One of the things that never struck me as odd was the fact that many nudists – my past self included – rarely remove footwear. Even Stephen Gough – the Naked Rambler – used to walk around in massive hiking shoes. Now, you could argue many points against going barefoot and you’d probably be right at least in part. However, now that I’ve discovered the joys of going barefoot – my initial injury notwithstanding (!) – and now that I’ve discovered how to go about barefoot and stay safe from injuries – I can’t but feel puzzled about why I never went barefoot while I was naked in public (at nude beaches, camps and such).
The reason I changed my blog’s tag line was exactly due to the lifestyle I’ve adopted after my injury. I mean, injury was bad and it was quite painful now I think back, but the reason I got injured in the first place was because I was doing something that felt comfortable – and then pushed the limits way too far and my body could not cope with such an extreme. Yes. Going barefoot is – and it always was – very comfortable for me, and it was only a matter of time before I realized that I prefer going barefoot to wearing any kind of footwear.
I say going barefoot has always been comfortable, but I never liked walking on gravel. Asphalt and grass and the forest floor, however, were always more than inviting. Now that I’ve been barefoot for almost a whole year, I can walk on gravel without problems and have even made good time walking on crushed gravel (that’s even worse than ordinary gravel).
After my injury, and after I wrote about it on my blog, I received comments that made me do more research into the subject of going barefoot. After this research I was convinced that being barefoot is the way to go regarding foot health. I joined a group of barefooters where I described my journey from a shoddie to a barefooter in great detail. And now, wherever I go, I go without pausing to put on shoes.
Shoes deform our feet and create an environment perfect for the various funghi and bacteria. My most recent hypothesis is that wearing shoes is a form of sensory deprivation. Sensory deprivation decreases our mental abilities and makes us more open to suggestion and thus manipulation by others. Furthermore, wearing shoes – particularly modern shoes molded so they are narrow and sleek instead of functional and wide at the toes – through childhood interferes with proper foot development and can lead to a vast array of debilitating foot conditions in adulthood.
I’m not completely against shoes, though. I occasionally need shoes and would certainly wear them in places where that would draw too much attention to me, such as weddings and funerals. But the truth is that our society misuses shoes through overuse.
I admit going barefoot in public was a bit scary at first. I always feared what the reactions from other people would be like, but as time went by and people mostly reacted in a positive way, I gained confidence. I greatly expanded my knowledge on going barefoot and have studied the various objections people have to going barefoot (the myth of catching cold because of feet getting cold, the myth of getting an UTI, or kidney inflammation, the exaggerated risk of injury, etc.)
So where I was in touch with nature only from head to my ankle, I’m now in touch with it below the ankle as well – most of the time. In fact, I’m now mostly in touch with nature only below the ankle (along with the normal things like my face, neck and arms or just hands). I take off my shoes and feel the Earth and pavement and carpets and grass and dew and water puddles (especially nice in summertime as they are quite warm and I’m sure many shoddies – that is, people who wear shoes – would be positively surprised by it). One would think the possibility of injury is high, but unless you’re reckless (like I was), you’ll be fine. Once the sole gets thicker (and no, when it’s a properly developed sole it doesn’t look nasty at all), it can even take on broken glass and shatter it into even smaller pieces. Not to suggest you should walk on glass… I avoid it, because it’s definitely possible to step on a piece of glass that’s turned just at such an angle to cut your foot no matter how you land on it.
Of course, like I said, there’s no reason to rush the transition process like I did. For some people it takes years to build up the sole. For me it didn’t take very long and I’m especially surprised by this because of the injury I suffered. It takes time for our bodies to adapt to anything new, and going barefoot is one of these things.
And it’s not just our bodies! It’s our mentality as well. When I still wasn’t used to walking barefoot in public I was so self-conscious all the time I literally charted (mentally) the places I “conquered” barefoot. Once I “conquered” a place, I’d frequent it until I was comfortable barefoot. The tipping point was when I was returning alone from vacation for work and on the way I stopped at Croatia’s capital city, Zagreb. I told myself I’d go to a mall barefoot and walk the length of it and buy an expensive present for my wife. I was solo because I was returning home for only a couple of days and then I went back.
I did that and I had lunch there and even checked out if there were any good movies playing at the cinema while sipping coffee at a café. On my way back to the sea I went to the city center and had lunch in a restaurant barefoot. I was so comfortable going barefoot then that I didn’t wear any shoes for the rest of the summer.
My wife has been with me on that journey, but on the first day of fall she told me that she wants me to wear shoes, or go solo. I chose shoes, but the kind that is molded to suit the bare foot, rather than some queer fashionable excrement molded to a non-existent, fashion-designers-wish-the-foot-looked-like-that kind of entity (keyword to look for is an oxymoron “barefoot shoes”, plus make sure the sole is flat and flexible along its whole length and not just at the ball of the foot).
Note that if you’ve worn modern (regular) shoes for most of your life – and you’re past your 30’s or 40’s – you’ll probably have trouble going barefoot because your feet will hurt. Look up exercises for your foot to strengthen your foot muscles and exercise by going barefoot short distances (I mean really short, like walking the length of your home, or until your feet start to hurt too much).
Also take care if you’re a diabetic or have other conditions that make your feet go numb. Numbness in your feet can mean that you won’t feel it if you injure your foot, and that can lead to an even more serious injury.
As I’ve learned from the mailing list I joined on the topic of barefooting, different countries have different views about bare feet in public. From personal experience, I can tell that in Croatia, a vast majority of people who care will display a positive curiosity. The younger generation sneers at it, but an overwhelming majority will simply ignore you and let you go about your business whether you have shoes or not. Some countries, like USA are not so lucky – some stores are infamous for throwing barefoot people out on the basis of non-existent health codes, or non-existent company policies.
Wherever you live, hop over to the Society for Barefoot Living and join their mailing list if you’re interested in choosing going barefoot as a lifestyle. If you’re already a nudist, then you can be sure that bare feet are an addition to your wardrobe that best fits your birthday suit.
Also note that there are certain precautions you need to make if you mean to start your barefoot lifestyle, which I haven’t spoken much about here. If you’ve spent your life wearing shoes, your sole is probably ill-prepared to handle many of the surfaces you regularly walk on. Injuries during transition periods are common and you should not force your way through yours. Refer to available information on-line or on the links I provided, as I cannot be held liable for any injuries resulting from your choice to change your lifestyle.