"And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair . . ."

- Kahlil Gibran, Lebanese poet, novelist, essayist, and artist

Amy's lovely bare feet.

Ivar expressed himself in a deep sigh, but said nothing. He stooped and took a sandburr from his toe.

"Ivar," Signa asked suddenly, "will you tell me why you go barefoot? All the time I lived here in the house I wanted to ask you. Is it for a penance, or what?"

"No, sister. It is for the indulgence of the body. From my youth up I have had a strong, rebellious body, and have been subject to every kind of temptation. Even in age my temptations are prolonged. It was necessary to make some allowances; and the feet, as I understand it, are free members. There is no divine prohibition for them in the Ten Commandments. The hands, the tongue, the eyes, the heart, all the bodily desires we are commanded to subdue; but the feet are free members. I indulge them without harm to any one, even to trampling in filth when my desires are low. They are quickly cleaned again."

-- Willa Cather, "O Pioneers"

some more bare feetAnd the question is: Why do we wear shoes?

Some people think that their feet are very delicate and could never deal with a barefoot lifestyle. But the truth is, the sole of your foot is ten times more resistant to pain than the rest of your body. Think about it. You ancestors didn't wear shoes, and they were just fine.

You might argue that they didn't have to worry about stepping on broken glass. Which is quite true. But who's to blame for that? only the nasty little humans . . .

Ahem. Anyway. Some people think that walking around barefoot is gross and dirty. Maybe it is. But have you ever considered how gross and dirty it is to go about life not wearing a pair of gloves? Think about all the things you touch with your hands every day. Now think about the thousand other people that also touched those things. Now consider the hundred microbes passed on each time someone touches those things. And finally, do you really wash your hands before every meal?

In addition, there's the shoe argument. Keeping your foot locked up in a hot, stuffy shoe all day does wonders for the bacteria living in there. They love it. And when was the last time you washed the inside of your shoes? Let's face it. Your feet are going to be dirty, shoes or no shoes. It doesn't matter if you can see the dirt. So why not go barefoot?

and more!

But isn't it just safer to wear shoes? Why bother?

A recent study demonstrates that the skin on the soles of your feet resists abrasions and
blistering and that going barefoot is beneficial to the musculoskeletal structure of your
feet and ankles. ... Kicking off your shoes can help prevent a host of foot injuries:
bunions, heel spurs, and bone deformities, among others. "Shoes act like casts, holding
the bones of the foot so rigid that they can't move fluidly," [Steven] Robbins [MD and
adjunct associate professor of mechanical engineering at Concordia University,
Montreal] explains. "The foot becomes passive from wearing shoes and loses the ability
to support itself." ...
          -- Cheryl Sacra 

It is in fact healthy, safe, and perfectly legal to go barefoot. Many people think that it is illegal to go barefoot into a restaurant (no shirt, no shoes, no service, yadda yadda) or that it is illegal to drive barefoot. Both of these rumors are false. It is true that a restaurant can set their own rules and ask you to leave (if they want to lose a customer). However, it is in no way illegal to go barefoot.

For more information, visit The Dirty Sole Society Homepage.

Recently, while hiking barefoot with my school's Biology Society, my biology teacher tried to cow me into putting my shoes on by telling me a story about his friend who, after stepping on something while barefoot, was forced to amputate his leg from the knee down. At first this was rather scary sounding, but after thinking about it, it was almost funny. Am I to think, that because this poor fellow stepped on something, I should wear steel gloves at all times, as well as a helmet and hell, why not a kevlar vest to boot? Really. Life isn't a guided tour in an armored car. Get out and wiggle your toes.
However.. if you just can't seem to make yourself go barefoot (or for that occasional trip in the NYC subway) make sure your shoes are worth the trouble.