Barefoot

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For other uses of "Barefoot", see Barefoot (disambiguation).
Girl walking barefoot, leaving footprints on pavement.

Barefoot (also barefooted) is the state of not wearing any footwear. While for functional, fashion, and social reasons footwear is generally worn, the wearing of footwear volitionally is exclusively a human characteristic and is a feature of many human societies, especially outdoors and not in an exclusively private context. Many people do not wear footwear in their home, and some expect visitors to do the same.

Many people regard the wearing of footwear as a sign of civilization and being barefoot as a sign of poverty. Even when poverty is not relevant, some choose to be barefoot, at least in some situations.

There are health risks and benefits associated with going barefoot. Footwear provides protection from cuts, abrasions, and bruises from objects on the ground, as well as from frostbite and parasites like hookworm. However, shoes can limit the flexibility and mobility of the foot and can lead to higher incidences of flexible flat foot, bunions, hammer toe, and Morton's neuroma. Walking barefoot results in a more natural gait, allowing for a more rocking motion of the foot and eliminating the hard heel strike and generating less collision force in the foot and lower leg.

Many stores, restaurants, and other public venues in the United States have dress codes against bare feet. While private business owners are free to set their own policies, many cite nonexistent health regulations, though these typically are requirements that pertain to employees, not customers. Many people believe that it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle barefoot, though there are no laws in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, or other places[vague] against it.

There are many sports that people play barefoot, including running, water skiing, beach volleyball, gymnastics, and martial arts. In modern language, someone who prefers not to wear shoes in public is known as a barefooter. The term may be used to describe someone participating in certain sports, such as barefoot skiing or barefoot running.[1][2]

Historical and religious aspects[edit]

See also: Footwear
Ancient Olympic discus thrower

Many people in ancient times, such as the Egyptians, Hindus and Greeks, saw little need for footwear and, most of the time, preferred being barefoot. The Egyptians and Hindus made some use of ornamental footwear, such as a soleless sandal known as a "Cleopatra", which did not provide any practical protection for the foot. Athletes in the Ancient Olympic Games participated barefoot – and naked.[3] Even the gods and heroes were primarily depicted barefoot, the hoplite warriors fought battles in bare feet, and Alexander the Great conquered his vast empire with barefoot armies.

The Romans, who eventually conquered the Greeks and adopted many aspects of their culture, did not adopt the Greek perception of footwear and clothing. Roman clothing was seen as a sign of power, and footwear was seen as a necessity of living in a civilized world, although the slaves and paupers usually went barefoot.[4] There are many references to shoes being worn in the Bible. During weddings of this period, a father would give his son-in-law a pair of shoes to symbolize the transfer of authority.[5]

During the Middle Ages, both men and women wore pattens, commonly seen as the predecessor of the modern high-heeled shoe,[6] while the poor and lower classes in Europe were barefoot.[4] In the 15th century, chopines were created in Turkey and were usually 7-8 inches (17.7-20.3 cm) high. These shoes became popular in Venice and throughout Europe as a status symbol revealing wealth and social standing. During the 16th century, royalty started wearing high-heeled shoes to make them look taller or larger than life, such as Catherine de Medici or Mary I of England. By 1580, even men wore them, and a person with authority or wealth was often referred to as "well-heeled".[6]

The phrase Barefoot and pregnant is now used to illustrate a woman's traditional role as a homemaker and thus her lack of opportunities to socialize or to have a career outside of the home.[7] It was first used in the early 20th century, possibly by Dr. Arthur E. Hertzler (also known as the "Kansas Horse-and-Buggy Doctor"[8]), promoting a hypothesis that:[9]

Barefoot girl in Udaipur, India

Bare feet have come to symbolize innocence or childhood. The connection to childhood and innocence, as well as the simple joys of country life, are embodied in the poem "The Barefoot Boy" by John Greenleaf Whittier, published in 1855.[10] Additionally, the book Dancing Barefoot by Star Trek: The Next Generation actor Wil Wheaton features five short stories that chronicle his journey from childhood and youth through to maturity and self-acceptance.[11]

