Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Top 10 Impacts on Bare Feet in 2009

Since you can't turn on the TV, visit a Web site or read a magazine at this time of year without seeing some recap of the year that was, I thought I'd follow suit, look back and share the top 10 ways that bare feet or going barefooted made an impact in 2009. Some are news items, but others are trends or products. You may not have heard of some of the things on my list. Quite honestly, you may not agree with what I've selected or the order in which I've put them. What's important here is that the list is comprised of 10 ways that bare feet became more pervasive and made a name for themselves this year, not necessarily how the public saw them as a whole -- and not necessarily good.

#10: Al Gauthier's Living Barefoot and Barefoot Moe in the News
Barefooters made some headlines this year and gained prominence on the internet. Al Gauthier used his Web programming and design prowess to develop Living Barefoot, a site that encourages barefooted living, hosts a podcast, provides reviews of minimalist shoes and operates a forum for barefooters to share with each other. Al's site, along with Barefoot Moe's Barefoot in Toronto site, drummed up a lot of requests from Canadian and U.S. news media interested in sharing the barefooters' story. One of the biggest stories was "No Shoes? No Problem!" published in Canada's The Globe and Mail (photo courtesy: The Globe and Mail).

#9: RunTellmanRun
Tellman Knudson (pictured, center), a self-proclaimed geek and CEO of several online marketing companies, has a passion for homeless youth. What's more, he throws himself head-first into anything he does. Put those traits together and you have the perfect recipe for a barefooted cross-country run to raise $100 million. He started out on Sept. 9 in New York and is running unshod to L.A. to drum up awareness and lots of money for homeless youth throughout the United States. There have been some hiccups along the way -- such as a heel injury -- but he's taken it all in stride and is determined to finish what he's started. Meanwhile, he is mentioned daily on Twitter and frequently in news stories for his efforts. Keep up the good run, Tellman!
On the Web: http://www.runtellmanrun.com
Photo from: The Epoch Times

#8: Vibram Fivefingers
The Vibram Fivefingers (VFFs) line of footwear is widely hailed to be just like going barefooted. Although we barefooters might dispute that, VFFs are a wonderful minimalist shoe for those that want to cast aside their restrictive, heavy and uncomfortable footwear. These shoes were released prior to 2009 but really made their splash in society this year. They've been featured in the U.S. on national TV programming such as NBC's Today and the syndicated Dr. Oz show. Popular tech site Wired.com even did a review of them in July, but they gained widespread fame due to word of mouth, captivated stares from the public and a big mention in a certain book about running. More on that later. The VFFs even have fan sites devoted to them, the most well known of them being Justin Owings' BirthdayShoes.com.
VFFs on the Web: http://www.vibramfivefingers.com

#7: DiCaprio Goes Barefooted After His Sneakers are Stolen
I'm a little embarrassed to say that this story even made my list and came in at #7. But alas, many throughout the world heard about this back in June. It turns out that actor Leonardo DiCaprio, star of several blockbuster films including Titanic, was the victim of theft after refusing to take a photo with some American fans. He was about to enter a temple and refused the photo because posted signs prohibited photography in that area. After he entered the temple sans shoes, the fans grabbed his footwear and split. The New York Post, The Insider and numerous other tabloid media outlets worldwide quoted one source who said, "The poor guy had to leave the place barefoot." I say, "Ain't nothing wrong with that."

#6: Bare Your Soles for a Cause
2009 was a big year for going barefooted to help the world's impoverished. The idea behind these movements was to bring awareness to and accept donations for those throughout the world who have no shoes, are fighting poverty or have HIV/AIDS. The band Hanson partnered with Toms Shoes to stage numerous barefooted walks and a whole day encouraging supporters to go barefooted. Together, they've been very successful in bringing help to people throughout the world. Churches throughout the U.S. also joined together this year in donating shoes as part of the Soles4Souls charity. Parishoners were encouraged to donate the shoes they wore on "Barefoot Sunday" (June 7) and leave barefooted, giving them a sense of what it's like to live life without shoes. Bilaal Rajan (pictured), a 13-year old boy from Toronto, even went barefooted for a week during his "Barefoot Challenge" in April to bring awareness to children living in poverty throughout the world. Since beginning his charity work when he was four -- yes, four -- years old, Rajan has raised millions of dollars. His "Barefoot Challenge" will be an annual event falling during Volunteer Week each April.
On the Web: Take the Walk Web site (Hanson and Toms Shoes)
Photo from: Global Arab Network

#5: The "Barefoot Bandit"
The aforementioned Leo DiCaprio starred in the film Catch Me If You Can, but that kind of real-life scenario is playing out in the northwest United States. Colton Harris-Moore, an 18-year old with a penchant for stealing airplanes for joy-flights, has been eluding law enforcement in the state of Washington for months. He's known by many as the "Barefoot Bandit" or "Barefoot Burglar," because he reportedly once kicked off his shoes in the woods to flee from police and often goes barefooted to avoid detection via shoeprints. Barely a legal adult, Colton started his life of crime early, stealing a bicycle when he was eight. He's graduated up a couple of notches and is believed to have stolen at least three aircraft and committed nearly 100 burglaries over the last year -- not just in Washington, but also Idaho and southern Canada.
More info: AFP article
Photo: AP

#4: Barefooted Baby Booted from Burger King
The home of flame-broiled burgers had some 'splainin' to do in August when one of their restaurants in St. Louis, Missouri, forced a shod mother and her unshod six-month-old to leave. The reason? The baby was breaking the rule requiring shoes in the restaurant. Never mind the fact that the baby couldn't walk yet. Jennifer Frederich was required to get the food "to go" because the manager said that the baby's socked feet were a health code violation (which it's not). What's more, the employee also threatened to call the police when she questioned the policy. In the end, Burger King made right by Frederich by offering her an apology and free food, saying employees took the No Shoes, No Service policy too far.
More info: Fox News article


#3: "Barefoot and Crazy" in the "Summertime"
Ah, the staples of summer: Drinkin' beers, swimmin' in the pond, makin' out and doin' it all barefoot! Well, singer Jack Ingram wrapped all that up into a catchy country song called "Barefoot and Crazy" and released it to the world in 2009. It became an huge hit, getting all the way up to number 10 on the Billboard Country chart. Listening to the song makes a person think back to their younger years while, at the same time, providing a driving rhythm worth driving to. Standing right next to Ingram's song is Kenny Chesney's "Summertime." Its chorus starts off with "And it's two bare feet on the dashboard. Young love in an old Ford..."That song made it all the way to number one on the Billboard Country chart, but it gets mentioned second in this space because it wasn't called "Two Bare Feet on the Dashboard." Tough break.

