6

votes

Barefoot in Public, Why is it socially unacceptable?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created March 21, 2011 at 12:40 AM

I walked around in public, completely barefoot, no vibrams. Ive done this on occasion... but usually away from the larger city, where people tend not to care much.

Ive done it hiking and playing ultimate frisbee in the park. But the second I step off the grass... I get weird looks.

I decided to press the issue, and spent a day completely barefoot, going into businesses and seeing how they reacted.

Luckily all I got were ALOT of weird looks, and despite those, was not asked to leave.

But I dont really understand... why is it socially unacceptable?

why would people think its not ok to go into a restaurant barefoot? My feet are cleaner than most shoes... its not like im going to put them up on the table...

Tell me about your purely barefoot in city life experience and your theory as to why its socially unacceptable to be unshod.

Ef2f6c723983d7fe7a06bd57af6adeed

(1725)

on October 12, 2011
at 07:22 PM

That's awesome! What happened? Now i want to try that. :P

Ac1e55cf06c2180f4008ff01953d10dd

(3524)

on March 21, 2011
at 08:31 PM

Yes the problems that you find in many rural communities in Africa and Latin America relates mostly to parasites, very common in tropical countries. I got parasites once in Brazil, nothing too serious (because I could get the medicines, it is nevertheless much worse for the poor peasant) but unpleasant though...

0fd24d837dbad54740f53cc5f72068a0

(285)

on March 21, 2011
at 07:05 PM

Have to agree with Stephen. It isn't about re-enactment, it's about doing what can be the most healthy for your body. Shoes can be very detrimental. I suffered painful shin splints 10 years until I started walking barefoot.

0fd24d837dbad54740f53cc5f72068a0

(285)

on March 21, 2011
at 07:00 PM

@ Ignacio: would you be referring to chagas? I live in Central America and walk barefoot all the time. So far no problems. Of course, I'm walking around mostly on concrete in a urban setting. The problems that I hear of here are in the impoverished, rural areas.

A968087cc1dd66d480749c02e4619ef4

(20436)

on March 21, 2011
at 06:40 PM

Upvoting. Gosh guys, why the pile-on? I eat with my fingers, go barefoot or VFF when I can, and surf the 'net in my "man-cave" - but we aren't re-enacting, right? Anybody go out and kill dinner lately? (okay some of you, maybe).

39a1a0bc7855c084ac59df60fdf9c0dd

(1505)

on March 21, 2011
at 05:50 PM

That's hilarious! Thank you.

5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f

(11581)

on March 21, 2011
at 05:30 PM

-1 for cultural insensitivity and bias. Forks more "civilized" than eating with chopsticks or with clean hands as many cultures do? And I believe there has been considerable generations since "cavemen" that did not have access to the internet, not to mention a few billion current humans who do not have internet access. And just plain pointlessness and irrelevance.

5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f

(11581)

on March 21, 2011
at 05:22 PM

Maybe the "weird" looks for your kilt are actually admiring looks? Kilts on men = sexy! (assuming decent legs of course)

39a1a0bc7855c084ac59df60fdf9c0dd

(1505)

on March 21, 2011
at 03:36 PM

Whatever.......

F6c1df7d5699661bd1f0d6d0a6c17fc6

on March 21, 2011
at 03:22 PM

"Asinine" is not vulgar. It means that you failed to apply intelligence in your answer. I don't think disagreeing is asinine at all, just that it is possible to disagree in a less than intelligent manner. Why couldn't you "disagree more" with Stephen's comment? And how does Stephen's comment deserve a "Whatever", a passive aggressive answer at the best of times?

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on March 21, 2011
at 03:18 PM

Which part do you disagree with? do you believe that we evolved to wear shoes? that the arches in our feet are useless and should be supported? I don't understand.

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on March 21, 2011
at 03:13 PM

recreation would be more accurately stated at re-enactment. Barefooting has Nothing to do with Re-enactment. and everything to do with recreational activity in a healthy manner as we were evolutionarily designed.

