railway enthusiasts, stamp collectors or any other special interest you care to name. I think it’s a shame the Goal of the SBL has shifted to fighting discrimination in the USA rather than providing a global meeting place for people who share the simple enjoyment of barefooting – a sign of the times I guess.

  4. Anemone Says:

    Yet barefooting isn’t really an activity the way hiking is. It’s more the way you do something rather than something in itself. Unless you equate it with nudism in some sense, and I’m not comfortable with seeing it as being similar to nudism – it’s not like that for me at all. For me it’s to make the things I do (walking, hiking, and now parkour) easier and more fun, not an end in itself.

    An emphasis on barefooting safely and effectively works for me even more than emphasis on legal issues. At this point, given barefooting is not the norm in developed countries, having somewhere to go for tips on barefooting is important. The additional legal issues are an unfortunate necessity.

    If people want to be cliquey about barefooting, that’s their privilege. But not all of us barefoot that way.

  5. Jeff Pages Says:

    We must be undeveloped in Australia, for barefoot people are commonplace in the local shops and supermarkets around here, even occasionally outnumbering the shod in summer. For me the SBL has led to many good friendships, and it’s been a boon when travelling to meet with like-minded people and to reciprocate when others visit these shores. If that’s being clichey then I apologise, though I still believe such a group can have a goal beyond fighting the discrimination and legal issues plaguing your “developed” countries. But when the SBL says, “We’d like to see going barefoot generate as much controversy as wearing shorts. If that were the case, we could fold up our tents and go home,” that means there’s no place for people like me in this group.

  6. Anemone Says:

    Jeff, you’re very lucky in Australia. I wish things were that open-minded here. Although Australia has its problems, too: a friend of mine who lives there and has spend time in a psychiatric ward tells me that in such a place you have to wear shoes to prove you’re ready to reenter into society.

    Of course if there were no discrimination anywhere, there would still be people who would want to meet like-minded folk. Too bad we’re not there yet.

  7. Bob Neinast Says:

    Hi, Jeff.

    Yeah, I guess this entry was a bit USA-centric. Note that I qualified it, though, starting out by saying “In some sense, . . .”. The official goal of the SBL is as it has always been, as given in the mission statement.

    That said, I wonder if the SBL would even have come into existence if conditions were such as I described in the entry? Sure, there still might have been small pockets of folks interested in barefoot hiking (but, if barefootedness was as non-controversial as bareheadedness, how much need of that would their be?). I can see how a barefoot running group might form anyways, since the techniques for running are different when barefoot, and then it makes sense to share tips.

    Oh, and in response to another point you made about legal fights and the such. I don’t think I was claiming that those were exclusive ways to reach the “goal” I was talking about. The “goal” can be met simply by having bare feet common enough and accepted enough (and myths about health or dirtiness debunked), by any means, that the general population sees bare feet as the same sort of choice as shorts or short-sleeved shirts.

    Finally, as always, keep in mind that even though this is an official blog, the opinions of the individual authors are their own.

  8. Jeff Pages Says:

    Of course Australia has its own fair share of social and environmental problems. All I’m saying is you’re unlikely to be harrassed, yelled at or kicked out of shops and libraries for being barefoot, and in coastal suburbs and towns particularly, you’ll probably see plenty of others doing likewise.

    To Bob, back when I first joined (1996?) I’m sure the group’s emphasis was more on the fun side of barefooting, or perhaps I’m just looking back through rose-coloured glasses. While only Paul can say for sure, I got the impression that his motivation was more “barefooting is fun” than “fight the oppressors”.

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