#2: Tiger was "Barefoot and Snoring"
No, my faithful reader, not even here can you escape the evil clutches of the Tiger Woods scandal. I'll try to make this brief: Right after the pro golfer had his unfortunate -- ahem -- "accident" in late November, he was found in the street by his neighbor, Jarius Adams, "unconscious, barefoot and snoring." Ah, now it all makes sense! Listen Tiger, like first starting anything barefooted, you can't just drive barefooted without a little acclimation period first. Now look what happened. Too much, too soon. You should have stayed in bed...with your wife. (moving right along...)
Photo from: Sacramento Scoop

#1: Born to Run and Barefoot Running
NOTHING made bigger waves for bare feet this year than Christopher McDougall's smash hit book Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. This story about the Tarahumara tribe in Mexico, who can run great distances in simple sandals, opened the floodgates of people interested in trying out running sans shoes. McDougall has made numerous national media appearances promoting the book and barefooted running, including the ever-popular Daily Show on Comedy Central:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Christopher McDougall
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

While it's hard to say how many more people are trying barefooted running, the story has certainly opened a new and fresh conversation in the running community. Barefoot Ted, who is a prominent "character" in the book, has reported to the Living Barefoot Show podcast that interest in his business of training barefooted runners has increased dramatically. Adoption of my #8 item listed above, Vibram Fivefingers, skyrocketed following the book's mention of the product. Time will tell if this book began a long-term trend of barefooted running or simply introduced a "fad" that will soon die down. Either way, it was a good thing for bare feet and allows folks like me to participate in the conversation about how barefooted living can be such a good thing.
On the Web: Born to Run

Who knows what the year 2010 will mean for bare feet. Who knows if we barefooters can make a dent in many of the hardened stereotypes and misconceptions about going unshod. All I know is that I'm looking forward to the warmer weather and I'm going to do what I can to open people's eyes and unlock their feet to new possibilities. Thanks for reading and I welcome your comments below.

Have a Happy New Year!,
Michael

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Bootfoot and Ungrounded

Somehow or other I managed to tweak my left foot at home the other day. I was walking around barefooted -- like I always do at home -- and noticed a burning, tight feel in the arch of my foot. It's continued to bother me when I flex my foot a lot, so I made the difficult decision to wear "normal" shoes to work today. More specifically, I'm wearing boots.

The footwear du jour.

(Aside: You should know that I otherwise exclusively wear minimalist footwear if I'm not barefooted. Away from work they're Vibram Fivefingers. At work I wear one of my two pairs of Terra Plana VivoBarefoot shoes.)

My reasoning was that I figured the stiffer shoes would essentially "cast" my feet, allowing me to walk around without so much flexion and movement. Hopefully that rest will help my foot return to normal sooner. After all, isn't that essentially what doctors are going for when the prescribe a brace for an injured joint?

I've noticed some interesting things today while wearing shoes more typical of the general populace. These are things I've experienced before, but since I haven't worn normal shoes in about 3 1/2 months I've forgotten a lot of this. Having greater sensation in minimalist shoes, the following observations are also made more apparent:

I was right. They're like casts.
Man, my feet sure aren't moving much. It's really amazing what a difference minimalist shoes and going barefooted make. I'm so used to my feet flexing and moving about that I forgot how restrictive regular shoes can be.

Boots are heavy!
I don't know how much these American Eagle Outfitters boots weigh, but I can tell you that it's a whole lot more than my minimalist shoes. Each step while wearing these takes a little more effort on the part of my legs.

I feel like I'm walking above the floor.
This is a weird sensation. I'd gotten so used to feeling the floor beneath my feet and minimalist shoes that having a much thicker heel really amplifies the distance between the floor and our feet. That said, a similar sensation is that...

I can tell I'm taller with these on.
It's really quite interesting, but even about 1 1/2" of extra height is noticeable. Door knobs, various buttons and other things around me are a little bit lower than normal. I bet this is nothing new for many women who wear heels after wearing flats for a while.

I can feel my feet slanting forward.
Just the little decline from the back to the front of these boots is apparent. I feel my feet pointing downward slightly and my ankle is at a different angle than I'm used to. While it's certainly nothing like what women would experience wearing heels, it's a bit strange not to have my feet parallel with the floor.

I feel so bad for everybody else.
This kind of sucks. After going exclusively barefooted or minimalist footwear for more than three months now, I have rediscovered the hell that most people put their feet through every day of their lives. I wouldn't want to do this everyday and hopefully this is the only day I'll do this. This reminds why I need to keep pressing on with the good news of going barefooted.

Please, do yourself a favor and take your shoes off if you don't need them on. Flex your feet for a little while and let them be what they are supposed to be: unrestricted and happy.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

My Faith and My Feet

The holiday season is solidly in effect and people of various faith movements are celebrating. Whether it's Christmas, Chanukah or other holidays, this is a time of reflection and celebration. I thought it would be fitting during this time to share something that I've thusfar kept under wraps: my faith.

Since this blog is about bare feet, I want to share how my faith and belief in God and His son Jesus Christ has affected my decision to be a barefooter. I'm not trying to actively recruit or evangelize for Christianity. I've never been a fan of shoving religion down others' throats, especially when the context in which they come to me isn't related to religion. If you want to engage in a stirring religious debate, that's not what I'm here for today.

I've written in this space previously that on natural ground coverings (grass, flowers, etc.), I prefer to only go barefooted. It's a matter of respect for the earth, but I also see it as a respect for God's creation. Likewise, I have come to believe that I can be more connected to the earth and nature by touching it directly. Because God created all living things, this is also a way to further connect with Him.

In a different light, going barefooted is generally a sign of my respect for the body God gave me. You might have noticed in the heading of this blog that I write "Enjoy the feet that the good Lord gave you!" By distorting and restricting my feet in shoes, I am making the decision to restrict that which God gave me. He designed my feet a certain way, however they aren't allowed to function in that way while wearing most shoes. This, I believe, is an affront to the Lord.

As a parent, I enjoy seeing my children enjoy playing. I love seeing my two-year old daughter stretch, twist and twirl her body when she's dancing. In much the same way, I'd bet that God takes pleasure in seeing His creation live up to its full potential. He probably thinks it's really cool when we allow our feet to sense everything on which they tread, breathe in the open air and flex in all the many ways that the 52 bones in them allow.

But there are those who would disagree with me. I often hear the rebuttal, "Even Jesus wore sandals," when I mention that I go barefooted into church.

While that's supposed to be a lighthearted criticism of barefooting, I don't believe it's well thought out. You have to remember the times in which Jesus lived. There weren't a lot of grassy lawns in the places He traveled. The roads were very rocky and dirty. Modern sewer systems consisted of trenches along the side of the roadways. People didn't bathe or shower daily like we usually do. It was VERY filthy. That's part of the reason that the story of Jesus washing His disciples' feet was so significant. Their feet were filthy. The fact that He was willing to humble himself in order to make their feet clean meant a lot. The times we live in, in comparison, are much cleaner and more sanitary.

I actually don't have a problem going to church barefooted and I think that God would welcome it. After all, it's scriptural! In Exodus 3:5 and Acts 7:33, Moses had just seen the burning bush. It appeared to be on fire with the Holy Spirit yet it was not consumed. God told Moses to take off his footwear because Moses was on holy ground. The Lord wanted Moses to connect with the earth of Mount Sinai, a holy place.