Religious aspects[edit]

In many religions, bare feet are often seen as a sign of humility and respect, and some religious practitioners may have taken a vow of poverty. The art of many cultures throughout the world shows a person without shoes symbolizing poverty.[12] In Thailand, Master Jinshen, a Buddhist monk, walks 20 kilometers (12 mi) per day barefoot as a reminder to others who pursue a material life to protect and be concerned for Mother Nature. He states that he does this to follow Buddhist rules, to lead the people to the path of virtue, and to develop his Buddhist spirit.[13] It is customary in Judaism and some Christian denominations to go barefoot while mourning.[12] Some Christian churches practice barefoot pilgrimage traditions, such as the ascent of Croagh Patrick in Ireland at night while barefoot (although the nighttime part is no longer encouraged).[14]

In many religions, it is common to remove shoes when entering a place considered holy. For example, in the Book of Exodus, Moses was instructed to remove his shoes before approaching the burning bush:

Everyone entering a mosque or a Hindu temple, including visitors, is expected to remove his or her shoes; racks for the storage of shoes are usually provided at the entrance.[15][16]

Foot washing, or the ceremonial washing of others' feet, is associated with humility in Christianity, and Jesus Christ is recorded in the New Testament as washing the feet of his disciples as a way to serve them during the Last Supper. Christians that practice foot washing today do so as a way to bring them closer to Jesus and to fill them with a sense of humility and service. Roman Catholics show their respect and humility for the Pope by kissing his feet, in a similar manner in which Hindus show their love and respect to a guru by touching his bare feet (called pranam). It is customary to show one's respect by walking barefoot around Raj Ghat, the monument to Mahatma Gandhi.[12] Both United States President George W. Bush and Pope John Paul II paid him this honor.[17] During the Imperial Japanese period, removing one's shoes in the presence of a person of higher status was a sign of showing one's own humility and respect towards their status.[12]

Christian congregations of men and women that go entirely barefoot or wear sandals include the Discalced, like the Discalced Carmelites (1568), the Feuillants (Cistercians, 1575), the Trinitarians (1594), the Mercedarians (1604), and the Passionists.[18]

Cultural aspects[edit]

Shoeless Sam Sugarman in Hartford, Connecticut, circa 1950

Incidences and attitudes towards barefoot walking vary between countries and cultures. In the early 1900s, Russian immigrant Samuel Sugarman, a.k.a. "Barefoot Sam" or "Shoeless Sam", became famous in Hartford, Connecticut, for going barefoot all year long, even in snow and ice, until his death in 1954 at age 80. Samuel Sugarman was the son of noted health advocate Prof. Louis Sugarman of Little Falls, New York, who became famous for walking barefoot in the snow and bathing in the icy Mohawk River in the middle of winter. According to a February 22, 1950, interview in the Hartford Courant ("Of Many Things" by Thomas Murphy), Shoeless Sam felt walking barefoot was better for the feet and claimed it was as natural for him to go without shoes as it was for others to wear shoes. Despite this, he was seen as an eccentric (see also photo link at footnote).[19][20]

In some parts of the United States, where taboos against barefoot walking are strongest, it is not unusual for people to wear the same shoes indoors and outdoors, and for guests to keep their shoes on when visiting other people's houses. In contrast, in many cultures such a behavior is considered inappropriate, if not rude or indeed unacceptable. It may be acceptable to wear outdoor shoes in public places (e.g., museums or libraries), but people are usually expected to go barefoot, or wear socks or slippers, inside dwellings. In some countries, such as Japan[21] and India,[22] the host is expected to provide light slippers for all visitors. Amongst other things, this practice serves the purpose of minimizing the amount of dirt and mud brought in from the outside.

In many branches of Romani culture across the world, it is traditional for women to dance barefoot.

