By George Brown
I considered titling this column, “Going barefooted is good for your soles as well as your soul,” but opted for the above title fearing that shoe wearing readers might stumble over my use of the word barefooted instead of barefoot, thereby entirely spoiling the creative use of a homophone.
Let’s settle the barefoot versus barefooted debate right here and now. A simple answer (but not one likely to satisfy the King’s English purists among you) would be to declare, “When I was as a little flatland hillbilly growing up in Knox County Ohio in the 1950s we went ‘barefooted’.” As the author of this column, allowing only for the possibility of the editor of this newspaper tampering with my diction, shouldn’t I be allowed to honor my roots by saying barefooted?
But being a reasonable man who respects the opinions of all of my readers, I decided to give Merriam Webster the final word. Bingo! Good old Mr. Webster, God rest his soul, had this to say. “’Barefooted’, although more commonly used in the South (and once upon a time in the hills and flatlands of Ohio) is also correct and equally acceptable to the more proper and refined use of the word, ‘barefoot.’” With the blessing of Mr. Webster I rest my case.
Let’s move on to the intended point of this column, which is to provide a brief essay on the merits and natural benefits of going barefooted.
First up, let’s dispel that craftily worded ruse we have all believed to be the gospel truth for too many years – that “No shoes, no shirt, no service” is some sort of law for which, presumably, if violated, we could be ticketed or even arrested.
According to the latest research conducted by the “Society for Barefoot Living” there are no Federal, State, or local laws or even department of health regulations anywhere in the United States indicating that it is illegal to enter a store or restaurant without shoes or a shirt. That’s right, look it up, no such laws exist.
Now, this is not to say a proprietor cannot discriminate against you for trying to enter his or her establishment without shoes and or a shirt, but this is nothing more than a foolish, and in my opinion unconscionable act of discrimination. Seemingly, this misguided bias is based on the notion that shoe clad feet are more sanitary than bare feet; plus the centuries old Victorian belief that baring one’s torso should only occur in the darkness of one’s bed chamber (or perhaps that of a “very good friend”); except, strangely enough, in our modern society one may bare one’s torso in the great out-of-doors, provided that in doing so one does not attempt to enter a place of business, particularly where food and beverages are purchased or served.
Sadly, proprietors are perfectly within their rights to thusly discriminate against shoeless or shirtless people (and I include myself in this number). We are left with but one alternative, the ploy of entering such establishments as near shoeless (flip-flops) and shirtless (skimpy T’s and tops) as these prudish proprietors may tolerate. Thank heavens for those few (usually found in wayfaring beach communities) who are brave and intelligent enough to post a sign that reads, “No shoes, no shirt, no problem.” And no law violated for doing so!
At a personal level, the simple truth is I hate shoes, always have and always will. Getting to go shoeless almost all of the time for the past year and a half has proven to be a serendipitous retirement benefit, and as evidence of my desire to totally abandon the use of shoes I am now reading, “The Barefoot Hiker,” by Richard Frazine.
Just as we were created to eat without forks we were also created to go shoeless. Yes, I know, if I were press this idea to its natural conclusion I would be making a case for Edenic nudity. I’ll save that topic for another time. Today’s topic is barefootedness, and the natural benefits thereof.
As that famous Native American, Sitting Bull, so poignantly stated, “Healthy (bare) feet can hear the very heart of Mother Earth.” A quote by Adele Coombs cited on the home page of the “Society for Barefoot Living” (a group I may join) expounds on Sitting Bull’s teaching in a manner that rings true to my feet. (Note: for literary accuracy I yield to Coombs’ use of barefoot instead of barefooted.)
Coombs states, “Going barefoot is the gentlest way of walking and can symbolize a way of living – of being authentic, vulnerable, and sensitive to our surroundings. It is the feeling of enjoying warm sand beneath our toes, or carefully making our way over sharp rocks in the darkness. It is a way of living that has the lightest impact, removing the barrier between us and nature.” And all the barefooted people said, “Amen.”
Apart from the natural benefits of doing your feet a favor by losing your shoes, you could also be doing your wallet a huge favor. A year ago I wrote a column titled “About the virtue of women’s shoes.” In it I referenced research reporting that at any given time the average women owns 20-30 pairs of shoes and that she will purchase upwards of 500 pairs in her lifetime at an average cost of more than $50 per pair (i.e. over $25,000.)
Considering these facts, it is a mystery to me why women, more so than men I believe, take their shoes off the second they walk in the door each evening, exclaiming, “My feet are killing me.” Ladies, it is obvious your feet are telling you they feel better bare. Dare to be different, buy fewer pairs of shoes and wear them less often, you know, like you do in the office when you think no one is watching.
Let’s end with a real life lesson on the benefits of going barefooted. If you were wearing shoes when you began reading this column and haven’t taken them off yet, please do so now. Okay, slowly stretch your feet and without lifting your legs rotate your feet in circles a few times. Now gently wiggle your toes and let your feet completely relax. See, doesn’t that feel better?
George Brown is a freelance writer. He lives in Jackson Township.M