Monday, September 20, 2010

Don't Get Cold Feet About Bare Feet As Cooler Months Approach

Many people are open to the idea of going without shoes in the summertime, but get "cold feet" about the idea of baring their feet in the fall and winter months. It's true that we humans would typically prefer to be warm instead of cold. That said, there are still ways that you can get yourself -- and your feet -- more comfortable with the idea of going without shoes as the days get shorter.

Among questions regarding broken glass or fungal infections, another concern that we barefooters regularly hear about is cold feet. "Don't your feet get cold?," one person may ask. Another may state, "I'd like to go barefoot more often, but I can't stand for my feet to get cold," or "My feet get cold really easily."

For someone who truly is open to the idea of going barefoot in the cooler seasons of the year, my top advice would be this: "Get used to it." At a glance, that statement could come across as calloused and uncaring, but it's meant with all respect, sincerity and kindness.

Going barefoot when it's cooler is really an exercise in preparation and acclimation before the thermometer dips. Just as Rome wasn't built in a day, you can't expect to be able to walk barefoot outside on the chilly sidewalk and immediately feel all right about it. Preparing your feet for the winter months and acclimating them is the best way to stay barefoot as much as possible until Spring springs forth again next year.

Now obviously, a lot of this is dependent on where you actually live and what the thermometer is doing. The longer and colder that your winter is, the harder this is going to be. You also must realize that there will be times when going barefoot just isn't smart. Just as there are occasions when you feel it's best to wear gloves outside, there will be occasions when you should wear shoes outside. These factors are so variable depending on your geography and personal tolerance to cold that I will leave much of this to your personal discretion.

Here is some general advice on how to stay barefoot as long as possible during the next several months:

Go Barefoot NOW

To successfully go barefoot in winter, you must work your way into it. Barefoot runners don't start off running marathon distances and you shouldn't start going barefoot in winter. The sooner that you adopt more barefoot activity, the more likely it is that your winter barefooting will be successful.

I truly believe that the more an individual goes barefoot, the more comfortable they become with the sensations from going barefoot. That goes not only for what's underfoot (i.e. concrete, carpet, toys, rocks, etc.), but also the surrounding temperature. The more your feet get used to experiencing all the sensations of going without shoes, the better they will be set up to get through the winter as bare as possible for as long as possible.

Keep Going Barefoot Outdoors

Find opportunities to go barefoot outside while the weather is still generally warm right now. Walk in the grass. Play in the dirt. Stroll along the pavement. As the thermometer begins to fall over the coming weeks, KEEP going barefoot outside. Your feet will adapt to the cooler ground temperatures over time. The trick is to be consistent. You can't expect your feet to react as you'd like when you haven't prepared them for new sensations.

Stay Active

The winter months are often attributed to higher rates of deaths, outbreaks of the flu and even the occurrence of a seasonal depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). These are all caused by -- or at least attributed to -- the fact that people are more sedentary in winter. It makes sense. If it's cold outside, you do more things inside. If you're inside more, you tend to sit around and do less.

Keep your bare feet warm by increasing the blood circulation in them via activity. If you own a treadmill, use it to at least walk barefoot. Run if you can. Exercise regularly to keep your whole body feeling healthy. Give your feet regular massages -- or better yet, have your partner do it for you -- to keep the blood circulating better in your feet and your muscles warm.

Wear Socks If Preferred

My purist barefooter friends may frown on this recommendation, but I give it as an alternative to keeping your shoes on inside the house all the time this winter. Socks will generally allow you to move your feet as freely as going barefoot while still adding a layer of warmth to them. Toe socks are the best for this. Avoid the temptation to put on big, thick, tight and/or fuzzy slippers. They often alter your walking gait and can even be as restrictive as shoes.

Cover Up When Sitting Down

I'm all for a warm, snuggly blanket and see no problem with covering my lap, legs and feet with one while I'm sitting around in the winter. The advantage to barefooters doing this is that it keeps our feet warmer without having to do a whole lot of work. Keep blankets around where you regularly sit in your house and tuck your feet inside to keep your piggies free, but toasty.

Wear Minimal Footwear When Necessary

Again, I'll probably have some disagreement with me on this one, but the last thing you want to do is turn yourself off to going barefoot. When it really is too cold or uncomfortable to bare it all (below the ankles, friends), minimal footwear can often provide just the right amount of warmth or protection to get you through to the next opportunity to go unshod.

For example, I usually wear flip flops out to the car when the temps dip below freezing -- even with light snow on the ground. While my feet might get a bit chilly for that short trek, I always remember that my car heater works well and that the floorboard will get nice and toasty very soon. The flip flops then might get worn into wherever I'm going but quickly come off once I'm back indoors.

