17 March 2013 (Edited from a version written on 23 January 2013)
Why do we have to wear shoes in public? In an age of growing liberty of expression, when other cultural barriers are eroding away or collapsing altogether, isn’t it time that we consider doing away with tyrannical rules and woeful discrimination against those who do not wish to confine their feet to the gaols called shoes?
A shoe-apologist might cite personal safety concerns to the would-be barefooted revolutionary, but I argue that nature provides its own solution. The skin of one’s soles grows very thick when a person walks the earth unshod, and this protects the feet almost as well as shoes do. Is the average person not capable of avoiding broken glass or bent nails without our government legislating our common sense? But what about construction workers, or furniture movers? Shouldn’t they wear shoes? I say, only if they choose to do so, and I counter: why can’t we invent a steel-toed slipper?
In fact, researchers have found many health advantages to walking sans shoes, or even running barefoot. The muscles in the feet grow stronger when no shoes are present, and this improves our posture, which in turn alleviates back and neck pain. People also tend to land on the wrong parts of the foot when wearing shoes for walking or running. Shoe-covered feet provide very little of the sensory feedback that we use to position our feet on the ground, and the impact of the foot more likely falls on the ball rather than the heel. For this reason, feet with shoes do not absorb the shock of footfall as efficiently as bare feet do. Also, shoes can cause friction against the foot, leading to blisters, corns, or bunions. Yuck!
What about hygiene? Surely no one wants peoples’ filthy, stinky, dirty feet tracking germs and fungus through grocery stores and hospitals, right? I argue that feet are only so filthy and disgusting because they are so often trapped within dark, damp, hot, liquid-absorbent cages called shoes. When a scientist wants to breed bacteria or fungus in a lab, does he not grow it in a moist, warm, and dark culture? Why are people subjecting their feet to this insanity? When allowed to ventilate in the outside air, to bask in the sunlight, to scour their soles against the earth or concrete, feet are not much dirtier than the average human hand, and they are far less likely to touch door handles or food ladles in buffet lines. In any case, people already tramp around in filthy shoes or flip-flops that they never even bother to wash. How is that any cleaner?
But what about gum on the sidewalk, or spit? What about oil leaks in parking lots? It surely isn’t very healthy to walk through that! I retort that we should make laws where people who spit on sidewalks or parking lots, be it gum or otherwise, should be severely punished, with jail time if necessary; and automobiles must be thoroughly inspected by the state for leaks or other mechanical deficiencies! This is not just about protecting our feet, it’s about protecting our environment for future generations!
Bare feet seem so uncivilized. What if people just don’t want to endure the sight of people’s feet in public places? Now we get to the root of the opposition! This is a cultural phenomenon. It seems barbaric in our culture for people to walk in public with no shoes. People without shoes are poor and illiterate; they let flies crawl around on their faces, and they live in leper colonies! Such stereotypes are insulting and demeaning. In many cultures, people who seek religious humility walk barefoot, and foot-washing is a holy rite of Muslims before they enter their mosques. Surely we don’t want to offend our religious minorities; likewise we should not offend those who don’t wear shoes for other personal reasons. As for the argument that laws must protect us from the unpleasant sight of naked feet, the prevalence of flip-flops makes moot of that argument!
Walking without shoes is a healthy choice both physically and psychologically, and people should not only be allowed but actively encouraged by society to do away with shoes altogether. Those who argue against free feet are standing in the way of progress, and doubtlessly such ignorant people will be dumped into the overgrown railroad ditches of history. I envision a day when business-owners are shamed into removing their “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service” signs. Surely progress must prevail!
After all, did not a wise man once say, “Is it not better to carpet the entire world than to make a man wear shoes?”
 Quinn, Elizabeth. “Barefoot Running – Pros and Cons of Barefoot Running.” About.com Sports Medicine. About.com, 3 Mar. 2011. Web. 21 Jan. 2013. http://sportsmedicine.about.com/od/runningworkouts/a/Barefoot-Running.htm.
 Hendrick, Bill. “Barefoot Running May Have Health Benefits.” WebMD Health News. WebMD.com, 27 Jan. 2010. Web. 21 Jan. 2013. http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/news/20100127/barefoot-running-laced-with-health-benefits.
 Havard. “Courageous Mind: Health benefits of walking barefoot.” Courageous Mind. CourageouisMind.BlogSpot.com, 19 July 2011. Web. 21 Jan. 2013. http://courageousmind.blogspot.com/2011/07/health-benefits-of-walking-barefoot.html.