While we don't all have holy mountains nearby nowadays, we do have our churches and synagogues. We think of them as holy places where we can worship God and learn about Him. As a believer and a barefooter, I think going barefooted into church is completely appropriate. That is where God is, and standing or kneeling before Him with bare feet is a sign of respect for my body and His scripture.

All that said, there will always be some who disagree with me and feel it's disrespectful to go barefooted in church. They say it goes against the idea of wearing your "Sunday best" and offends other parishioners. For the reasons mentioned above I don't share those feelings and I honestly am not concerned about offending other parishioners. I'm there to worship the Lord, not please everyone else. Being concerned about such things is tantamount to being concerned what other customers in Walmart feel about me shopping barefooted. That's NOT what we're there for! If my fellow worshipers are distracted by my feet then they have things to work out with the Lord.

How I worship and am blessed by God is about the spirit with which I come to the Lord instead of the clothing on my body. He will accept, bless and forgive me no matter what. God doesn't care what I wear to church, and He especially doesn't care if I wear shoes. That is why I can't be judgmental of someone who comes in tattered clothing and a less than fresh smell. They are there because their heart has brought them there and God will bless them for that.

I don't intend to stop going barefooted at church anytime soon. I have been blessed, so far, that no one has taken enough offense to approach me. I hope that my friends in Christ will always recognize the spirit with which I come before the Lord: Ready to worship Him and receive His spirit.

Happy Holidays! And really: Enjoy the feet that the good Lord gave you!

I welcome your comments below.

Photo of Jesus washing feet from Barry Dean 4 Christ
Photo of homeless man from New-Think

Saturday, December 12, 2009

'Man v. Wild' Host Wears VivoBarefoot on 'Conan'

Bear Grylls, host of the Discovery Channel's "Man v. Wild" was spotted Friday evening wearing Terra Plana's VivoBarefoot minimalist shoes on NBC's "The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien." His brown suede Aqua-style shoes coordinated well with his blue jeans and brown shirt. No mention was made of the shoes during the show.

Grylls (second from left) looks on as Conan speaks to singer Tony Bennett.

Since Grylls embraces nature as a profession, Terra Plana's "green" approach to shoe construction would likely be appealing to him. Being a survivalist takes a good deal of efficiency and critical thinking, so it's fair to see why Grylls would wear minimalist shoes. The Aquas are a stylish take on sneakers while providing a very thin sole and wide toe box which allow for a more barefooted feel.

Grylls stands to greet singer Tony Bennett.

The brown suede VivoBarefoot Aquas as pictured on Terra Plana's Web site.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I Don't Think Those Foot Gloves Are Normal

I've realized something recently that signals a sea change for me as a barefooter. You have to realize that, as much as I tout going barefooted as a great thing, I wore shoes for a LONG time before I became a barefooter. Since I decided to pursue an unshod lifestyle, going barefooted has been a treat. I've loved doing it whenever I could but it always felt different in some way. My mind and my feet had been so used to shoes for so long that the sensations and freedom of barefooting seemed abnormal, no matter how much I liked it.

Think about the concept of wearing winter gloves. We're so used to our hands being bare that covering them when it's cold out is different. We can still generally use our hands and the gloves serve a purpose, but there are many moments when we realize that our hands are gloved. Grabbing a particular object or touching a particular button on the dashboard makes us think, ever so briefly, "Hmm, gloves." Later, when we get back inside and warm up, the gloves come off.

Where bare hands are the norm for so many people, so are covered and/or shod feet. For so many of us, it is normal to put on shoes for our daily living. We might go barefooted around the house sometimes, but we generally put on shoes in the morning when we leave home and keep them on until late into the evening. Sure, there are times when we remove our shoes for specific activities. People who do yoga often go barefooted. You see few people walking around a swimming pool with shoes on -- though many wear flip flops to and from the facility. Almost no one wears footwear into the shower, especially at home. But wearing shoes is generally normal for most of us.

My perception of what's normal for my feet has shifted 180 degrees. Just as it is normal for so many to wear shoes, it is normal for me to not wear shoes. It's now different to wear shoes, like wearing gloves on my feet. The key thing is that I don't notice it anymore when I'm barefooted.

Anymore, it's all the same to me.

I get lots of reminders when I have shoes on. There are so many moments throughout the workday -- I'm required to wear shoes to work -- that I think to myself, "Hmm, shoes," because I try to flex my foot or toes and they are confined. If I must wear flip flops into a store or restaurant I am constantly reminded that my walking gait is altered.

The thing that really signaled this shift to footwear feeling odd was how I now feel wearing my Vibram FiveFinger Sprints (VFFs). Not too long ago, I was quite satisfied wearing them as an alternative to going totally unshod. I even blogged/tweeted/mentioned to others that they felt like a "second skin." One day I realized that, as much as I like VFFs compared to normal shoes, I still feel so shod with them on. They aren't second skins anymore. They've become toe shoes with an emphasis on "shoes." This is no knock on Vibram Fivefingers in the least. I still love them and they serve a wonderful purpose when necessary, but they now live in a category with winter gloves called "Different."

This shift in what's "normal" is so marked that it is no longer second nature for me to throw on shoes when leaving the house. Depending on where we're going, I may simply ask myself if I'll need any footwear more than the backup flip flops underneath the driver's seat of each of our vehicles.

Even with winter settling in I will only wear closed-toed shoes outside if it's cold enough (right now, that means less than about 28F/-2C), otherwise the flip flops will do. The bare feet can tolerate those temps for the short time going in and out of stores and other places. My philosophy: Just as my hands sometimes need warm coverings to combat the cold, so will my feet and that's okay. But if I can generally go without gloves, my feet don't need anything on them either. In fact, I'm finding as winter progresses that my bare feet are able to handle colder temperatures than my bare hands.

That can't be normal. Or can it?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I Am (Now) a Barefooted Runner!

If you've read anything here or know anything about me, you could easily say that I love to go barefooted. The sensation of grass underfoot. The cool floors in the local Walmart. It's awesome! There has been one "hitch in my giddy-up," however. That's barefooted running.

The heart has been willing but the mind has been weak. Each time I've gotten ready to go out there totally unshod there have been so many excuses not to.

It's too cold.

My feet hurt on the asphalt.

I don't run as fast barefooted.

Whine.

Whine.

Whine.

Now a lot of times I've sucked it up and gone out there unshod. The runs have been pretty good but my feet end up feeling sore and roughened up afterward. I've doubted whether I can keep it up or if I should just resign myself to the fact that I'll be a runner who sticks to Vibram FiveFingers.

After a couple of months of that thinking, I have managed to make a positive turn. I've decided that if so many others can run barefooted exclusively, why can't I? I really do prefer it more. I really do feel like my feet hold up just fine.

So I've decided to be an exclusively barefooted runner. To use a cliche', it feels right on so many levels: physically, mentally and spiritually.

I welcome you to follow my progress on DailyMile.com where I am, surprisingly, BarefootMichael. For quick updates of my latest run, check out the DailyMile widget in the column on the right side of this blog.