Firewalking[edit]

Firewalking is the practice of walking barefoot over hot coals. It has been practiced by many people and cultures in all parts of the world, with the earliest known reference dating back to Iron Age India – c. 1200 BC.[23] It is often used as a rite of passage, as a test of an individual's strength and courage, or, in religion, as a test of one's faith. Today, it is often used in corporate and team-building seminars and self-help workshops as a confidence-building exercise. Firewalking implies the belief that the feat requires the aid of a supernatural force, strong faith, or on an individual's ability to focus on "mind over matter".[12] Modern physics has largely debunked this, showing that the amount of time the foot is in contact with the ground is not enough to induce a burn, combined with the fact that coal is not a very good conductor of heat.[23]

Imprisonment and slavery[edit]

Confiscating an arrestee's footwear and have the unfree person remain barefoot has served as the first conventional method to tag and identify the respective individual as a prisoner in most civilisations and hereby marked an early appearance of distinguishable prison uniforming. The distinctive particularity of exposed bare feet is hereby used to establish an evident visual contrast to the conventional civic appearance comprising footwear as a standard sociocultural feature.

Besides the indicatory aspect an individual having to remain barefoot is also restricted in the freedom of action when there is no available option to revert to footwear in adverse situations. Therefore a barefoot prisoner is practically disadvantaged opposite a shod person like an overseer or police officer in numerous respects.

One of the most significant implications lies in the barefoot prisoner experiencing crucial disadvantages in a physical confrontation opposing shod individuals (for example prison guards or historical jailers) involving contact violence. Notably kicking acts of an individual using his or her bare feet provoke lesser grave impacts on the receiving person compared to the use of footwear (therefore shoes are considered deadly weapons in today's penal law). Even more the person kicking in bare feet assumes the risk of painfully hurting him- or herself in doing so. Exposed bare feet further afford an effective target for external forceful impacts by any opponent while in struggle. These effects are usually desired by penal institutions with the intent to reduce the risk of personal injury for the custodial personnel and facilitate the endeavor to subdue an insurging prisoner.

Another main objective is frustrating and impeding a prisoner's potential attempts to escape from custody. By withholding the usual protection against external impacts on the relatively sensitive and susceptible feet, notably the soles and toes, the unshod individual is considerably impeded in locomotion when exposed to the common adversities of natural and also urban environments. The imponderabilities of most urban or rural terrain surfaces therefore generally slow down the moving pace of a barefoot fugitive, so the person is easier to retrieve if an escape should be attempted. However an integral implication lies in the prisoner being aware of these adverse circumstances as they are constantly palpable, and hereby being discouraged from contriving an escape attempt altogether.[24]

Additionally a barefoot person typically experiences a certain amount of discomfort in common daily life situations, mainly due to inconvenient ground temperature or textures and accidental impacts. The desire to avoid these palpable inconveniences prompted the main motivation for man to continually revert to footwear ever since remote antiquity and incidentally established the traditional visual appearance implicating shoes. An imposed exclusion from the habitual relief and visual identity of footwear, afore and usually taken for granted, is hereby likely to induce sentiments of humiliation and intimidation as well as a persistent cognition of heightened vulnerability on an involuntarily barefoot prisoner. The direct presence of regularly vested individuals such as prison staff or spectators usually accentuates this effect.[25]

As the mentioned effects are achieved practically effortless and without any actual expenses by simply seizing and withholding any footwear from the captive, the method of detaining prisoners in their bare feet was common in most civilisations at various times and is still used in several countries today. It was also customary for visually marking slaves in former times while imposing the noted physical disavantages on the individuals.

