Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Barefoot Season 2011: No Backup But The Doctor's Note

Now that Spring has sprung and warmer weather has moved in, I've decided to revise my Barefoot Code of Conduct for the 2011 "barefooting season." The idea is to keep it relevant and keep current my own personal preferences and standards related to going barefoot. There are two big changes for this year:

The first change is the elimination of regular "backup" footwear. Up to now, I've kept a pair of flip flops under the driver's seat of our car and minivan. The original purpose was to have a pair of backups available if I needed them for some reason. This included my willingness to comply with signs that required footwear and having the option of returning to my vehicle for them if asked by a business' employee/manager/security to put on shoes. I still had every intention of walking into most places totally barefoot.

The problem that I discovered, however, is that I relied on these flip flops too much. Instead of going into most places without any shoes, I kept slipping on the flip flops and then taking them off inside. This even included stores with no signs prohibiting bare feet! I was getting "soft." Instead of dictating how I was going to live my life, I found myself acquiescing to the assumed preferences of others and avoiding assumed confrontation. I don't like that.

There have been a few occasions in the past when I didn't have any backup footwear with me...and I LOVED it. This rarely occurred, but when it did I felt a sense of relief and a weight lifted off my shoulders. I was pleased with the reality that I had to go barefoot and that I didn't have to make a choice I didn't want to make. The certainty of inevitability can be quite soothing, sometimes.

If I know ahead of time that I will genuinely need footwear -- such as in times of extreme temperatures or when participating in more risky activities, I'll take shoes with me. The overall point is that having those "just in case shoes" on hand has come to an end.

The other big change is that I have acquired a note from my chiropractor. It says "Patient needs to be allowed to be barefoot regardless of location/establishment." (see photo below) I had a conversation with him about my barefoot lifestyle, and he understands the benefits of going barefoot. Because of that, he was more than willing to write up the note. I have heard success stories from other barefooters about how having a doctor's note helped their cause immensely. I haven't been questioned or had a need to use it yet -- and quite frankly I don't know if it carries any real legal weight (I've been researching this) -- but I welcome it as a "tool in the tool chest" when barefooting in public.

My doctor's note (altered for privacy purposes).
I should point out that I decided to ditch the backup footwear before I ever considered getting a doctor's note. The decision to talk to my chiropractor actually came on a whim when I overheard another patient talking with him about one.

This could be interesting. For example, I have a paid membership to Costco, a wholesale warehouse that requires footwear of their members. I have already been asked once (pre-note) to put on my flip flops while in there -- I complied because I had my flip flops in the cart. I like my Costco membership, but I also prefer to go barefoot. Without any backup footwear, I hope that the doctor's note is able to satisfy them enough to allow me to shop unshod. If not, I could consider Sam's Club, but they also have a shoe rule and may not allow me even with a note.

I still want to be able to function in society and purchase the things I need at the price I'd like, and anybody should expect the same whether they prefer to wear shoes or not. I founded The Primalfoot Alliance to advocate on behalf of barefooters because policies still exist that discriminate against us. I like having a doctor's note to show that I have medical backing behind my decision. That said, I also like the idea of being able to shop without hassle at Costco and many other places and not need a doctor's note or any other reason.

Rest assured that I will not back down from my dedication to The Primalfoot Alliance or other barefooters even though I have a doctor's note. The cause is still important and I will still be approached by many managers and security officers. I may "get off" with the note -- we'll see -- but I'll also take the opportunity to educate.

I will be posting again with information about how the doctor's note has worked out. I think it will help in many cases. If you have a chiropractor or doctor who you know is barefoot friendly, consider having a conversation about your desire to go barefoot into places but that you're often discriminated against. It may be that, if you ask, he/she would be willing to back you up with a note of your own.

I ask you, dear reader: What are your thoughts? Do you think the doctor's note will help? If Costco holds fast and rejects the note, should I stand on conviction and kick them to the curb? Have I taken this too far? Please leave your comments and suggestions in the section below.


  1. One really nice thing about being a college professor is having summers off. From mid-May to mid-August my feet will be bare (last summer I achieved a six-month record because I was allowed to teach barefoot until late October).

  2. I like your attitude, Michael. Keep that up! I will be eager to hear how the doctor's note had helped. I think the security will shut up seeing such a note :)

  3. I'm struggling with the backup flip flops,too. I usually keep a pair in the car and in the basket under our stroller but it's becoming a pain to keep up with them. I'm still nervous about going into public buildings like the grocery store and library without shoes for fear of being told to put them on.

