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

Via elephant journal
on Mar 6, 2011
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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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14 Responses to “In Defense of going Grocery Shopping at Whole Foods…Barefoot.”

  1. dewdropper says:

    Waylon, my long-lost hippie brother!
    You had me at barefoot. It’s the way to be, pure and simple. If it’s remotely warm enough, these feet are naked. I love to drive barefoot. I love to walk barefoot. I’d definitely go to
    Whole Foods barefoot if they would allow me.
    I am amazed that there are so many feet police out there who are uptight about bare feet. We need less rules and more freedom, I say! It just feels right and good to let my feet be free.
    Besides, my feet are beautiful. I didn’t cram them into high heels over the years, so they look pretty great.
    Thank you, Waylon, for reminding me of one of the better pleasures in life.

  2. Alden says:

    I totally understand all of these arguments, but I am still in favor of wearing shoes. This is why: I have a lot of respect for the Japanese tradition of leaving shoes at the door. If you don't wear shoes, you aren't able to do so. The only equivalent I see is to have a basin or rag by your front door. Do you wash your feet before you walk into your bedroom or living room?

    Going barefoot is natural, yes, but our environment is no longer natural. The street has modern toxins like oil, pcbs, and parabens, not to mention safety glass and plastics (just look at a snowbank approximately six hours after a snowfall. YUCK). If you shop at Whole Foods, I assume you like eating organic food free of pesticides, so why smear the bottom of your feet with the equivalent, and then track it into your home and yoga studio and onto your mat?

    If you have the opportunity to hang out on an island that is mercifully free of modern toxins, go for it. Otherwise, well, I just can't get behind walking across a parking lot barefoot.

  3. elephantjournal says:

    Thank you! Article not by me, however, can't take the credit..! ~ Waylon

  4. AMO says:

    Bare feet aren't any more dirty than shoes if all they do is walk around on the floor.
    Bare feet in a yoga studio are disgusting. I ask students to take off their shoes to protect the floors the rest of us must practice on from the street dirt on their shoes. If they are not wearing shoes they can't "remove" the dirt from their feet without washing. It's gross. I've been on my mat next to people with feet so filthy and disgusting they were black and leaking sweaty black gross mess all over the white towel with their sweat. Gross. No. Please clean your disgusting dirty feet, whether you wear shoes outside or not, when you come in a group practice space. End of discussion…

  5. laurenne says:

    Just because we have shoes in our society doesn't mean we have to wear them all the time! I was recently in Papua New Guinea where many people didn't even own one pair! So strange how societies are so different and deem their own superior!

  6. Elizabeth W. says:

    Thanks…I think you just gave me my sociology class project!
    I have a different take…safety.
    I was living in a town where there were only one grocery store.
    The concern of the store…and this came from a bagger, was that he would not want to see our feet cut, as there is sometimes broken glass and they do not always get it all up on their isle clean-ups.
    I wear shoes…but I find me and my family getting more of the slip off variety, and not wearing them in the house. I just bought my place… and am looking to get the yard barefoot safe. Being a mom and having a guest bring glass on my last homes patio led to a visit due to a wound.
    I would love to live in a litter free world where I could condition my feet to go barefoot…but alas we don't have one.
    And those frikken nettles and goat heads hurt!
    I feel for the yoga instructor. I am studying to be a massage therapist and do other body work. I actually have written in my policies that I have the right to refuse to treat,…but then I have also situated my work area next to a bathroom with a shower. I want us all happy!

  7. Take at look at what people have said about me…

  8. Pete says:

    I had received a post on a barefoot site from a college student who was being scolded about how gross it was for him to walk around campus barefoot so he challenged the oponent to test a theory at the biology dept….
    [The following day was beautiful and I thought nothing of not wearing shoes. On first encountering me my doubtful teammate asked 'how could I do that, its so dirty'. I replied with the standard information we must provide when encountering someone that is not knowledgeable about barefooting. Since we both had friends in the Microbiology department, we headed over there to settle the question. Our friend took a swab of my foot and a swab of his (after being in socks and sneakers all day).
    We received the information regarding the final bacterial culture today, his culture showed 5x-8x the bacterial colonies that mine did. His culture had more growth than the control of either of our hands, (that's gross!). Our microbiologist friend explained that while my foot may appear 'dirtier&# 39; because of surface dirt, it was actually cleaner. My [bare]foot was constantly being exposed to air as well as sunlight (a natural antiseptic due to UV) as well as walking in corridors that may still have a small amount of the antibacterial cleaner that the custodial staff uses. His was stuffed into a shoe that was warm and dark, a perfect breading ground for bacteria.]
    So, Seeing that barefooters bring their feet into the shower with them each time they shower and shoes are rarely, if ever, washed, bare feet are cleaner than shoes. as far as the insides of shoes (a dark, moist, warm environment), there's no contest. So for the yoga instructor who would rather have people incubate all that bacteria and then un-leash all the germs across your floor and mats, well, a little critical thinking may be necessary and will certainly go a long way.

  9. tbeerinVA says:

    Good on yah, Prof. Keep up the good work. It's not surprising that people take major exception when they are told that their very foundation (literally), is basically a sham.

    I've taken Cody Ludin's agnostic approach. I do not offer any advice nor am I receptive to it.

  10. Matina Garbotz says:

    I walked barefoot in djungles,beaches,

    green grass – nature (desert, I did not dare in summer)

    but walking on asphalt, concrete and other man made

    materials – I feel not much comfort and see no health benefits

  11. yogajanet says:

    If you lived in Kenya, you may not be so keen to do such a thing.
    I personally think there is a tendency to romanticize the old days…caveman like ways, etc. Sometimes, though, shoes should be worn. I would not be barefoot in a NYC subway, for instance.

  12. Chop says:

    I'm from Australia and depending on where you go, not wearing shoes conjurers varying responses. In costal town and country towns not wearing shoes is a lot more acceptable than in the major cities. I live in a major city and often get weird looks when I am walking around the shops with no shoes. I happily go running barefooted and can do so on roads due to having much stronger soles. Each to their own I guess.

  13. Rachel says:

    Yay for Bare Feet!!!

    Set those babies free!

    This has really made me giggle. The whole debate.

    I think sometimes when people have a problem with people not wearing shoes its because they think that the people are trying to make some 'comment', not just doing what they want to do – like just choosing not to wear shoes….Not choosing to make some comment about society……….and that triggers them…
    And/or people get uncomfortable when someone breaks outside convention……
    Same old same old.

    Thanks for the article.. I loved it.

  14. Me says:

    I was surprised that people are appalled, offended and, disgusted by bare feet in public especially in stores. Honestly, what’s the difference between your dirty feet and their dirty shoes, that they never wash or plan on washing later? So your feet are exposed, what’s their point? Tomato tumato, shoes, no shoes. Both hit the same earth, one takes a bath.

    What else gets me about this is we as society will accept nude beaches, naked boobs in public (open no cover up breastfeeding), nudists or close to it, and worse before we accept someone’s bare feet in a store.