Thanks for reading. If you're a fellow DailyMiler, I'd love to be friends with you. Just send me a request on that site. I welcome anyone's comments or questions below.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Simple Rebuttals to the Shoe Police's Complaints

After getting stopped at Target recently for going barefooted, I thought of a few points I could have made to the manager in rebuttal to his reasoning for why I should be shod.

I thought it might be helpful to new and seasoned barefooters to have a "quick list" of points to make if the standard complaints are brought up while out and about in public. Each should be prefaced by something respectful and understanding along the lines of, "I appreciate your concern, but..."

Excuse: "It's a safety issue."
  • Accidents happen and I realize that I take on risk when going barefooted into your establishment. If I were to injure myself and sue, no judge would find you liable.
  • Customers usually go barefooted when browsing for shoes or trying on clothing. So they are also a safety risk and should not be allowed to do that?
  • I have no greater risk of slipping and falling on a wet floor than many people who wear shoes or flip flops with smooth soles.
  • If a tiny sharp object even remained on the floor after a cleanup, and if I didn't spot it and avoid it, it is highly unlikely that I'd be injured. Such an object would be so small that it would do no damage.
  • If you are concerned about sharps left on your floors that would be big enough to injure me, you should train your employees better.
  • What about the safety of your floors if a service animal enters? They can also fall on a wet floor or step on a sharp. According to ADA (in the U.S.), you are not legally permitted to request that they wear booties, so you are essentially giving me less consideration than some animals.
  • My bare hands are at just as much or more risk of injury as my feet. I could hurt my hands on a broken corner of a display, cracked glass item, or something else. Should I also be required to wear gloves?
Excuse: "It's a health issue." OR "It's against health code."
  • There are no health codes or laws that require that I wear shoes as a customer.
  • I won't put my feet up on the table or displays just like I wouldn't put my shoes up there.
  • My feet are cleaner than most people's shoes. I clean my feet at least daily. How often do you clean the soles of your shoes?
  • I am not going to pick up diseases off of the floor through my feet.
  • I'm more likely to get someone sick by coughing on them than through my feet.
  • I'm more likely to get sick by someone coughing near me than through the floor.
Excuse: "The other customers don't want to see your bare feet."
  • How would my feet be less offensive wearing sandals or flip flops?
  • Then you need to ban all sandals, open-toed shoes and flip flops from your establishment.
Excuse: "It's indecent to go barefooted."
  • What is indecent about feet, a part of the human body ?
  • TV shows are allowed to show bare feet when private areas and curse words aren't allowed. Many people on shows from reality competitions to Sesame Street go barefooted.
  • Decency is in the eye of the beholder and a vague concept. I find a lot of clothing that other customers wear to be indecent, but you allow them here. I may even find some of your products indecent, yet you sell them.
  • Is it more decent for someone to come in with dirty clothing, nappy hair and smelling of body odor so long as they wear shoes?
  • People used to think that it was indecent if women wore pants and black people used the same restrooms as whites. Society has become more understanding of many things that were once thought to be "indecent."
I welcome your comments, including anything you believe I should add, change or remove. We'll see. :-)

Photo: http://www.dawndance.org/volunteering.html

Thursday, November 12, 2009

'Target'ed For Bare Feet

This is one of those blog posts that I don't like to write.

Tonight I went into my local Target store to buy a couple of sippy cups for our two-year old daughter. I, of course, went barefooted because I'd been in there several times before without incident while unshod. Unfortunately, this trip did not end the same way.

As I walked back up the main aisle to the front after choosing some cups, I was stopped by an assistant manager named, ironically, Michael and a security guard who accompanied him. Michael courteously informed me that I would not be able to continue shopping in bare feet.

I asked him why, and he responded that it's a "safety issue." I asked him to clarify that. He told me that he couldn't risk me possibly stepping on something if they didn't clean up their floors well enough. I carefully said to him that he probably needs to do a better job cleaning up his floors, then. He brushed that comment aside. I then shared that I understand that I take on any liability if something were to happen, but he still said that he can't allow me to take that risk.

See. Spot. Barepawed.

I told him that I've been in that store several times AND been seen by other employees and nothing was ever said. I brought up that nothing is posted at the entrances prohibiting bare feet. I even mentioned a time that an employee specifically gave me a heads up because of a broken light bulb that had been cleaned up the night before. She wanted me to be aware that something might still be in the area. That said, everything ended up being fine. He was apologetic but stood firm that I could not shop barefooted.

I asked him if I could just go check out and he allowed it.

As we walked toward the front -- security dude still in tow -- I calmly informed Michael that I prefer to go barefooted for the comfort and health benefits. He shared that he thought that's "totally awesome," but that they've had that policy for "a long time." I shared my disappointment and he was very understanding.

Later, after checking out, I went to find him again. I told him that Target needs to post something at the entrances if they're going to have such a policy. I told him that I don't go barefooted into places that have signs posted but that I never thought it would be a problem at his store. He said that he'd speak to the store manager about it.

I can't explain how disappointed I am about what happened. Besides second-guessing what I said and what good points I forgot to bring up, I'm upset that I've touted Target so much as a barefoot-friendly place and now they're not. At least mine isn't.

I think that, at a minimum, I'm going to write a letter to the store manager. I really would like to go back and speak to him/her in person. After further thought -- and reminding from a fellow barefooter -- I need to question why it's okay for a barefooted service animal to be in the store but I can't be. I need to ask why it'd be okay for me to walk around barefooted as I try on clothes or shoes but the rest of the store is off limits. I should ask if I need to wear gloves to protect myself from potentially sharp displays and products or to avoid getting germs from merchandise that who-knows-how-many people have touched.

Sigh.

I welcome your comments or suggestions.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Origin of "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service" Policies

We've all seen them, whether we're barefooters or not. As you walk into your local grocery store, restaurant or other business, it's right there on a sign near the door: "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service." Many businesses continue to use this policy to keep out those who they feel would be a detriment to their operations. But where did this policy start? Why doesn't it say, "No pants?" And what about the claims that such policies are "by order of the Health Department?" Well, I have some answers.

Follow me, if you will, back a few decades to the oceanfront. Areas like Atlantic City were bustling with people. It's a mix of surfer dudes, beach bunnies, energetic kiddos and tourists. Inside one of the many shops along the boardwalk, a married couple on vacation from the midwest is looking for souvenirs to take home. Shortly after, a surfer dude walks in wearing only his swimming trunks. His wet feet have dragged sand into the shop, spreading it across the floor as he goes to one corner to pick up a tube of lip balm. He glances at the couple and nods, saying, "Hey." The tourists, uncomfortable with this guy, decide that maybe they want to take their business somewhere else.

Businesses obviously don't like it when something -- or someone -- takes business away. For many small business owners, too many instances like this would cause a hardship. Eventually they might have to even close up shop forever.

To prevent such a terrible fate from occurring, these same beachfront shop owners posted "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service" (NS3) policies. They worked well, addressing any dude, bunny or kiddo who dared enter with sandy feet and/or an exposed belly. If surfer dude wanted lip balm, he'd have to put on a shirt and sandals to look a little more "decent" and keep from dragging a bunch of sand in.