Slave codes[edit]

Barefoot slaves dancing to banjo, 1780s

Since ancient times it is a common practice throughout all civil societies to be clothed in footwear as a standard feature. Constrasting to this habitual convention it was decreed in most slave codes that slaves were to go barefoot. For example, the Cape Town slave code stated that "Slaves must go barefoot and must carry passes."[26] This was was the case in the majority of states that abolished slavery later in history, as most images from the respective historical period suggest that slaves were barefoot.[27]

As shoes have been considered badges of freedom since biblical times "But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put [it] on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on [his] feet (Luke 15:22)" this aspect has been an informal law wherever slavery existed. A barefoot person could therefore be clearly identified as a slave upon first sight. Being seen barefoot was hereby socially proscribed for free citizens and avoided. In many US-states this perception continues to have an effect to this day as everyday shoes are customarily also worn in private surroundings and going barefoot is effectively placed under taboo (see above).

In certain societies this rule is valid to this day, as with the Tuareg slavery is still unofficially practiced and their slaves have to go barefoot.[28]

Imprisonment[edit]

Penal institutions in several countries of today detain prisoners in their bare feet as regular procedure.

This practice is documented notably from prisons in China,[29] Zimbabwe,[25][30][31] Thailand,[32][33][34] Uganda,[35][36][37] Iran,[38] Pakistan,[39] India,[40] Congo,[41] Malawi,[42] Ruanda,[43] Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast),[44] and North Korea[45] among others.

In Thailand a defendant in penal proceedings is traditionally brought before the judge in his or her bare feet.[46][47][48][49][50][51][52]

In Germany it was conventional practice during the Nazi-era to imprison particularly women in their bare feet uniformly.[53][53][54] [55] Inside later women's penitentiaries in East Germany (German Democratic Republic) especially political prisoners were often kept barefoot.[56]

The tagging of prisoners through the exposure of bare feet has also been regularly practiced on female detainees in the United States. It was a common practice for penal institutions especially in Texas until early 20th century to exclude imprisoned women from being provided with footwear, keeping them constantly barefoot. As opposed to this appropriate shoes were issued to male prisoners as a matter of course. Hereby the predominant gender-specific hierarchy among the detainees as well as the prevailing notion of the criminal courts, who regarded prisoners as official slaves of the state was visually signified.[57] In this a symbolic analogy to the social state of former slaves was established, who were usually constrained to remain barefoot as well (see above). For the incarcerated women this determined a severe impact of sociocultural degradation. The women's uniformly exposed bare feet were hereby a token for the common discrimination against female incarcerees, who unlike male detainees could not claim legal remedies at that time.[58][59][60]

Corporal punishment[edit]

The soles of a person's bare feet are the target for a method of corporal punishment commonly referred to as bastinado (foot whipping), mainly used in the context of penal functions.

This practice is still officially employed in several middle eastern nations where the term falaka is customary. In history it was practiced in many countries, most notably in German territories, where it was commonly made use of until the end of the Nazi-era especially within the reformatory and detention system, in certain facilities it was still in use during the 1950ies.[61][62][63][64]

Arts and entertainment[edit]

Many singers and dancers perform on stage barefoot. The classical dance of Cambodia had its roots in the holy dances of the legendary seductresses (apsaras) of ancient Cambodia and attained its high point during the Angkor period in its interpretations of the Indian epics, especially the Ramayana. Cambodian dancers were well-born women of the king's harem and danced barefoot, with the feet turned outwards and the legs slightly bent at the knee to cushion the movements of the upper body. The unimpeded movement of the foot was essential to the art. When the land was invaded by the Thai, the dancers were taken to the Thai court, where their art was adapted and continued to flourish.[65][66]

The barefoot dance movement of the early 20th century challenged the received laws of classical dance and the broader laws of social decorum. For decades, the bare foot had been perceived as obscene, and no matter how determined barefoot dancers were to validate their art with reference to spiritual, artistic, historic, and organic concepts, barefoot dancing was inextricably linked in the public mind with indecency and sexual taboo. In 1908, Maud Allan shocked and fascinated London theatre-goers with her barefoot dance of desire in Salome, and scandalous tributes positioned her as the embodiment of lust. For many, barefoot dancing represented not only the freedom and horror of modern sexuality but the progress and decline of high culture.[67]