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on March 21, 2011
at 03:11 PM

Anonymous Downvote: assuming its for my downvote below. Maturity FTW.

D67e7b481854b02110d5a5b21d6789b1

(4101)

on March 21, 2011
at 02:58 PM

and the politicians should join the lawyers, Dr K!

39a1a0bc7855c084ac59df60fdf9c0dd

(1505)

on March 21, 2011
at 02:54 PM

I'm sorry that you feel disagreeing is "asinine." Sure I disagree with Stephen-Aegis, but I didn't feel the need to use vulgar language as you did. Given his comment, I just didn't feel the need to debate the subject.

F6c1df7d5699661bd1f0d6d0a6c17fc6

on March 21, 2011
at 02:43 PM

Downvoting, for an asinine reponse to Stephen's downvoting comment.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on March 21, 2011
at 02:38 PM

Forks are barbaric, IMO.

39a1a0bc7855c084ac59df60fdf9c0dd

(1505)

on March 21, 2011
at 02:29 PM

Whatever. I couldn't disagree more.

Fa9f340eddbad9a544184c688fa4dcdd

(6433)

on March 21, 2011
at 12:34 PM

Ha ha - if I hear about any riots provoked by suavely dressed yet mysteriously barefoot men I'll know who to blame. Keep us posted...

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on March 21, 2011
at 11:40 AM

Downvoting, the benefits of barefooting have NOTHING to do with recreation, and everything to do with evolution.

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on March 21, 2011
at 11:39 AM

Love it. I'm wearing dress pants and a tie and heading to best buy/ the mall for social experiments

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on March 21, 2011
at 11:38 AM

The blisters are intermittent and I wouldn't go unshod with one.

5672b2d190891342389e764cc4056ca9

(1304)

on March 21, 2011
at 10:20 AM

Can I add just one more? >>> TETANUS

Ac1e55cf06c2180f4008ff01953d10dd

(3524)

on March 21, 2011
at 04:57 AM

also in most tropical countries there are serious parasite problems that make it non-advisable to go barefoot...

A8d95f3744a7a0885894ee0731c9744c

(3761)

on March 21, 2011
at 03:24 AM

Nobody wants to see your giant blisters ;-)

499f188c87c6980742b9ba98caa6f563

(683)

on March 21, 2011
at 03:04 AM

Litigation is not paleo!

Bbd50c115fa066bea3ac23a4e82447ff

(558)

on March 21, 2011
at 02:49 AM

Now that I've seen the open sore on your toe on your other question, I can see why it would be unacceptable to be unshod in public...If I were you, I'd also be concerned about what kind of bacteria I might introduce to an open blister by walking around with it unprotected.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25477)

on March 21, 2011
at 02:37 AM

lawyers.....I wish they would all go vegan.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25477)

on March 21, 2011
at 02:36 AM

Stephen I have painted mine sevral times.....it fin when you could care less what people think

499f188c87c6980742b9ba98caa6f563

(683)

on March 21, 2011
at 02:25 AM

Stephen, if YOU step on glass in a restaurant, YOU can sue THEM. Managers of corporations especially are required by law to limit liabilities to the company -- they can get sued if they don't -- so they are duty-bound to limit their own liability.

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on March 21, 2011
at 02:14 AM

I get weird looks in my Kilt too.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on March 21, 2011
at 02:10 AM

Yes, I read it Stephen's way also: if your feet look nice then you won't have to decorate them with socks and shoes like other people do -- therefore less preparation time in the morning!

7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705

(18701)

on March 21, 2011
at 02:04 AM

LOL, Stephen, I think he meant your barefoot adventure should have been to get a pedicure! Then you wouldn't have had shoes to take off and stuff. ;)

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on March 21, 2011
at 02:03 AM

isnt that MY risk tho? and what about sandals, sandals dont stop a falling knife. Im responsible for not stepping on large shards of broken glass while walking.

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on March 21, 2011
at 01:55 AM

paint my toenails and I wont get funny looks?

