March 7, 2011

In Defense of going Grocery Shopping at Whole Foods…Barefoot.

No Shoes, No Service.

By Marissa Faye

Prior to the invention of shoes, feet were much healthier.

I was genuinely surprised at the fierce firestorm of comments one of my most recent Elephant articles had received.

People were especially motivated by the fact that I had been barefoot in a Whole Foods store.  So motivated that the many long and elaborate comments turned into something of a heated debate between various readers.

To shod or not to shod?

While some found it to be an expression of freedom, most were appalled that I would bare those babies in public, forcing the other customers to succumb to the horrid sight of my bare feet.  It was a crack up.  And I wiggled my free little toes in delight as readers balked.

Feet are, of course, a natural part of our bodies and the fear of baring them is derived solely from Western societal ideas. Western society has taught us that wearing shoes makes us well-mannered, presentable, and respectable.  Non-shoe-wearing folk are stereotyped as dirty hippies and hobos.

This idea that walking around barefooted is unsanitary is…just an idea.  A meaningless notion we choose to (or choose not to) revolve our lives around.

But ideas need to be challenged, I say.  If more people understood the facts on going barefoot they will find themselves warming to a new idea, a revolution on our current shoe-dependence.  Letting those feet walk along in the buff has many, many benefits.

Comments included:

“Come on now…no shoes in a grocery store? What kinda stinky hippie are you?”

“Once you realized you weren’t wearing shoes, you must have known you shouldn’t be barefoot in any restaurant. Even if HF was willing to serve you, you must have realized it was rude and presumptuous. Why did you take advantage of their generosity in this way, and why were you so discourteous to the other customers?”

“In the real world, there are things called “health codes” that restaurants are expected to follow, with stiff fines for non-observance. Look those up before being too critical of Whole Foods for not serving someone who’s barefoot.”

“the reason it is “rude and presumptuous” (in general) to go into a restaurant or grocery store with no shoes on is that it is AGAINST THE LAW.”

“there is NO WAY i would have served someone without shoes on! common sense. act like a dirty hippie treated like one i suppose.. sorry.”

“Finally, just wear shoes. It’s not a judgment thing; it’s not a hippie/yuppie thing. It’s the same reason you wear pants when you leave the house and brush your teeth- you do those things because your parents raised you to have manners and because you’re not the only one in the universe. In case you need to be reminded.”

“I think people who walk around in the city without shoes on are gross and I won’t let them in my yoga studio or my house so why should they be allowed in the grocery store where my food is. Yuck! Whe…re ARE her shoes?”

The comments fascinated me. What a sinister, strange world we live in where people let out a repulsed “Yuck!” at the thought of bare…feet.  The feet that we were born with.  The feet that allow us to travel from A to B.  The feet that will get us through a hard day’s work.

There is nothing yucky about feet.

So, I responded in my defense:


Hello, hello. Thought it’s about time I threw a few words out there. Very, very interesting comments. Damn tough crowd. I dig it. That’s hippie-talk for “Cool, Thanks.” Hah.

Barbara Jones has pretty much hit the nail on the head. Thanks Barbara, you’re the bomb-diggity, my friend.

So here it goes… I grew up in a small town on a farm of exotic animals. And when I say small I mean small. You can drive through the center in less than five minutes. Barefoot everywhere. No problems.

But I am not in a small town, I am in Boulder. Can’t say that some of these comments didn’t surprise me. I wasn’t aware of this widespread fear of feet!

Going barefoot is actually very healthy for you, it utilizes muscles in your foot that tend to be underworked and weak in most people because of their dependence on footwear. Actually, prior to the invention of shoes people had healthier feet.

As far as my “dirty hippie” status… bare feet are much cleaner than your shoes. Your shoes whose soles you have never washed versus my feet that were washed during my morning shower. In addition, you sweat to release toxins. Your feet sweat a lot! When you have shoes on your feet are swimming in a pool of toxins you have trapped in there, creating that unpleasant odor that makes the unlucky person next to you gag as you take off your shoes after a long day.

I never considered it much of a sanitary issue in a food establishment for this reason. Plus, my feet went nowhere close to any food. Your hands are dirtier than your feet, remember!

Safety was also brought up. How many people walk around the entire day with gloves on to protect their hands? Feet do not need that sort of special treatment. My barefoot habit has made the soles of my feet very thick and strong. I walk around barefoot EVERYWHERE and I am aware of what can go poking into them because things have gone poking into them. But, I really thank you very much for your concern here. Just wanted to clarify: it’s all good in the hood.

No, it is not a law to have to wear shoes inside an establishment. Yes, it is freeing and natural to bare those feet.

Most importantly, I really had no idea people had such a fear of the sight of feet! Because of this I really did not even begin to think of it as rude or presumptuous to bare those babies in public. It’s just natural, isn’t it? Would a pair of flip flops really have made that much of a difference to the sight of my “repulsive” feet? I actually find bare feet quite a bit more attractive than a stiff pair of shoes. It is very much a western idea to believe shoes to be necessary. Just an idea. That is why some of you find feet to be so freaky.

Either way, bare feet really wasn’t the point of the article. It is intriguing that many have chosen to focus on it! All is good with Whole Foods, a bit of confusion it seems, but they are awesome and I still love them.

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