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  • Annmarie Throckmorton, M.A.

Barefoot was the original design plan.

It is a hard world when there are so many reasons not to go barefoot.

Shoes are personal protection gear, worn by those who are prudent for the sake of safety, for protection against hazards in the environment, against: venomous creepy crawlies, sharp rocks, shards of glass, hot spots, cold environs, thorns, power tools, enemies seeking to stomp your feet; and to do some stomping. The price paid is that the unnatural shape and confinement of shoes distorts the many, little bones in our feet, resulting in bunions at best and deformity at worst.

In some human environments it is illegal to go barefoot for a variety of reasons, foremost among them is to avoid contracting or transmitting disease such as parasites, fungus, and more pernicious diseases among populations who are without the benefit of medical care or protective sanitation systems.

Also, people do not go barefoot to avoid giving offense to those who simply do not want to see feet. Many people do not want to know if your feet are knobby, warty, too hairy, hideous, or smelly. Usually people do not want exposure to what they consider to be your private extremities. But sometimes they do. To relieve fatigue when traveling cross-country by car over half a century ago, I rode with my bare feet resting out of the car window. I do not remember what possessed me to do this, except that I was young. A car full of teenagers sped past us and one yelled out the window with a big grin, “Neat feet.” Feet are sexy, which is yet another reason to keep them covered when not amongst friends.

Barefootedness suggests an indulgence in absolute idleness which is resented by those who are working. Whether hard at work or hardly working, the work-bound human heart tends to hate those who are untethered from work.

Hiking and running requires good socks (wool is best because it wicks away wetness and maintains a steady temperature for your feet), and shoe or boot protection from the repeated blows of your body weight onto your tender tootsies; unless you are Cody Lundin, Aboriginal Living Skills Practitioner and Advocate, who only wears socks when he encounters ice in the wilderness:

In the 1960’s, at the beginning of each summer the kids in my neighborhood all grimly shucked off our shoes. Initially there was a lot of ouch, ouch, ouching as we picked our way between the rough yards and over the gravel roads that would be our playground until school resumed in the fall. But by the second week we were all happily tough-footed, playing tag, hide-and-seeking, building like squirrels, and digging like badgers, all barefoot. We could only do that because our neighbors kept their yards free of hazardous materials.

But feet want to be free in the 21st century too, right? The primary reason to indulge your feet, to find safe places to go au naturel, with naked feet, is that it feels good. Barefooting is healthy, it gives better balance, it probably eases the mind. I long for a softer world amenable to barefooting.

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Caption: Thorn Hazard

by Annmarie Throckmorton 2018


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