That's also why the signs never say "No Pants." Shop owners apparently saw swim trunks as being okay. Throwing on a shirt apparently would cover enough of a swimsuit-wearing woman to be acceptable without making them wear shorts or pants. Because the NS3 signs still make no mention of pants, it makes me wonder if current policies are just old ways of thinking being carried over without critical analysis.

So that's where these policies began.

At some point they geographically spread far away from the coasts and can be now found in nearly every locale. Sometimes they now only say "Shoes Required" or "No Bare Feet," but the message remains the same: Your bare feet are bad for business. Business owners today, especially those not on the coasts, often don't understand where NS3 policies began and have adapted their reasoning. Instead of keeping sand off of the floors and keeping tourists in their shops, management now claims it's a safety issue. I've addressed safety a number of times on this blog, so all I'll say is that most businesses are very safe to go into barefooted. This argument holds no water...or sand.

Something that popped up along the way was the addition of statements like, "by Order of the Health Department." I don't know if there used to be actual health codes prohibiting bare feet in businesses, however there aren't any now. The good people at the Society for Barefoot Living have done a lot of research on this issue and have discovered that no state in the U.S.A. has any regulations prohibiting bare feet in business establishments. Likewise, I have not heard of any local health departments throughout the country that have such regulations.

As far as I'm concerned, current NS3 policies are outdated and not well thought out. While I completely understand that any business has the right to implement such policies because they want to, I don't think that it is right to do so. I, as a barefooter, am not going to do anything with my feet that people don't do with their shoes. In fact, I personally recommend against putting bare feet or shoes up on chairs, tables or other areas where feet aren't normally supposed to go.

I hope you've enjoyed hearing about the origin of NS3 policies. Keep an eye out around your area and see how many businesses still have posted policies that prohibit bare feet and bellies but are cool if you don't wear pants. If you really think about it, it's all very silly. I think it's high time that we responsible barefooters are allowed to bare our soles when we are out and about. We'll wear pants or shorts as a compromise, 'kay?

Photos: Barefoot couple courtesy of barefooters.org, NS3 sign taken at by me at a local McDonald's restaurant. It bears the words "No Bare Feet by Order of the Department of Health."

Friday, October 30, 2009

Quick Review: Vibram FiveFinger Sprint

My third pair of minimalist shoes (after the Vivo Barefoot Dharma and Aqua styles) came on a significant day in my life. On Aug. 5 of this year my wife and I also welcomed a brand new baby girl into our family. I will be reviewing the former here, because the latter is perfect and needs no review. :-)

As a barefooter, I was very interested in trying on a pair of Vibram Fivefingers and putting them through their paces to see just how good of a "barefoot alternative" they are. I have worn them a lot and for many different uses -- and therefore taken longer to post a review -- because I wanted to find out just how versatile a set of toe shoes can be. The answer? Very.

Style

The Vibram Fivefinger Sprints are like no other footwear...except other Fivefingers. Anyone who has worn these in public knows that they get looks and a lot of comments and questions. What's fortunate is that they're almost always positive in nature. People seem really drawn to the idea of toe shoes. For me personally, I've never been self-conscious while wearing these, though I know others are -- or would be, and that's why they don't buy them. (looking in my wife's direction) I think this line of shoes is very stylish and unique.

Quality


The build quality on Fivefinger Sprints is very good. All seams feel very secure, the materials seem to be of good quality, and the shoes even hold up well in the laundry. No complaints here. They may not be as "green" as the Vivo Barefoot shoes, but they're just as well built or better.

Cost

Some see the cost of these shoes as exorbitant. To me, $80 USD seems reasonable considering the research that likely went into designing them, the materials used to build them and their overall quality. For all the things you can do with these Vibram Fivefingers -- and I'm only commenting on the Sprints -- and the length of use that you can likely get from them, I believe these are priced at an okay price point.

Fit/Comfort

The Vibram Fivefinger Sprints are very comfortable footwear...for an item of footwear. As for a hat, they don't work so well. But seriously, I like the fact that these shoes are a lot less on the foot than any other standard shoe-styled footwear. I tell people that they kind of feel like a second skin with a very flexible protective sole. If you get the right size -- which the chart on Vibram's site is very good to help you accomplish -- all is well. I would suggest finding a local store, if available, to try these on and get just the perfect size before you plop down your hard-earned nickels and dimes. I think once you get them on you'll be hooked.

Barefoot Sensation/Movement


Going barefoot so much before wearing minimalist shoes spoiled me. Nothing can replace the feeling of bare sole on the ground below, so I have to take a mental step back and review these on their merits: a flexible shoe with an ultra-thin, durable sole.Vibram Fivefingers certainly get closer to a barefoot feel than either of the Vivo Barefoot shoes that I've tried. With your toes able to flex individually and a very flexible structure all around, natural foot movement is far greater than any other footwear I've worn. The open top of the Sprints also helps your foot feel a greater sense of freedom than other shoes, giving this style of Fivefingers a bit of a sandal-type quality. Because they fit so snugly on the foot, they do feel like a sort of second skin, so you sometimes forget that you're wearing them.

This is where I drop in my word of warning: Vibram Fivefingers are VERY good at giving enough sense of going "barefoot" that anyone who's used to regular shoes and wants to try going barefoot would likely stop here if they tried to use them as a gateway shoe. They are that comfortable. But there really isn't anything like putting a bare sole to the ground. I recommend to any barefooter -- or someone who wants to begin barefooting -- to get comfortable with being totally unshod first. Rediscover and get to know your feet and how awesome they feel without anything on them before you jump into Fivefingers. That way you'll be able to know and remember what you're missing even when wearing such comfortable footwear.

Like other minimalist shoes, you can definitely feel the ground below better than "normal" shoes. When I went camping recently, my feet felt well massaged as I walked across the gravel and acorns covering the ground of our campsites. In Fivefingers it was fine. Barefoot it was uncomfortable.

Fivefingers are great for those places where bare feet are not usually allowed. I wore them recently to my son's pediatrician visit.

The Final Words

My Vibram Fivefinger Sprints have become my "go-to" footwear when I know I can't/shouldn't go barefoot, such as businesses that have a "No Shoes, No Service" policy. I've literally walked, run, mowed the grass, hiked, shopped and more in these shoes and they've always risen to the challenge. I obviously still prefer to go barefoot, but these are a good alternative if footwear is required. While they may lose "style points" in some peoples' minds, they certainly make up for it in function and comfort.

Twitter: @Vibram5Fingers
Fan Sites: BirthdayShoes.com and VFF-Friday.com

Next Review Coming Soon!: Terra Plana Trip Clips

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

An Autobiography of the Beginning of a Barefooter

During my time as a "barefooter," I've thoroughly enjoyed getting to know others who like to go sans shoes. Through Twitter, Facebook, this blog and other sites I've been able to connect with and get to know lots of people who go barefoot in one way or another. For some it's just going barefoot around the house. For others it's a way to improve their running and decrease injuries. For many it's a lifestyle that crosses real and figurative boundaries.

