Running & Hiking Barefoot-like Designs
When a barefoot Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia won Some shoe manufacturers have begun to recog-
the marathon at the 1960 Olympics and barefoot
runner Zola Budd set records in the 1980s, the
nize the benefits of nature's original design and
have even developed footwear to simulate the
biomechanical advantages of walking barefoot.
world saw how functional bare feet can be.
American Ken Saxton has inspired many to in-
Of course, for those who prefer the real thing, So do we!
nothing surpasses going barefoot.
vestigate the benefits of barefoot running.
Saxton has finished more than 50 marathons • Nike Free: A training shoe that simulates
Society for Barefoot Living
running barefoot. www.runningbarefoot.org barefoot running, created after observing the
Stanford track & field team train in bare feet.
The number of barefoot
runners keeps growing. • Swiss Masai Barefoot Technology: This Barefooters: People from
Brett Williams, right, ran shoe style provides less support and stabiliza- all walks of life who sim-
tion, requiring the foot muscles to work dur-
the 2006 Salt Lake City
ing the act of walking. As a result, the feet ply prefer to go barefoot.
marathon sans shoes. The
Wall Street Journal and oth- become stronger and more developed.
ers took note of his feat, and • Soleless (bottomless)
Why barefoot living?
ABC News aired a barefoot sandals: Available in Barefooters value its
running feature that year. Photo by Kristyan Williams
bejeweled or simple comfort, health benefits
Barefoot Hiking: When did you last feel a cool hemp and leather de- and sensory pleasures. They appreciate
carpet of grass beneath your feet, soft dirt be- signs, this “footwear” is the freedom to choose healthy feet over
tween your toes or a refreshing woodland stream designed for those who
wish to remain barefoot the problems and discomforts that often
underfoot? Barefoot hikers appreciate the sen-
sory “vistas” of ground textures and tempera- while still decorating result from over-reliance on shoes.
tures in addition to the visual vistas of forests, their feet and giving the
hills and plains that other hikers enjoy. appearance of wearing
some sort of shoe. • Going barefoot offers many health bene-
Before Richard Frazine’s 1993 book “The Bare-
foot Hiker,” many who enjoyed barefoot hiking fits. It promotes general foot health and
did not realize they had so much company. As “What spirit is so empty and blind, that it strengthens muscles in feet and legs.
Frazine notes, “Going barefoot in the forest is a cannot grasp the fact that a human foot is
very sensuous and pleasurable experience. For more noble than the shoe and human skin • Many types of footwear can cause harm
some of us, it is an almost mystical experience.” more beautiful than the garment with to overall foot health.
Outdoor activities suitable for bare feet also which it is clothed?” — Michelangelo
• Going barefoot is legal. Health codes do
include volleyball, disc golf, Frisbee, playing
catch and other backyard and beach endeavors. not require footwear for customers in
Indoor activities routinely conducted in bare stores, restaurants or other businesses.
Would you like to join
feet include martial arts, yoga, gymnastics and • Driving barefoot is legal and often safer.
the Society For Barefoot Living?
www.barefooters.org has a link for joining.
“The human foot is a masterpiece of Membership is free and includes email corre-
To learn more, visit our website:
engineering and a work of art.” spondence with others around the world who
— Leonardo da Vinci also prefer going barefoot. www.barefooters.org
Comfort & Freedom Health Benefits Barefoot in Public
Remember how good Going barefoot can improve general foot health. It Health codes, the law and bare feet: Have
it felt to go barefoot allows normal foot development and promotes you ever seen one of these unwelcoming signs
when you were a child? strengthening of the musculature in the legs and feet. at a store or restaurant entrance: “No Bare
A study published in the September 2006 journal Ar- Feet” or “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service”?
Do you kick off your thritis and Rheumatism suggests that walking bare-
shoes at home to feel Many people assume that
foot may reduce susceptibility to osteoarthritis.
more comfortable and health codes, insurance or the
relaxed? law require these policies. Not
Do your holiday and Athlete’s foot: Going barefoot actually reduces the so. Almost without exception,
vacation dreams include Barefoot graduate opportunity for athlete’s foot to take hold. Athlete’s state and county health codes
walks over sandy beaches, grassy parks and foot is caused by a fungus which thrives in warm, and other laws in the U.S. do
natural trails well-suited for bare feet? moist, and dark environments. Shoes provide just not regulate the footwear of customers in
such an environment. Thus, the problem is not the establishments. Insurance policies do not
What if no one else cared about what you wore
foot-to-floor contact but the foot then entering a dark, mandate customer footwear, and OSHA
on your feet as you played in the yard, walked
warm shoe which functions as a fungus incubator. requirements apply only to employees.
the dog or even ventured out to go shopping?
Those who frequently go barefoot rarely contract ath- See: www.barefooters.org/health-dept
Would you go barefoot more often?
That wonderful spirit of barefoot freedom Stores may set their own policies for attire,
still lives in many of us, but how often do we Children and bare feet: In the but no compelling health concern requires
choose to follow it? We likely have more free- 1961 classic “Take Off Your footwear for customers. It is bare hands, not
dom to go barefoot than we may assume. Shoes and Walk,” author Dr. feet, that pose and encounter health risks as
Simon Wikler writes that children they come in contact with doorknobs, food,
Why render our feet deaf and blind? Imagine who regularly go barefoot develop mouths, other people, etc. Feet generally
wearing gloves and ear plugs every time you left stronger, healthier and more func- touch only the surfaces on which they walk.
the house. Think of all the wonderful sensory tional feet.
input you would miss. Now imagine expanding Driving: Many assume that the law prohibits
The website below offers exten- driving barefoot. Again, not so. As some law
your sensory input and enjoying the wide variety sive helpful resources for parents,
of interesting textures and pleasant surfaces Photo by Kristyan Williams enforcement agencies note, drivers can have
including the perspectives of doc- better pedal control with bare feet than with
right beneath your own two feet as you go about tors, testimonials from parents, historical information,
your day. You can! many common styles of footwear.
barefoot activities for kids and the findings of noted
“Going barefoot is the gentlest way of walking and orthopedics expert Dr. Lynn Staheli, who observed Assumptions about going barefoot in public
that children raised in parts of the world where shoes being unsafe, unsanitary or illegal are largely
can symbolize a way of living—being authentic,
are not often worn have greater flexibility, mobility based on misinformation or a lack of
vulnerable, sensitive to our surroundings. It’s the experience. Yes, going barefoot can involve
and foot strength. www.unshod.org/pfbc/index.html
feeling of enjoying warm sand beneath our toes, or some minimal risk, just as living life involves
carefully making our way over sharp rocks in the Barefoot paths have grown in popularity around the risk. Barefooters accept these potential risks
darkness. It’s a way of living that has the lightest world. Designed for bare feet, they offer a variety of to gain greater benefits, and barefooted people
impact, removing the barrier between us and na- surfaces and textures over which to walk and climb. pose no more of a threat to shoe-wearers than
ture.” — From “Barefoot Dreaming” by Adele The tactile stimulation underfoot is considered benefi- bareheaded people pose to hat-wearers.
cial for the body, mind and spirit.
One example: www.barfusspark.info/en/park.htm
“And forget not that the Earth delights to “People do better when they're free, and
feel your bare feet and the winds long to “Healthy feet can hear the very heart the foot does better when it's free.”
play with your hair.” — Kahlil Gibran of Mother Earth.” — Sitting Bull — Dr. Lynn Staheli