Isadora Duncan performing barefoot during her 1915–18 American tour

Californian Isadora Duncan revolutionized dance in the Western world by jettisoning the tutu and the pointe shoe of classical ballet and scandalized audiences by performing works of her own choreography in flowing draperies and bare feet. She anticipated the modern women's liberation movement by urging women to rid themselves of corsets and matrimony.[68] Duncan divorced the bare foot from perceptions of obscenity and made a conscious effort to link barefoot dancing to ideals such as "nudity, childhood, the idyllic past, flowing lines, health, nobility, ease, freedom, simplicity, order, and harmony". She believed her utopian dance vision and program would ameliorate the perceived ills of modern life and restore the world to the imagined perfection of Ancient Greece.[67]

The 1954 film The Barefoot Contessa tells the fictional story of Maria Vargas (portrayed by Ava Gardner), a Spanish cabaret dancer of simple origins who frequently went barefoot. She was cast in a movie by writer and director Harry Dawes (portrayed by Humphrey Bogart) and became a major star. In 1978, Ina Garten purchased a specialty food store in The Hamptons named Barefoot Contessa, after the movie. She liked the name because it went well with her simple and elegant cooking style. She sold the store in 1999 and wrote her first book, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, which became one of the best-selling cookbooks of the year. She would go on to write more cookbooks and, in 2002, started production of a television show on the Food Network, also named the Barefoot Contessa, which continues to run.[69]

In the latter half of the 20th century, many singers have performed barefoot. One of the first singers to become well known for singing barefoot on stage is Sandie Shaw, who became known as the "Barefoot Pop Princess of the 1960s."[70] Jimmy Buffett is known for performing barefoot at concerts, promoting an island/beach bum lifestyle,[71] and Cesária Évora of Cape Verde was known as the "Barefoot Diva" for her habit of performing sans shoes.[72] Other performers include Shakira,[73] Steven Wilson, Florence Welch, and Gwen Stefani.[74] Some singers may believe that being barefoot allows them to channel their vocal energy better – a theory based on the teachings of the alternative medicine of reflexology. Others may do so to provide a more relaxing atmosphere and to calm them down.[74]

Tony Meléndez and Mark Goffeney have played the guitar on stage barefoot, with their feet, since they were born with no arms.[75][76][77] Similarly, in 2008, Jessica Cox became the first person with no arms to use her bare feet to fly an airplane.[78] There are armless artists who use their bare feet to paint, including Simona Atzori, who is a dancer.[79][80]

Health implications[edit]

(Left) plaster cast of an adult foot that has never worn shoes displaying natural splayed toes (Right) cast of boy showing damage and inward-turned toes after wearing shoes for only a few weeks

There are risks and benefits associated with going barefoot. While footwear provides some protection from puncture wounds from glass, nails, rocks, or thorns as well as abrasions, bruises, and frostbite, studies of people who habitually walk barefoot have consistently found that these problems are minimal, with only about 0.89% of barefoot people having any kind of foot complaint which could be linked to walking barefoot (including temporary conditions such as abrasions) or having the tops of the feet uncovered[citation needed]. Feet that have never worn shoes rarely exhibit problems such as bunions, corns, and 'fallen arches',[81][82] aren't prone to more than ordinary foot eversion on standing and walking due to the associated weakness or stiffness of the joints of the foot and weakness of the muscles controlling them,[83] as well as having a much reduced incidence of problems such as callouses.[84]

