How To Be Barefoot


Again, for the nonbarefoot public, this post may be nonfun to read, but to those of you who need this, enjoy.

I went to Reggae Shack here in Gainesville (which has been friendly to me as a barefooter, as is Saigon Legend and Boca Fiesta) to eat today, and one of the waitresses (whose name I know but don’t feel comfortable posting) was strolling about shod but in very loud ankle bells… actually, the very same ankle bells I wear, bought from the same local vendor. They know me by name at Reggae Shack, and she discreetly and brightly told me that I have inspired her to go barefoot to more places, lovely, and then she asked how I get away with it. Well, here are the basics of “how to get away with living barefoot.”

1) Know your rights. Being barefoot is NOT a crime, it is not a crime to drive barefoot, and it is definitely NOT against healthcode regulations to go barefoot anywhere, restaurants included! People believe that it is, and it is not a matter of opinion, they are flat-out DEAD wrong. of course, trying to convince them of that is impossible, and if you can convince them they change their story and come up with some other reason to kick you out for being barefoot, or they just shout you down (see my post on the rude asshole from Chopstix Cafe). Pretty much, it doesn’t matter because there are plenty of restaurants that are not ignorant of the laws or choose simply to be more friendly. Go to restaurants that are run by immigrants, Mexican and Chinese owned restaurants are not staffed by uptight ignorant Americans. Additonaly, see the below PDF, it is a download of a letter from the department of health in Florida stating that it is NOT against any known healthcodes:

2) Attitude and confidence. Simply know that if you are the barefoot type, it is the most natural thing in the world for you to be barefoot. For me, I project such a natural ease about my being barefoot that it seems inevitable to people rather than odd. Exude that it is the most natural thing in the world for you to be barefoot and most people will buy it.

3) Look people in the eye. Yep, look clerks, wait-staff, whoever in the eyes.

4) Smile. While you are looking them in the eye, smile. A bright smile disarms most curmudgeons and busy-bodies.

5) Be discreet. There are some places that are way too uptight (most fast food joints, grocery stores, even post offices), so in those places wear soleless sandals or bell bottom jeans. When I grocery shop I wear bells and always keep a cart in front of me, so far no problems here.

6) Be careful, be vigilant. It is not fundamentally dangerous to be barefoot (certainly far less dangerous than wearing flip flops, leather soled shoes, or high heels) but every choice comes with complications, and if you’re gonna be barefoot, be aware of your surroundings, watch where you step, and step mindfully. I take a lesson from the Native Americans and have changed my walk. Most Americans don’t really walk, they waddle or fall forward with each step and catch themselves. When I walk I don’t really shuffle or fall, I sort of make sure my lead foot is planted on safe ground before moving the weight of the rear foot. This comes instinctively now.

7) Lotion and drink plenty of water, this is the only way to prevent heel fissures, and if one develops I use “Heel Rescue” foot cream from Walmart and I wear thin legwarmers that I can pull partially over my heel to protect the little fissure until it heals up, or if I’m gonna be on concrete a lot. City streets can dry out your feet.

8) Be pretty about it. I wear anklets and toe rings, nail polish and I perfume my feet. Something about having clean, pretty, decorated feet lets people know you are clean and that you are barefoot by choice.

9) Take responsibility. I realized upon revisiting this entry that I hadn’t said much about this issue. By “take responsibility,” I simply mean that you and you alone chose to go barefoot, any injury in any store or location is on you. If we want the right to be barefoot, we have to accept responsibility, in other words… don’t sue if you hurt yourself. That, friends, just ain’t cool!

I know this all sounds like a big deal, but it isn’t. It’s all easy, certainly easier than dealing with the foul bacteria and odor of keeping your feet strapped to boards/stuffed into bacteria incubators (shoes).

The right to shoes, the right to choose, I choose barefoot!

2 responses »

  1. Good comments. Sorry about the long post replying about most of the comments. I’ll admit I own shoes, but I generally only keep flip flops in the car, and *only* bring along flip flops in a waistpack when I go out walking and use public transportation.