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25477)

on March 21, 2011
at 01:14 AM

convention wisdom extends to barefeet. You should have gotten a pedicure.....you would not have to do much to get ready.

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16 Answers

13
Fa9f340eddbad9a544184c688fa4dcdd

(6433)

on March 21, 2011
at 03:29 AM

Apart from the whole potential for injury/liability issue, I strongly suspect that this is a poverty related taboo. Not so long ago the very poor would often be forced to go shoeless - in fact my 96 year old grandpa tells how, when growing up, he used to see "ragamuffins" barefoot and in rags so tattered that "their bottoms were hanging out". At the same time, you are probably quite respectably dressed, which sends out very conflicting social signals. You can't instantly be categorised as either a potentially shiftless timewaster or as a valuable customer, which makes people uneasy. The idea that someone capable of affording shoes would choose go without is so very alien that some people might even suspect you had a few screws loose.

I propose a little experiment; go shoeless in scruffy old clothes and unshaven, and then try it neatly groomed and in a smart suit. If I'm right people will write you off as disreputable in the first instance (concordant social display) but will merely be uneasy and confused by your "eccentricity" in the second instance.

Fa9f340eddbad9a544184c688fa4dcdd

(6433)

on March 21, 2011
at 12:34 PM

Ha ha - if I hear about any riots provoked by suavely dressed yet mysteriously barefoot men I'll know who to blame. Keep us posted...

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on March 21, 2011
at 11:39 AM

Love it. I'm wearing dress pants and a tie and heading to best buy/ the mall for social experiments

Ef2f6c723983d7fe7a06bd57af6adeed

(1725)

on October 12, 2011
at 07:22 PM

That's awesome! What happened? Now i want to try that. :P

8
Fe33d1321dad116f6fedd60266d0498b

on March 21, 2011
at 05:55 PM

I think that sometimes weird looks are more looks of curiousity, not anything more sinister. You're doing something that doesn't conform to the norms, so you'll attract attention by default.

That said- a lot of businesses near where I am have "no shirt, no shoes, no service" policies. I'm not sure where the "no shirt" taboo came from (probably poverty-taboo-related, sure)- but the "no shoes" one does at least have some basis in disease transmission. There are diseases and parasites that love bare feet, as a couple of commenters point out above (plus the standard plantar warts, athlete's foot, etc). There's also the liability issue- if you are on someone's property and there's a bit of glass or something else that cuts you, they're liable (they have a responsibility to keep their property safe- tho they could fight that if you drop a knife/glass/etc on your own foot). If it cuts you, you get blood on their floor, and they have to clean it up- they have to follow blood-borne pathogen rules. If you happen to have a disease, and someone else trods in your blood- perhaps also with an open wound (burst blister, whatever)- then that's another problem.

So- even though I'm all for straight-up bare feet in more natural areas- areas which can deal with these nasties through their local ecosystems, and there's no possibility that anyone would think it's a sterile/safe surface- I'm all for things like Vibrams or flipflops or huraches in urbanized (or, ugh, even worse- suburbanized) areas. Furthermore, I'm even kind of twitchy re: lawns- those are not natural ecosystems. They're usually chemically-treated within an inch of their lives, and I've no desire to pick up more herbicides/pesticides than necessary.

Honestly- foot protection is a product of living in a community of more than ~150 people. The current inability of most people to live in groups this small without ridiculous externalities (sprawl, pollution, etc) is a result of overpopulation. The norm is to wear foot protection because you (or perhaps, the average person) literally cannot trust your neighbor/coworker/shopkeeper (the average local-geography-community-member) to not have transmissible parasites/diseases or have sprayed their flat surface with some chemical nastiness.

5
39a1a0bc7855c084ac59df60fdf9c0dd

(1505)

on September 07, 2013
at 12:44 AM

For the same reason we use forks and surf the internet: we are not cavemen.