If wearing sandals outside in the winter is a bit too adventurous for you, choose minimal footwear instead of big winter boots when there's no heavy snow cover on the ground and you'll be outside for short periods. Keep your feet as flexible and free as you can while keeping them just as warm as you'd like.

Don't Worry About Your Feet

Some might think that going barefoot in cooler temperatures is dangerous. I can assure you that if the thermometer is indicating temperatures above freezing, you WILL be okay to go barefoot. If the air isn't freezing, your feet can't freeze either.

Dry, cracked feet are a concern for some in the wintertime. Just as shoes cause many ailments of the feet due to their warm, moist conditions, they also do so in the winter. Sweaty feet in the colder months can lead to cracked skin once shoes are removed. If your feet are regularly allowed to breath and not sweat inside shoes in the winter, they'll be that much ahead of the game. Now, the drier months of the year do increase the risks for dry feet. To alleviate this problem, regularly use a moisturizing cream on them. Notice I said "cream" and not "lotion." Creams are thicker and contain less alcohol than lotion. The less alcohol, the better.


Again, this is all subject to personal comfort and the climate in which you live. Certainly do what YOU feel is best for YOUR feet. I'm not responsible if you do something stupid or get hurt because you pushed your limits too far. That said, I do think that taking this advice will help you stay barefoot as much as possible while we wait for the warmer temperatures to return in Spring.

Do you plan on going barefoot this winter? Have you gone barefoot in wintertime before? If so, what tips would you add to this list? Please leave your comments in the section below.

Photos: Thermometer:; Autumn Leaves: Image: Arvind Balaraman /; Flip flops in the snow:

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bare Feet Cause Higher Floor-Cleaning Costs?

I recently ran across a curious paragraph in an article reporting on the decision of a library board to uphold their policy prohibiting bare feet. While they predictably chose to continue discrimination against bare feet, one of their reasons for doing so left me scratching my head. The paragraph:
"Board member Jameson Campaigne pointed out he researched the subject, finding that bare feet could increase floor cleaning costs."
REALLY? I've heard the excuse that bare feet make a floor dirtier than shoes -- partially because of our own natural oils that are allegedly transferred from our skin -- but I've never seen that excuse extrapolated out to the costs of cleaning the floors. And where did he research this?

I don't deny that bare feet could deposit dirt or even bodily oils onto the floor, but I hardly believe that there's nearly enough prevalence of barefoot patrons to make this a real problem above and beyond what shoes already do to the floors. In fact, I'd imagine that bare feet generally do less damage to floors because feet are cleaned more regularly and are not as harsh on surfaces like shoes are to carpet.

Honestly, haven't we all seen how faded and worn carpet gets in high-traffic areas of businesses? I know I can see the "tracks" where people regularly walk along the carpeted corridors of my workplace.

Are bare feet a real threat to floors? If so, are there enough potential barefoot patrons to be concerned that they would raise cleaning costs? Sound off and let me know what you think about this being a partial reason for the library board denying patrons without shoes. Please leave your comments in the section below.

Image: Suat Eman /

Monday, September 13, 2010

Taylor Swift Performs Barefoot at the VMAs

A viewer didn't have to look too closely at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards to see that Taylor Swift performed barefoot. Swift wore a white dress and no footwear to seemingly portray "innocent" forgiveness of last year's speech-crashing hip-hopper Kanye West.

While I am always for barefoot activity -- and celebs like Joss Stone who regularly perform sans shoes -- Twitter lit up with negative vibes following Swift's performance. The responses were mostly retweets of user @Lord_Voldemort7 who has north of 220,000 followers. His negative and stereotype-perpetuating tweet?:
"Taylor Swift walked across the VMA stage barefoot. Poor decision making. Bieber fever is the tamest of the diseases she's about to get."
It's too bad that bare feet continue to get such a bad rap and that so many people think going barefoot is so unhygienic. Here's hoping The Primalfoot Alliance can help remind people how great going barefoot can be.

What do you think of Taylor Swift's decision to perform barefoot? Have you ever considered going barefoot when/where you normally wouldn't? Please leave your comments below.

Want to see her performance? Your wish is my command:

Friday, September 10, 2010

158 Hours Barefoot, Part II: Barefoot About The Town

After having gone barefoot for a full two days last week while my wife, Glenda, was in the hospital for testing (read: Part I: Unshod in the E.R.), I was looking forward to a four-day barefoot weekend of helping her out and celebrating Labor Day festivities. I would end up going totally barefoot everywhere for almost a whole week.

Friday, Day 3

On Friday, I stayed home from work to help her run some errands and lighten the load that two daughters under three years old bring with them. I shared with Glenda that I wanted to keep going barefoot all weekend, so we'd have to be careful about some of the places we went. She was supportive and understanding.