As I've come to know others there have been some requests for me to tell my story and how I got into barefooting. I thought, as the weather gets colder and many of us take a "break" from barefooting for the autumn and winter months, that this would be a good time to fill you in. Now let me see...

(Cue flashback and harp sounds.)

It was the Spring of 2005. I was living with an old buddy from church and college activities to help him pay the mortgage on his new house. In the summers previously I'd come to embrace wearing sandals and flip flops. Before then I'd mostly worn shoes during the summer. The thought of exposing my feet was undesirable for quite a while, but one day -- like my acceptance of drinking ice tea -- I just decided I'd enjoy life and summers more wearing sandals.

Ever since I started wearing flip flops I drove barefooted. I "knew" at the time that it was "illegal," like so many people are told, but I found that I didn't feel as safe driving with flip flops on. The flops would slide around on my foot causing me to feel unsure about my grip on the pedals or my ability to have enough control over them.

At some point in late May or early June of '05 I put in a Web search: "driving barefoot illegal." Though I can't say for sure, I may have questioned the law or wanted to read it for myself. Lo, and behold, right there near the top of the search results was a link to the Society for Barefoot Living's Web site.

Besides being comforted to discover that driving barefoot is perfectly legal, I was fascinated by this group which I'd just run across. "These people hike barefooted?" "They go in public without shoes?" "Isn't THAT illegal?" So many questions, and all the answers were laid out right there. The site showed that going barefooted is a good thing and can be very safe.

A certain photo album on the SBL's site got my attention. It was of a small group of folks who decided to go barefooted around New York City. I thought to myself, "If they can do that, why couldn't I go barefoot other places besides home?" It was time for me to give barefooting a try.

My nephew's birthday party was on a weekend in early June of 2005. I decided to spend that entire weekend barefooted, and I did! Well, I technically was barefooted all weekend, however I didn't do much. I mostly stayed home, but I did go out in the driveway barefooted to get in the car, drove unshod and attended the kiddo's party sans shoes as well (pictured). I was proud of myself. Despite the questions from family at the party as to why I didn't have shoes on, I had a positive barefooting experience for an entire weekend.

Over the next four years leading up to 2009, I explored barefooting off and on. I never started going barefooted in earnest, but I would go unshod around the house and other "safe" places more often than I previously would have. When I shopped at Target -- I don't know what it was about that store -- I would slip off my flip flops and shop barefooted (all while staying in the more out-of-sight aisles to avoid being spotted). At summer Middle School Camp, where I was staff, I would walk barefooted around our lodge and do other tasks in "safe" places without shoes. Any time I wore flip flops I would drive while they sat unused on the floorboard. All in all, you might say I was a "closeted" barefooter.

Well in early 2009 my feet came out of the closet, so to speak.

It was late February or early March of this year when I somehow rediscovered the SBL's Web site. Knowing that it's comfortable, and after reading up on the health benefits of going barefoot, I decided that I was going to become a tried and true barefooter...as much as possible. I posted to my Facebook status on March 4, "Michael is officially ready to stop wearing shoes ALL the time. Bring on the nice weather 'cause my feet need to breathe!"

It had begun. On March 20 I posted to Facebook, "I'm thinking that with the weather being so nice this weekend, I might go barefoot most of the time. Even out and about in public. Who's with me?" And I generally did. Though it was a rainy weekend, I wore flip flops into wherever we shopped or went and then would slip them off.

Over the course of this Spring I grew in my barefootedness. I began posting to Twitter about going barefoot. I'd kick off my flops at various places and started going into places without shoes on at all.

It was at my son's school carnival on May 2 that I feel like I cemented myself as a "barefooter." Except for the muddy petting zoo at the very beginning, I walked around the whole event barefoot. At the end of the day, two of my wife's co-workers -- she worked in the same district -- began talking to me about why I wasn't wearing shoes. After explaining myself and sharing its benefits, one of them said, "I think it's really great that you're doing that. You're doing what you feel is best for you, no matter what anyone else thinks, and I really admire that." Two days later I changed my Twitter username to "barefootmichael," and the rest is history.

(More harp sounds. End flashback.)

Today, I go barefooted or wear minimalist footwear about 99% of the time. At home or other people's homes I go 100% barefooted, indoors and out. When out and about I go either barefooted or wear my Vibram Fivefinger Sprints. They are usually worn in places that have a policy prohibiting bare feet. Occasionally, if I don't feel like taking the time to put on the Sprints, I'll wear flip flops for very brief trips into stores when I don't feel like or have the time for being hassled. That's the other 1%, because I don't consider flip flops to be minimalist footwear.

There's one hitch in my giddy-up: Unfortunately, I am required by policy to wear shoes and socks at work. That said, I have switched to wearing Terra Plana Vivo Barefoot shoes exclusively there. I hope to transition to Vibram Fivefinger KSO Treks over the coming year or so as finances allow. I work in a hospital where people regularly wear strange footwear (e.g. clogs, Crocs, Z-Coils, MBTs, etc.), so I think I'll be able to get away with them.

I hope that you've enjoyed reading a bit about how I got into going barefoot. I challenge you, even though it's a bit cool outside, to try going barefoot one step more than you're used to. Pick sometime when you'd normally wear socks or shoes and just take them off. See what you think. Rediscover the feet that the good Lord gave you. Reconnect with the sensations of the floors and ground all around you. Give it enough time and you will be positively transformed.

I welcome your questions or comments below.

Friday, October 23, 2009

I Tweet Because I Am

You may know that I not only blog, but use the social networking site Twitter. If you follow me already, that's great! If you don't, check me out sometime as @BarefootMichael.

This morning a fellow barefooter contacted me through a private message to inform me that I post so much that they cannot sort through it all. As a result, this person that I consider a barefoot "friend" unfollowed me, choosing not to get my posts as part of their feed. This was upsetting to me at first, hurting me personally. I was shocked that someone who also enjoys going unshod wouldn't support someone who shares the same thinking, no matter how much they have to say.

I polled my Twitter friends: Do I "tweet" too much? The responses were very supportive overall. Most said it's not a problem, and I even got one response that I need to tweet more -- however I'm not sure that one was totally serious.

A couple of followers did share that I tweet too much, one saying that I "push the limits of excessive tweets." Another shared that they'd have unfollowed me too, if I wasn't so "interesting." Very good feedback.

One message got me thinking, which sparked this blog post. They suggested that "the issue with your tweets might be related more with topics than frequency." That clarified things for me.

I may be "Barefoot" Michael on Twitter, but going barefoot is only how I keep my feet. As my bio on Twitter states:
"I'm a dad, husband, Christian, runner, Mac user and media pro who goes barefoot
whenever possible because I was born that way."
So I will not only tweet about barefoot topics, though that's certainly something that I like to talk about. I am also a dad, so I'm going to share things about my kids. I am a husband to a beautiful woman who also follows me on Twitter, so there's times that I post things that I know she'll find interesting. I am a Christian, so I will occasionally share about my faith. I am a runner, so I'm going to share about the challenges and accomplishments of those experiences. I am also a Mac user and media pro, so sometimes I'm going to share about techy things I find interesting or are related to my job. Finally, my location shows that I live in the Kansas City metro area, so there are times that I'm going to talk about local goings-on.