0fd24d837dbad54740f53cc5f72068a0

(285)

on March 21, 2011
at 07:05 PM

Have to agree with Stephen. It isn't about re-enactment, it's about doing what can be the most healthy for your body. Shoes can be very detrimental. I suffered painful shin splints 10 years until I started walking barefoot.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on March 21, 2011
at 02:38 PM

Forks are barbaric, IMO.

39a1a0bc7855c084ac59df60fdf9c0dd

(1505)

on March 21, 2011
at 03:36 PM

Whatever.......

39a1a0bc7855c084ac59df60fdf9c0dd

(1505)

on March 21, 2011
at 02:29 PM

Whatever. I couldn't disagree more.

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on March 21, 2011
at 11:40 AM

Downvoting, the benefits of barefooting have NOTHING to do with recreation, and everything to do with evolution.

39a1a0bc7855c084ac59df60fdf9c0dd

(1505)

on March 21, 2011
at 02:54 PM

I'm sorry that you feel disagreeing is "asinine." Sure I disagree with Stephen-Aegis, but I didn't feel the need to use vulgar language as you did. Given his comment, I just didn't feel the need to debate the subject.

39a1a0bc7855c084ac59df60fdf9c0dd

(1505)

on March 21, 2011
at 05:50 PM

That's hilarious! Thank you.

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on March 21, 2011
at 03:13 PM

recreation would be more accurately stated at re-enactment. Barefooting has Nothing to do with Re-enactment. and everything to do with recreational activity in a healthy manner as we were evolutionarily designed.

F6c1df7d5699661bd1f0d6d0a6c17fc6

on March 21, 2011
at 02:43 PM

Downvoting, for an asinine reponse to Stephen's downvoting comment.

5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f

(11581)

on March 21, 2011
at 05:30 PM

-1 for cultural insensitivity and bias. Forks more "civilized" than eating with chopsticks or with clean hands as many cultures do? And I believe there has been considerable generations since "cavemen" that did not have access to the internet, not to mention a few billion current humans who do not have internet access. And just plain pointlessness and irrelevance.

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on March 21, 2011
at 03:18 PM

Which part do you disagree with? do you believe that we evolved to wear shoes? that the arches in our feet are useless and should be supported? I don't understand.

A968087cc1dd66d480749c02e4619ef4

(20436)

on March 21, 2011
at 06:40 PM

Upvoting. Gosh guys, why the pile-on? I eat with my fingers, go barefoot or VFF when I can, and surf the 'net in my "man-cave" - but we aren't re-enacting, right? Anybody go out and kill dinner lately? (okay some of you, maybe).

F6c1df7d5699661bd1f0d6d0a6c17fc6

on March 21, 2011
at 03:22 PM

"Asinine" is not vulgar. It means that you failed to apply intelligence in your answer. I don't think disagreeing is asinine at all, just that it is possible to disagree in a less than intelligent manner. Why couldn't you "disagree more" with Stephen's comment? And how does Stephen's comment deserve a "Whatever", a passive aggressive answer at the best of times?

3
Af1d286f0fd5c3949f59b4edf4d892f5

(18452)

on March 21, 2011
at 09:48 PM

I think the 'dirty' and 'stinky' stigma that feet carry with them is the main reason, and if you think about it, it is only the very 'bottom' of your feet that people see as necessary to cover. Fact is, if you are walking around barefoot, the bottom of your feet do become extremely filthy. But more than half the people in Cali were sandals all through summer. Nobody views this as barefoot. Also, woman often wear "shoes" that reveal almost their entire foot, save for one little strap over the big toe, and it's regarded as cute and appealing, so long as there's a layer between her foot and the surface she's walking on, other than "dress appropriate" situations for certain events where fully or mostly covered feet is expected.

3
95601768ec9cb75cc3a9cbcd2271ed14

(2206)

on March 21, 2011
at 07:54 PM

It seems to be a combination of poverty stigma, obsession with cleanliness, and social convention. Some theorize that the "no shirt, no shoes, no service" thing is a product of changing times in the sixties as a slightly more polite way to say "no longhairs allowed in this establishment."