    I like the idea of getting a doctor's note! I might have to look into that!

  4. I have some paper feet in my car, but frankly I never need them for anything. To be fair though only one store bothers me, but I have found hours that I can shop at store barefoot cause I know when managers do not work.

    I've had the same problem at costco. They get you at the door with your bare feet. I never really need a shopping cart. I found a method though that is working. I grab a shopping cart even though I don't need it. You basically use the cart to "hide" your feet behind. Also if you can walk in as other shoppers are walking in. I find the costco greeter is looking up at cards rather then focused on looking down at your feet. It works for me. Once your in I found everything is fine with no one bothering you.

    I have found with each store shoe required policy. There is usually a work around to keep going barefoot.

    At my last annual doctors exam I presented my new barefoot lifestyle to my doctor. Showing up bare foot, and all. She is very supportive of my new lifestyle. I actually considered asking for a medical note, but decided I wanted more time to experiment first. I think she would probably give me one. Though in my case for where I live I don't find it to be needed. With that said I may still ask her for one at the end of the year just to see what happens. So it is interesting you have already done this.

    I will be interested in seeing what sort of results you have. So please let us know how that goes. I hope you truly test the note, and what reactions you get at known shoe required stores.

    I wonder with a medical note if a store denied you access if this would provide clear legal grounds to sue them. If a store does not allow wheel chair access then the customer could sue. Maybe we could sue under similar circumstances. This type of note is not common within our society. So this may have to be challenged by both parties. Store not accepting it, and you pushing the legal limit of how judges would rule on it.

    That has been my thinking for a while. As a possible loop hole. Though again it is not a huge issue for me in my local area. So it is not something I need to rush.

    Do you have the ability to bring a lawyer into the conversation ? Would a store not accepting this type of note. Allow a lawyer to explore any positive results for a bare footer ?

    It's good to create change with education. Though we may also needs some legal cases on our side to progress the movement.

  5. Forgot to say. This reminds me of the state I reside in of California, and the medical marijuana card. The card allows a medical reason to use marijuana without being harassed by the state, or local government.

  6. As to the effectiveness of a doctor's note to get you into Costco, I'd guess it might work on a temporary basis, all depending on who's at the door checking membership. I think if anyone, such as one of the managers, decided to check with their corporate headquarters on acceptance of such a note in order to grant you an exception to their policy, I doubt it would work. I see two issues right away with the note. First, it doesn't show a reason, in other words, a diagnosis of your condition that would require bare feet. Also, the fact that the doctor is not in fact a medical doctor might also work against their taking it seriously. Having said though, having something like that is better than having nothing at all - so I'd definitely give it a try and see what happens. You have nothing to lose.

    The problem with Costco, as opposed to most other large chains, is that they are not a regular public entity. They only sell to "members." And they are also unique in that they do in fact have a written policy that requires shoes (most other large chains, such as Walmart and others, do not). That policy is in their membership contract, which is, in effect, agreed to by the member when he or she joins.

    Back in 2003 and 2004, I exchanged some letters with Jim Sinegal, President and CEO of Costco, in which his final words to me were, "That is the choice we have made. It is not going to change, even though you disagree with it and even though you find inconsistencies in our reasons for it. And further effort on your part to push for a change in this regard is going to be a waste of your time and ours..." He further offered to refund my membership fee if I was not happy with their service or policies.

    So, I simply stopped going to Costco, though my wife continued to shop there regularly. In your case, you may able to have better luck than I did - especially with the note. I hope so.

    1. "And further effort on your part to push for a change in this regard is going to be a waste of your time and ours..."

      Obviously his time is "worth" more than ours. Perhaps, wasting his time is what we should do more of. Sometimes when it cost companies enough money, they start to reconsider their policies. Especially on something as trivial (in their eyes) as this.

      They take this stance because they believe you are a minority (and of course we are at this point in time) but being a minority does not mean we do not have rights.

      I see it as a lifestyle choice and for anyone to discriminate against me because of my choice is just that, discrimination.

      I believe that some day, this will be brought to litigation as a Choice-Based Discrimination case and I hope that we win.

      We should not live in fear that people will turn us away because of our lifestyle choice.


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