You see, of all the grocery stores in our city of 121,000 residents, I know of only ONE that has no signage prohibiting bare feet or requiring shoes. One. It has also been my own personal policy for a while that I will not go barefoot into a business that has a clearly posted policy against it. So that meant that we needed to shop at that one grocery store if I was going to keep my barefoot streak going. Glenda was graciously open to this idea, even if it wasn't the closest grocer or the one at which she usually shops.

Have I mentioned how awesome my wife is?

First, however, we were hungry. We stopped at a Subway sandwich shop before getting groceries. Again, this choice was made based on their reputation for being generally barefoot friendly. We ate there with no problems and no comments from employees or customers -- though I'm not sure any of them even realized I was barefoot.

Not me, but notice how you must
look closely to realize this person
is barefoot. Photo by Flickr user
It should be noted that on this day I tried to keep my bare feet as incognito as possible. It's widely known throughout barefooting circles that wearing pants or jeans makes it a lot easier to bare your soles in public. People just tend to notice your lack of footwear a lot less this way (see photo at left). Something about shorts accentuates the fact that there's no break in skin between your ankle and the floor, thereby showing off your lack of shoes for all to clearly see.

One of the neat things about going barefoot in a grocery store is the varying floor temperatures. Even if you were blind, going without shoes would signal to you how close you're getting to the refrigerated goods. The floor gets progressively cooler the more proximal you are to these products. In fact, the lower floor temperatures extend out a lot farther from the refrigerated goods section than you might think! I felt the lower temps several aisles away.

Now, I know what you might be thinking: "Oh, I could never do that! I hate it when my feet are cold!" You have to understand that we barefooters welcome all kinds of varying sensations under our soles. It makes us feel alive! And what's more, it keeps the world that much more interesting and multi-dimensional! Before I started going without shoes on a regular basis, I probably would have said my feet were too sensitive to go barefoot. As I then became reacquainted with the sensations from my feet, they evolved from being uncomfortable and unmanageable to something that's actually quite desirable! That's not to say that cold floors don't feel cold anymore. It simply means that the varying temperatures are no big deal. This also applies to various textures and objects on the ground.

Nobody said anything about my bare feet in the grocery store, but I did get some looks. I noticed several customers glance down and see my lack of footwear. At one point -- in the section of frozen food cases -- a couple of employees walked by and I'm sure they saw me barefoot. Even so, they said nothing.

That evening, having now gone a full three days without shoes, we decided to head up to our city's Labor Day weekend festival on the town square. The festival draws hundreds of thousands of people. The square ends up being PACKED to the gills with craft tents, merchants, food vendors, a carnival and multiple performance stages. While we didn't do much more than eat some of the good food, I attended barefoot for my second year in a row. It was fun and I loved letting my feet be free, feeling the warm ground beneath me and not having to deal with sweaty feet from being stuffed in shoes.

Saturday, Day 4

The next morning, I passed my previous 86-hour record for consecutive barefooting. It was a neat accomplishment, but I still had so much more to go! Three days, actually, because I didn't need to put shoes back on until I went to work Tuesday morning. The barefooting adventures continued.

On Saturday we went to my niece's birthday party at my brothers' house and later took another trip up to the festival. Total barefoot time, 4 days (96 hours) and counting.

Sunday, Day 5

On Sunday morning I continued my regular practice of attending church services barefoot. Later that day we went to a picnic at one of our church members' homes. Their property is a beautiful place set on several acres that include a large pond and an orchard of apples and plums.

I was able to take part in one of my favorite barefoot activities: playing in the grass! Someone brought a high-quality Nerf football to the picnic, so several of us participated in throwing it around in an open field next to the orchard. I cannot understate how much I LOVE running around barefoot in grass. Heck, that's partially why this blog is called "Barefoot and Grounded" and my Twitter page's background is of a green lawn. The grass sweeping across my soles, the varying textures of the ground and the minute temperature changes in light and shadow all combine for a viscerally enjoyable experience. Such a great time. 120 hours complete with bare feet.

Monday, Day 6

Monday was the last full day of my barefoot streak. Glenda's sister invited her over to show her some sewing tips, so my wife went there and took the kids with her. I decided to invite my dad up to the festival for a turkey leg. Yes, that meant that I headed up to the square THREE times that weekend, but it was all good. The ground was very warm -- a fun contrast from the cold grocery store floor three days prior -- and the turkey legs were awesome! I actually parked at his place, which isn't far from the festival, and we walked up and back. I spent some time chatting with him in his apartment before leaving for home. I can't help but wonder what his fellow building residents thought as they saw me walk in and out without shoes.

It should be noted that the only time I ever saw or was concerned about broken glass or any other danger that weekend was on the walk up to the square with Dad. Almost simultaneously, he and I saw a broken beer bottle off to the side of the path on which we were walking. He pointed it out, I saw it, and I stepped around it without incident. We walked home a slightly different way just because of where we ended up after eating and walking around.