I've always hated wearing shoes and have tried to go barefoot as much as possible as long as I can remember. In fact, I just came across my sixth grade class photo, which was taken outside, and I am only wearing socks. I went to a progressive college where more people went barefoot than shod most of the year, me included. Since discovering the whole barefoot movement thing I've become more aware of people's responses than I was previously. I rarely get anyone talking directly to me about it, just the occasional passing grumbling about glass/needles, dirt, the cold, and assorted variations of the "lol that's so random" variety.

3
Ac1e55cf06c2180f4008ff01953d10dd

on March 21, 2011
at 04:55 AM

in many third world countries it is still accepted to go barefoot, although it means that you are very poor, that you can not afford to buy shoes. Outside beaches or your own home, it would be unthinkable to go barefoot if you have the means. BTW many hunter gatherers, in temperate and cold areas used to wear sandals or some type of footwear made often from leather...

Ac1e55cf06c2180f4008ff01953d10dd

(3524)

on March 21, 2011
at 08:31 PM

Yes the problems that you find in many rural communities in Africa and Latin America relates mostly to parasites, very common in tropical countries. I got parasites once in Brazil, nothing too serious (because I could get the medicines, it is nevertheless much worse for the poor peasant) but unpleasant though...

0fd24d837dbad54740f53cc5f72068a0

(285)

on March 21, 2011
at 07:00 PM

@ Ignacio: would you be referring to chagas? I live in Central America and walk barefoot all the time. So far no problems. Of course, I'm walking around mostly on concrete in a urban setting. The problems that I hear of here are in the impoverished, rural areas.

Ac1e55cf06c2180f4008ff01953d10dd

(3524)

on March 21, 2011
at 04:57 AM

also in most tropical countries there are serious parasite problems that make it non-advisable to go barefoot...

3
Ab19df3ededa28f7bf7daeba8435b205

on March 21, 2011
at 04:11 AM

ONE WORD >>>> HEPATITIS

5672b2d190891342389e764cc4056ca9

(1304)

on March 21, 2011
at 10:20 AM

Can I add just one more? >>> TETANUS

2
89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on March 21, 2011
at 08:02 AM

I don't really have an answer, although in Belgium I have found that people give me more looks if I wear VFF, then when going totally barefoot.

Cultural beliefs/customs can be so strange. In Tanzania my wife got an angry response from an old lady because she had short pants, although very decent. Apparantly, you don't show your legs. Funny thing was that the old lady herself had a long skirt, but was topless!

In Uganda (and in many other African parts), adult men don't wear shorts, no matter how hot it is. Shorts are obliged in primary school. Once you can go to secondary school, you can wear long trousers. Shorts are for kids.

If I have good reason to do other then the rest, I don't care what people think. That's why I'm barefoot on walks and runs. But otherwise, I like my Feelmax Pankas. They are the most minimalist shoes I have tested. And they do not attract strange looks as much as VFF.

2
C0fdf2badd8260eeb004c2a09b80a52a

(90)

on March 21, 2011
at 01:57 AM

I think it maybe a cultural thing. Here in Australia it is perfectly acceptable to walk around barefoot. Unless it is into restaurants pubs or clubs. The reason for this is a safety one. If you step on glass or a knife falls and stabs you ect.

Ed71ab1c75c6a9bd217a599db0a3e117

(25477)

on March 21, 2011
at 02:37 AM

lawyers.....I wish they would all go vegan.

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on March 21, 2011
at 02:03 AM

isnt that MY risk tho? and what about sandals, sandals dont stop a falling knife. Im responsible for not stepping on large shards of broken glass while walking.

499f188c87c6980742b9ba98caa6f563

(683)

on March 21, 2011
at 02:25 AM

Stephen, if YOU step on glass in a restaurant, YOU can sue THEM. Managers of corporations especially are required by law to limit liabilities to the company -- they can get sued if they don't -- so they are duty-bound to limit their own liability.