I don't have the time or interest to post to multiple Twitter accounts about each thing that I am. Doing so would always leave out a part of me, and that's not who I am. That said, I have things to say about a lot of topics, so I may post more than other people do. I apologize if that seems excessive.

I follow more than 350 users on Twitter and find myself ignoring a lot of what many of them tweet. In the end, however, I am also interested in a lot of what they ALL have to say. Likewise, I appreciate the more than 500 followers who keep up with my tweets.

If part of me is no interest to you, I hope that you'll find enough that is. Follow me if you'd like, but you're always going to see the big picture of who I am.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Your Rights are Going to the Dogs (and Other Service Animals)

A fellow poster* on the forums at the Living Barefoot site brought up an issue that continues to poke holes in the notion that going barefooted in public places is unsafe and unhealthy. It also casts serious doubt on the logic used to create such policies.

If going barefooted at the local grocery store or Wal-Mart is unsafe and unhealthy for those doing it and the customers around them, we must address the subject of service animals. They almost always go bare pawed/hooved/footed and yet no one complains about the health and safety ramifications of this practice.

Before I go any further, I must adamantly state that I believe it is appropriate and right to allow service animals to accompany the disabled wherever they need to go. This blog entry is solely for the purpose of exposing ignorant managerial policy of many businesses that require human customers to wear footwear.

Ann Edie and her guide miniature horse, Panda, check out at a Staples.
(Photo courtesy: Angelinoview.com)

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) allows for service animals to accompany disabled people nearly wherever they go. On its Web site, the ADA puts it this way:
"Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), privately owned businesses that serve the public, such as restaurants, hotels, retail stores, taxicabs, theaters, concert halls, and sports facilities, are prohibited from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. The ADA requires these businesses to allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals onto business premises in whatever areas customers are generally allowed."
So the ADA allows for the animals without considering any sort of health or safety ramifications? Well, not exactly. Farther down the page there is a caveat:
"(A business) may exclude any animal, including a service animal, from (its) facility when that animal's behavior poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. For example, any service animal that displays vicious behavior towards other guests or customers may be excluded."
I added the bold for emphasis.

While the ADA's site addresses the issue of "maintenance" or a "cleaning fee" in the event that a service animal makes a mess (in one way or another), no mention is made regarding the business' responsibility to keep the establishment safe or healthy for the service animal. If we are to assume -- because we barefooters are told this -- that a business' floor is unsafe for our feet due to the possibility of stepping on broken glass, sharp objects, germs or any various kinds of spilled items, then we must assume that the same holds true for the exposed paws of service animals.

Interestingly enough, the ADA's FAQ page linked above never addresses a question about whether a business can require service animal to wear booties or footwear. (Doggie shoe photo courtesy: Neopaws.com) So I called by phone the ADA's "Disability Rights Section." After holding for only a brief couple of minutes, a specialist quickly answered, "No," when I asked if businesses may request or require that service animals put on such footwear. A disclaimer: The ADA's phone system recording made it very clear that information given over such a call is not binding legal advice or opinion, however I have to think that these employees know what they're talking about.

So where does that leave us? It leaves me with the realization that I have fewer rights than many dogs. It tells me that the federal government of the United States of America believes that the floors of businesses should be generally safe enough for a service animal's bare paw/hoof/foot insomuch that said businesses may not request footwear to "protect" them.

It makes me think that businesses need to give up several outdated excuses and let me and others go barefooted if we so choose. Service animals already do it, so it seems silly that we humans can't.

Owners and managers certainly have an obligation to protect their own interests. Yes, glass breaks sometimes. But, we should remember that when a jar of spaghetti sauce shatters at the grocery store, somebody quickly cleans it up as well as they can. What's left is typically negligible and is no more a risk to my bare feet than a product display tipping over.

You could argue that service animals shouldn't go barepawed/hooved/footed into a business -- and that's your prerogative and a whole other discussion -- but the law is what it is and most people never second-guess the cleanliness or safety of a business' floor when a service animal comes in. Why, then, should they second-guess my ability to stay safe while barefooted in a restaurant, grocery store, retailer or other establishment? Most only have a fleeting thought about what a service animal may be tracking onto the floor of the business, yet many are quick to assume that my bare feet are slathering the floor with disgusting sweat, bacteria and disease.

Honestly, folks, so long as we keep our "paws" generally clean and off of the merchandise, it's perfectly reasonable for us barefooters to be allowed to go unshod in a business.

* - Thanks to "Rascal" for the idea for this blog entry!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

An Ode* to Baby Wipes

Oh, baby wipes,

When first I started barefooting, my feet, they would get so dirty.
And then I discovered the solution was near in a diaper bag.
You -- baby wipes -- you, the very same moist cloths
Used to de-poop my daughter's rear end
Could also cleanse my sole...and the other.

Oh, baby wipes,

How do I love thee?
Let me count the ways:
One, the little piggie that went to the market.
Two, the little piggie who stayed home.
Three, the little piggie who had roast beef.
Four, sadly, the little piggie who had none.
Fifth, and most importantly, you might agree dear wipes
Is the piggie who cried so sadly.
You bring comfort and cleanliness to
The little piggie who went "Wee, wee, wee,"
All the way home.

Oh, baby wipes,

The piggies are but one portion of my sole...and the other
Which you doth clean.
For your overarching cleaning abilities
Do also come to the fore...and the other.
Your heeling cleansing brings completeness
To a troubled, dirty pod...and the other.

Oh, baby wipes,

In your wake lies peace and cleanliness.
In your stead you leave softness.
After being touched by you
I can go on, head held high and
Feet on the ground for
I have been made freshly anew!

And I, baby wipes, am forever grateful.
So many people who shun the idea of barefooting do so on the grounds of not wanting their feet to get dirty. The fact of the matter is, however, that the feet can be easily cleaned if stuff gets on them. While the best way is to clean with soap and water, that isn't always a viable option.

Baby wipes are the #1 easiest way to clean your feet throughout the day while barefoot. There are times where you really want to wipe your feet off because of how dirty they've gotten. It really is an appropriate thing to do when you wish to curl your feet up on a piece of furniture, put them up on a coffee table or any other number of times where you'd like your feet up off of the floor. In those cases, baby wipes are the next best thing to a shower and are essentially as effective at cleaning off the foot. Hey, if wipes work for cleaning all of that off a kiddos bum, wouldn't they work well cleaning dirt off of our feet?

Through my wife's and my bouts of diaper rash with our little ones, we no longer buy wipes with any kind of alcohol or propylene glycol. These products tend to dry the skin out and make such conditions worse. I imagine that the same would occur with the feet. I prefer to buy Huggies Natural Care unscented wipes** (pictured above). They don't contain the above products, are easy to find, reasonably priced, strong and very effective at cleaning off all kinds of dirt and grime from the foot. What's more, I feel like they leave the foot moisturized.

