“And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.” -Kahlil Gibran
At a yoga teacher training earlier this year, I met a young woman who had given up her shoes for the summer. She had read somewhere that going barefoot was better for the feet and decided to shed her shoes. She even went so far as to get a note from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture stating that going barefoot in public was legal and not in violation of any health codes.
As a person who wears flip-flops all year ‘round, I was very intrigued by this barefoot thing. I walk barefoot in parks, in my house, at my work (yoga teacher), but had never considered leaving the shoes off in other places. My guilty pleasure for as long as I’ve had a driver’s license has been driving barefoot. It just feels so good! But one day someone, likely my parents, told me that it was illegal to drive without shoes, so I stopped unless I was feeling particularly rebellious. FYI: not at all illegal. Other fun facts I learned while doing some web searching is that most foot issues are caused by shoes and not bare feet! I also learned that it is not illegal to be barefoot in businesses and that OSHA only regulates attire of the employees and not patrons.
After a little research, I decided on my first barefoot adventure, Half Price Books. I imagined this exploration to feel very freeing and liberating, but I mostly just felt anxious. I know this may be surprising given that I’m vegan and an animal advocate, but I really don’t like to rock the boat. I was so worried about being confronted about my bare feet that I didn’t enjoy the experience fully at the time. Upon leaving without incident, however, I felt liberated and confident!
Something unexpected happened during this experiment. My senses were heightened and I was much more mindful of each step I took. It was very grounding to bring my awareness from my head (thoughts) to my feet as I walked. My bare feet helped me to be more present in the moment. Instead of focusing on my thoughts of events past and future, my full attention was in my feet. Feeling the warm pavement or the soft carpet of the store, my feet were enjoying this sensory experience. I think these barefooters are on to something here!
The barefoot movement is nothing new, as I came to find out. People have been shedding shoes to strengthen their feet, feel connected to the earth, and even buck the system for quite some time now. Why didn’t I think about this sooner? There is a whole barefoot running scene as well.
Yes, I got some stares. And later when I told my husband, he called me a dirty hippie as he often does because it makes me smile. But this is something I’m going to do more often! Shed the shoes to strengthen my feet and to feel grounded and free—yes please, more of that!
April Lechwar is a 500hour RYT living in Pittsburgh, PA, and teaching yoga wherever she’s welcomed. April also has a background in Reiki and Ayurveda bodywork. Her current educational endeavors include Thai Yoga Massage, Yin Yoga, and Pre-natal yoga. You can check out her blog about vegan living or follow her on twitter.