    Be discreet: definitely don’t look down at the feet shows confidence in being barefoot, don’t check the soles of the feet either or that calls attention that there might be a problem with something that was stepped on with the feet (and also puts the sole “on display” long enough for a bare (dirty) sole to obviously be seen. I actually roll up the cuffs of my jeans so they don’t get stepped on by the heel, and I don’t always have a shopping cart to help hide the feet. Only once did a store supervisor confront me about not wearing shoes but didn’t ask me to leave, one other time on of the store staff (not manager) quietly told me I couldn’t be there without shoes (but didn’t report me to management), and one store someone only commented “did he enter without shoes on?” but management didn’t bother me at all. One additional comment came from a group of girls in a Target store–“barefoot, awesome” which isn’t any problem at all since their comment still didn’t cause managment or store staff to confront me about bare feet. Interstingly enough, one *outdoor* shopping mall (Westfield owned) had security confront me and tell me I couldn’t be there without shoes–when I was walking the paved mall floor and not even going into any stores (but since I was done shopping and finished just to get coffee, they didn’t follow me all the way to the car). In my area–buses do require shoes to board, a conductor of a commuter train required me to put on shoes while on the train, but light rail hasn’t been a problem (except for the possibiity of getting my toes stepped on when the cars or standing room only).

    Restaurants: I usually get fast food to go so I’m only in there for as long as it takes to order and get the takeout food before leaving. Almost all the sit-down restaurants have No Shoes no service or Shoes required signs, so it’s a lot harder to go in barefoot in those that have a greeter to seat customers (in which case, I do wear flip flops to enter even if I remove them for the duration of the entire meal).

    Be careful/take responsibility: only once did I jam a toe against a turnstile pole, breaking the toenail, and had to leave that store because the broken toenail was bleeding, but didn’t hold the store responsible, of course. Otherwise, I’ve never cut myself nor slipped in any grocery store so far. Outside–I’ve had wood spinters a couple of times from walking on wood piers, blisters a few times from walking too long on hot blacktop asphalt during afternoon peak heat hours (expected part of getting used to hotter heat), and the occasional fine glass splinter that I didn’t see on the sidewalk. I don’t barefoot hike primarily because of the risk of rattlesnakes and maybe even swarms of bees along the trail. Still, I carry a small barefooters first aid kit consisting of a couple of sewing needles (for draining any blisters), band-aids (primarily for cuts), and small tweezers (for removing wood or glass splinters that went in far enough to need tweezers to remove)–and for blisters, I do take at least one day off from barefooting to allow it to start healing (in case they do need to be redrained), and then avoid rougher and hotter surfaces for one or two days more (but still go barefoot).

    Hydration: totally agree about that–especially in hotter weather when the pavement heat is transferring to the soles of the feet. Lotions I don’t use, except for possibly the little bit of aloe and lanolin in the handwipes I use to clean off as much surface dirt on the feet. I do get a ridge behind the heel from walking on paved surfaces (but so far there are no cracks) but the sole still gets leathery enough even when left dry (and I don’t care about the white and slightly rougher calluses that develop on the sole). I prefer to have soles as dry as possible (and walking for longer on hot asphalt certainly does that) so that they are still rough on the bottom even when the sole gets leathery.

    Be pretty about it: I don’t wear any jewelry or similar, but I do like to keep the calluses nice and even looking, while still looking callused on a leathery sole. So, I use a handheld grater make crosshatching in the direction *away* from the heel–vertically in a straight line and also diagonally in both directions–for each toe, and for each section of the foot as wide as the grater before moving onto the next section. The result, of course, is visible lines after the crosshatching, but these become nice and even looking white calluses when they show through a gray or black dirty sole. I don’t lotion these rough and dry crosshatches at all before going barefoot the same day of the crosshatching.

    • Thanks, your take on “take responsibility” highlighted exactly what I mean but left unsaid. We can NOT advocate for the right to go barefoot if we aren’t willing to take responsibility. I would never sue any store or restaurant for any injury to my foot that was not obviously malicious.

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