Tuesday, 6 1/2 Days: Back to Shoes

On Tuesday morning I dreaded putting shoes back on, even though I had to in order to go to work. I had spent more than 158 consecutive hours barefoot. I went almost an entire week without shoes and it was WONDERFUL! I came away with no infections, no cuts and only a small "hot spot" on my sole from walking on the hot pavement on my outing with Dad. No big deal. It was worth it. Going barefoot is totally worth it.

Thanks for reading! Any thoughts on my barefoot weekend? What's the longest you've gone completely without shoes? Where have you gone barefoot where others thought you shouldn't? Where would you like to go barefoot but haven't built up the courage yet? Please leave your comments in the section below.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

158 Hours Barefoot, Part I: Unshod in the E.R.

It started with a trip to the Emergency Room. After more than two hours of having strange and disconcerting symptoms, I took my wife, Glenda, to an area hospital to get her evaluated. When we arrived at the E.R. parking area, I decided not to put on my "emergency" flip flops to go inside to get her a wheelchair. I went barefoot and stayed that way for the next six and a half days.

A little backstory: Though I'm a barefooter, I work at a job that requires me by policy to wear socks and shoes. Because of that, I spend about nine hours a day in minimalist footwear five days of the week. Evenings and weekends are my barefoot time. Sometimes I can go barefoot for a three-day weekend for those few official Monday holidays. Because of all this, the longest that I've consecutively gone barefoot was a meager 86 hours from a Friday evening to Tuesday morning on a holiday weekend. Not bad, but as a barefooter I long to go sans shoes as much as possible.

Tuesday Evening

So I went barefoot into the E.R. with my wife. I figured at the time, "Hey, why not? I've never gone barefoot in a hospital before." Two hospital staff members -- both nurses -- warned me about doing this.* The first nurse raised concerns that "you never know" what's on the floors of a hospital E.R. room. I asked if they clean the floors regularly and she replied that yes, they do, but they still see people with various viruses and bacteria in there including MRSA. Her recommendation: Clean my feet really well when I get the chance. The second nurse shared the same thoughts as the first. I told her that I have no open wounds on my feet and she said that such infections can be spread through the smallest of wounds -- even ones we can't see. Ooookayyy. I wasn't terribly concerned about their comments, but my feet were pretty dirty when I got home, so I cleaned them...and put hand sanitizer on them...just because.

Wednesday & Thursday, Days 1 & 2

Over the next two days of my wife's stay in the hospital for tests -- everything turned out okay -- I visited her only in bare feet. I didn't even take shoes into the facility. If, at the end of the day, I felt like my feet were overly dirty, I'd wipe them off with baby wipes or even wash them in the bathroom tub. No big deal and my feet turned out fine.

I'm amazed that, of all the places that you'd think the floors should be especially clean, people think hospital floors are some of the dirtiest. That certainly doesn't bolster my confidence in our health care system. Nevertheless, I see hospital floors as most any others: Yes, there might be something icky stuff on them, but the risks are very low for dangerous exposure or foot infection.

By the time I took Glenda home on Thursday afternoon, I'd gone nearly 48 hours totally barefoot. Not anywhere close to a record, for sure, as that's standard practice for a weekend. I anticipated returning to work the next day and my barefoot streak ending until...

At dinner that evening, I asked Glenda if she was sure she'd be fine the next day with me going back to work. She surprisingly shared that she wasn't sure -- I say "surprisingly" because she hates to inconvenience others for her own benefit, so I realized she was still struggling. Having spent more than two days in a hospital bed and still feeling some after-effects of the stay, she was hoping I could stay home Friday to make sure everything went smoothly. I agreed that was best and called my manager to let him know I wouldn't be back until after the holiday.

Then I realized the serendipitous stroke of barefoot luck that had been dropped in my lap! I'd already gone without shoes for two days and now I had the opportunity to go four more! Most excellent! Not only could I spend more time with my wife -- which cannot be understated -- but I could keep my feet bare longer than I'd ever been able to since taking on this lifestyle. If I kept my shoes off, that barefoot span would definitely break my previous record AND allow me to go almost a week unshod. I was nearly giddy with anticipation of the long weekend ahead.

Next, Part II: Barefoot About the Town

Let's have some feedback. What do you think about my choice to go barefoot in a hospital? Do you think that hospital floors are disproportionately unhygienic compared to other indoor surfaces? Was I taking an unnecessary risk? Was it inappropriate? Please leave your comments below.

* - This post originally mentioned only one nurse. It seems as though my wife's memory is better than mine and that I was merging the conversations with TWO people into one story. That's since been remedied.

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