D67e7b481854b02110d5a5b21d6789b1

(4101)

on March 21, 2011
at 02:58 PM

and the politicians should join the lawyers, Dr K!

499f188c87c6980742b9ba98caa6f563

(683)

on March 21, 2011
at 03:04 AM

Litigation is not paleo!

1
Medium avatar

(12379)

on April 26, 2011
at 10:45 PM

When my little guy was learning to walk, I rarely had him in shoes - we were lucky as it was summer here, so he wasn't cold. I think that it was much better for him to learn to walk barefoot (or in socks) rather than have chunky, clunky shoes on (which he would just trip in anyways).

I got the most horrific looks from people - as well as quite a few comments on my parenting 'style' like "Oh, look isn't that cute a little hippie" and "oh, I guess he lost his shoes" me "nope" them "hmmm...well don't you think you should get him some shoes - aren't you teaching him bad habits" It got so bad, that at a drop-in clinic the receptionist asked me to either put his shoes on or leave (and in this instance he had socks on).

I don't understnad what the big hoopla is all about - he wasn't wandering around naked peeing on their chairs - he was learning to walk naturally without the impediment of poorly designed shoes.

1
1d952d225819b0229e93160a90bf9bf8

on March 22, 2011
at 04:06 PM

Around here, it isn't advisable to go barefoot anywhere but a private home, a pool,or the beach.People break beer and liquor bottles on the sidewalks, and there are sand spurs everywhere.(for those not familiar,sand spurs are small,spiky grass seeds.I spend half the year pulling them out of the dog's feet.)Indoors,if someone dropped a glass jar on the floor, we missed a piece by accident, and you cut your foot,then we have to do full blood pathogen clean up.Same if you cut your foot on a little piece of tile sticking up or the corner of a rack.

1
0fd24d837dbad54740f53cc5f72068a0

(285)

on March 21, 2011
at 07:13 PM

I'd have to go with the homeless/impoverished theory. Nobody wants to go around being seen as poor (for the most part). Where I live (central america), people bathe in cologne and always dress up. Many clubs don't even allow people through the doors in shorts (except for tourist areas...those pesky americans and their sandals!). I've been called a cow to homeless when walking. I don't usually walk into stores though. I take the standard american issue flip-flops for that. They are at least used to that. Though I must admit that my size 14's get looks with or without shoes.

1
9e7039b63b656582f66d84c5255b436d

(1132)

on March 21, 2011
at 10:18 AM

This is spain. I got stopped by the police, they thought I was a drunk or something. They asked me if I was ok... their main concern after establishing that I wasn't drunk, was that I would step on a syringe or broken glass. It has to be tried to be understood - that is the problem, when people see from the outside, they don't understand. I don't go barefoot much at the moment (maybe I will in the summer), I don't like doing it on concrete anyway.

0
4933f9411fcb98054e16d2ae00bf549f

on September 18, 2012
at 12:44 AM

I think people in many Western cultures have foot phobias. People get weirdly freaked out by seeing others barefoot except in limited circumstances (e.g., beach, pool). People think feet stink and radiate germs or something. (In reality, foot odor is caused by bacteria in old sweat, so keeping feet encased in hot, sweaty shoes is a major contributor to odor.)

0
9cc6581135780afb91bd2379ad9a3f6c

on September 17, 2012
at 10:36 PM

If you shuffle along apologetically, they'll give you a weird look; if you walk with assurance and good posture, they may greet you with a friendly smile. Your self-confidence can make it socially acceptable.

0
60199d3a580a4e17969059609e48e678

on March 22, 2011
at 01:41 PM

kin the summer I walk barefoot on my college campus, when people see me walking with no shoes on they ask "why don't you have any shoes on?" and I simply say "my feet feel better without them" and then they ask about callouses and I shrug and say "I like callouses"

and they still look at me weird but I keep on keeping on!

I don't know why its socially unacceptable though, most people I know worry about getting a ring worm or plantar's wart.

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