If you're holding off on going barefoot because of concerns about dirt, grab a package of baby wipes next time you go to the store. Go barefoot for a while and bring them along. You'll be surprised at how effective they are at keeping your feet clean, moist and happy!

* - Okay, so it's not an actual ode, as typically patterned in the ABABCDECDE rhyme scheme. It's more of an homage without any real lyrical structure. So sue me. ;-)
** - I do not receive any compensation from Huggies or any of its subsidiaries or related companies. Product endorsement is made solely on my use of the product.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Camping in Bare Feet & Minimalist Footwear

Last weekend I had the opportunity and privilege to go camping with my son at Wallace State Park here in Missouri. We joined my sister and her family for a couple of days of food, relaxation, hiking, fishing and most importantly...s'mores!

While there, I continued a lifestyle of going barefoot or wearing minimalist shoes. Although I wanted to go barefoot most of the time, the gravel and acorns covering the ground of our camp sites made it uncomfortably prohibitive to go barefoot with any speed or efficiency. That said, I did manage to go barefoot some of the time, walking around our sites a little bit and doing some barefoot hiking on one of the trails. A significant majority of the time I wore my Vibram Fivefingers Sprint (VFFs) footwear, but on the last morning I caved to the 39F/4C temperature and wore socks with my Vivo Barefoot Dharma (Vivos) shoes. All in all, I'd say I wore my VFFs about 80% of my awake time while going barefoot about 15% and wearing the Vivos the final 5%:

Mmm, pie...charts.

I also took my Terra Plana Trip Clips with me. After getting them "dialed in" just right they worked well at keeping my jeans cuffs off of the ground. That was very helpful since barefooting and wearing minimalist shoes like the VFFs and Vivos usually keeps my cuffs low enough to rub the ground as I walk. I will certainly be doing a review later on to offer additional thoughts and tips on how best to use the clips.

Some more thoughts on barefoot/minimalist footwear camping:

  • Your active feet quickly get used to cold temperatures. Even in the early morning my feet did generally well barefoot or wearing just the VFF Sprints. I only wore the Vivos for the first couple hours of the coldest morning because I wasn't very active yet. If I'd started off with a run or hike or lots of walking around then the VFFs Sprints would have been enough.
  • Vibram Fivefingers, compared to bare feet, provide just enough sole protection to guard against uncomfortable gravel and acorns on the ground. I could feel the surfaces pretty well with them on, but it felt more like a foot massage instead of discomfort.
  • Terra Plana's Vivo Barefoot shoes, for all of their wonderful qualities, really don't provide anywhere as close of a "barefoot" feel as Vibram Fivefingers. This really became apparent on the camping trip. On smooth surfaces the differences are much less noticeable. On gravely, rocky surfaces the flexibility of the Vibram Fivefingers really shines. Not only that, but Vivos are much more loose on the foot and I would be hesitant to go hiking in them.
  • Hiking barefoot on non-gravely trails is spectacular! Nothing makes you feel more connected with nature and the earth like walking through the woods with your bare soles on the ground. Definitely try it if you get the chance. Yes, your feet will get a bit dirty, but it's worth it.
As a side note, my nephew Austin also took some opportunities to go barefoot during the trip. While he didn't hike barefoot, he did kick off his shoes a couple of times. Once, at the end of a trail as we walked back on paved roads to our sites, he went barefoot and stayed unshod for quite a while. I'm proud of him.

Overall, camping barefoot and in minimalist footwear was wonderful. It helped me feel so much more connected with the ground below and the trees above. At no point did I feel a sense of danger for my feet, even when walking over rocks in the dry riverbed or up some steep trail inclines in my VFFs. The trip got me even more interested in learning more about and exploring the concept of MovNat, which is kind of like parkour in nature. The trip was refreshing for body and soul and I can't wait to go back and do even more things barefoot. It certainly makes me want to get outdoors more and enjoy whatever nature is around me.

Friday, October 2, 2009

I'm Not Going to "Fall" Down

I'm going camping this weekend.

But when I return, so will more information and discussion right here at Barefoot and Grounded. I've got a lot to talk about from product reviews to my thoughts on all things barefoot.

A new poll will open up next week, too. Check out the results from the last one. Even though we've got a lot of barefoot fans, we have a lot of work to do to help you "shoddies" step INTO your comfort zone.

Many people take a hiatus from barefooting for the colder months. I assure you that I'm going to head full steam into fall and winter determined to stay as barefoot or minimalist as possible.

I'm looking forward to talking with you about it all...after I come back from camping. :-)

Smiles,
Michael

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Barefoot Code of Conduct

Going barefoot goes against the grain of a lot of society's thinking. Having followed a Twitter search on the subject for a number of months now, I can tell you that many people find the idea of going barefoot to be gross, if not repulsive. Seeing someone barefoot in a store or with their bare feet up on the dashboard of a vehicle is enough to make some folks tweet very negative things and use some very harsh language.

Since I began going barefoot, I've developed my own unofficial "Code of Conduct." It's my own guidelines of how I will act and present myself when going barefoot. It helps me to be comfortable going unshod and assists with the "mental comfort" of others. Your own code of conduct may vary:

The Barefoot Code of Conduct: Michael Edition

I Will:
  • Go barefoot on my own property whenever practical and generally safe.
  • Go barefoot to public places whenever comfortable, practical, generally safe and not prohibited by posted policy or signage.
  • Wear minimalist footwear, whenever practical, to places where bare feet are prohibited by policy or signage.
  • Walk barefoot on grass or other natural ground coverings whenever possible.
  • Drive barefoot whenever practical and convenient.
  • Keep "backup" footwear in my vehicle or closer when visiting public places barefoot.
  • Keep "backup" footwear in the immediate area whenever I drive barefoot.
  • Keep baby wipes accessible in case they are needed to clean my feet of significant dirt.
  • Wipe my feet of minor particles on grass, pavement or ground mat prior to entering a home or business.
  • Clean (using baby wipes) my feet of significant dirt before entering a home or business.
  • Kindly and courteously discuss the benefits and dispel the myths of going barefoot if challenged or questioned by other persons.
  • Encourage others to explore the benefits of barefooting.
I Will NOT:
  • Go barefoot into someone's home if they request that I wear footwear.
  • Go barefoot into a public place if posted policy or signage prohibits bare feet or requests footwear.
  • Go barefoot if doing so would put my feet at high risk of injury.
  • Walk shod on grass or ground coverings if other paved or stone walkways are reasonably available to get to my destination.
  • Continue to go barefoot in a public place if law enforcement or other authority demands I put on footwear.
  • Argue the benefits of barefooting to the point of disturbing the public peace or putting myself, family or friends around me at risk of being expelled from a public place or arrested by law enforcement.
  • Go to bed at night prior to wiping or cleaning my feet of minor or significant particles or dirt.

Please note that "public places" refers to any outdoor or indoor area where the general public is invited or accepted to gather and/or do business. This policy is subject to future change as necessary and I welcome your feedback in the comments section below.

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