Subject: The pleasures of going barefoot
[originally entitled: “Re: Excuses”]
Hello, barefoot brothers and sisters! I am a new member of SBL as of the last few weeks. The more of your messages I have read, the more I’ve been chompin’ at the bit to join in the conversation and share some of my observations and insights.
41 years ago, at the age of 15, I rediscovered the pleasures of going barefoot that, let’s be honest, 99 + 1% of us enjoyed as children.
Therein lies my first thought. Where did we ever get the idea that we have to grow up completely? As kids we couldn’t wait to get our shoes off after school, and walk on that first spring growth of lush green grass!
Remember in your youth, walking through the woods, and you happen upon a babbling brook. What’s the first thing most of us did? You know it, we took off our shoes and socks and waded in the stream. And if some friends were along, as surely as one of us went in, the rest all joined us in the water. (Kind of a picture of SBL, huh?) I believe the more we can keep a childlike wonder and attitude in our hearts, the healthier we will be.
I just bought a little plaque. It was on a clearance rack because it was slightly damaged. I saw it and knew instantly I had to have it. It says “Don’t grow up, it’s a trap!”. Isn’t that awesome? Considering that one of the “requirements” of becoming an adult is entrapping your feet in shoes, I think this little slogan is loaded with meaning.
Over the last 41 years, I have increased the amount of time I spend barefoot, not decreased it. In more recent years, my naturally inquisitive mind began to ponder some things. Why does that cool stream feel so good on my bare feet? And when my feet feel good, why does my whole body, and mind, feel good? Why is a foot massage so incredible? The science of reflexology explains it in one way.
With thousands of nerve endings in our feet leading to pretty much every part of our bodies, it stands to reason that happy feet make a happy body. And isn’t it just like God in His infinite wisdom to design our feet and nervous system this way? All these comments on here from you all about feeling the textures of the earth under your bare feet as you walk reveal the perfect reason for this Divine engineering.
Our feet are the first contact we have with our environment. As our feet step on different surfaces, those nerves send all that sensory perception to our brains and throughout our bodies. When you consider this, it makes you wonder why shoes were ever invented….or at least why wearing them became the norm rather than the exception.
I know there are times and places that shoes are necessary to prevent injury at work, or to protect us in extreme climate conditions. Just like a crash helmet worn on a motorcycle, they serve a specific purpose at a specific time. But when one dismounts their bike, off comes the helmet….it’s job is done.
I feel the same way about the safety shoes I have to wear at work. All day long, I can’t wait to feel the air and the ground on my bare feet. For me, wearing socks and shoes on my feet is like wearing knit gloves on my hands in warm weather…it’s just foreign, hot, and suffocating.
As most of us know or are learning, the real constraints on barefooting are social. Here’s a classic example of that ingrained mindset regarding the wearing of shoes. My wife wears sandals or flip flops as much as the Michigan climate will allow (comfortably). And she’s always barefoot in the house, at least in the warm weather. During the summer, she will go out in the yard barefoot, depending on what she’s doing out there. She says she can’t walk on the surfaces barefoot that I do because her feet are not tough like mine. Well, of course, one has to work their way up to that, and she doesn’t. But she also would never dream of leaving the house without some kind of shoes on, much less go in a business that way.
So last Saturday we got in the car and headed to some friends’ house for dinner. I left my flip flops in my closet where they belong. My wife walked out to the car in her flip flops or slip on sandals, I don’t recall which. I knew she would kick them off in the car, put them on to walk into our friends’ house, and immediately slip them off again. She did exactly that.
Which leaves me (and most of you, I imagine) asking, what’s the point? That’s why I left my shoes at home. But see, it’s a social thing ingrained in our minds that makes no practical sense at all. I will admit that since finding SBL, I have been more purposeful than ever about going places and in places without shoes. It is liberating, exhilarating, and strangely fun. You know exactly what I’m talking about.
It is great to find so many crazy, like-minded people among you all, people who understand why going barefoot is such a passion.
Your fellow barefoot enthusiast,