Walking barefoot results in a more natural gait. People who are used to walking barefoot tend to land with the forefoot or mid-foot, eliminating the hard heel strike and generating much less collision force in the foot and lower leg.[85][86] A 2006 study found that shoes may increase stress on the knee and ankle, and suggested that adults that walked barefoot may have a lower rate of osteoarthritis,[87] although more study is required to elucidate the factors that distribute loads in shod and barefoot walking. A 2007 study examined 180 modern humans and compared their feet with 2,000-year-old skeletons. They concluded that, before the invention of shoes, humans overall had healthier feet.[86] A 1991 study found that children who wore shoes were three times more likely to have flat feet than those who did not, and suggested that wearing shoes in early childhood can be detrimental to the longitudinal arch of the foot.[88] Children who habitually go barefoot were found to have stronger feet, with better flexibility and mobility, fewer deformities like flat feet or toes that curve inwards, and fewer complaints.[89] Walking barefoot enables a more natural gait, eliminating the hard heel strike and instead, allowing for a rocking motion of the foot from heel to toe.[86] Similarly, barefoot running usually involves an initial forefoot strike, instead of on the rear of the foot, generating smaller collision forces.[90]

Since there is no artificial protection of the bare foot, some of the possible issues include cuts, abrasions, bruises, or puncture wounds from glass, nails, rocks, or thorns, as well as poisonous plants, animals, or parasites that can enter the body through the cuts on an injured bare foot.[91] In people who are not habitually barefoot, Athlete's foot is spread by fungal spores coming into contact with skin that has been weakened and made moist. The fungus is known to only affect around 0.75% of habitually barefoot people in one study and can be prevented by reducing shoe use and keeping the feet dry, particularly after walking through a damp environment where people communally walk barefoot as the fungus only develops under the right conditions, such as when people fail to properly dry their feet after swimming or showering and then put on shoes. Wearing shoes such as flip flops or sandals in these areas can reduce the risk.[92] As such, the fungus is very unlikely to develop on a person who goes barefoot all the time.[citation needed]

The Hookworm parasite, found only in warm, moist climates where human feces contaminated with Hookworm larvae has been left in places where it might come into contact with human skin, can burrow through a bare human foot (or any part of the body that comes into contact with it).[93] However, as the parasite tends to be found mainly in mud and cesspools, its spread cannot be stopped by most standard shoes[citation needed]since the larvae can penetrate fabric and small holes. The parasite may spread through contaminated material coming into contact with any part of the body, such as through flecks of mud splashing on an ankle or leg.[94] The Hookworm parasite is relatively mild, has few symptoms, and can pass completely unnoticed when the infestation level is low enough. Since the hookworm infection is very cheap and easy to treat, and since it requires infected feces to come into contact with human skin within a particular time period, eradicating hookworm is mainly a matter of hygiene (including the building of proper toilet and waste-disposal facilities) and mass-treatment. In very cold weather, shoes can provide thermal insulation, protecting against frostbite.

Issues that can develop as a result of someone who has always worn shoes going barefoot include calf pain or Achilles tendinitis or plantar fasciitis due to shortening of the Achilles tendon and the foot being underdeveloped, due to regular use of shoes. A careful transition will ease or remove the symptoms, which will quickly vanish as the foot adapts.[95][96] Blisters on the feet may occur in the first few weeks of going barefoot, until the skin has become more robust.[95] Individuals with diabetes or other conditions which affect sensation within the feet are at greater risk of injury while barefoot. American Diabetes Association recommends that diabetics wear shoes and socks at all times.[97]

Laws[edit]

A number of myths have existed from time to time about regulations requiring the wearing of footwear. In the United States, during the period of the counterculture movement of the 1960s, business establishments would deny admittance to barefoot hippies arguing that health regulations required that shoes be worn.[98] This led to a belief by many in nonexistent OSHA or local health department regulations preventing people from going to stores, restaurants, and other establishments without shoes. However, those regulations that exist apply only to employees, and not customers.[99] Specifically, the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires employers to "ensure that each affected employee uses protective footwear" when there is a danger of foot injuries due to falling or rolling objects, objects piercing the sole of an employee's foot, and where an employee's feet may be exposed to electrical hazards.[100] Additionally, employee footwear, where required by OSHA, must comply with one of the standards described in OSHA's regulations.[100] State and local laws may dictate when and where an employee must wear shoes.[100]

There are no state health codes that require customers to wear shoes, as was demonstrated by a project undertaken by The Society for Barefoot Living in 1997, and again in 2002.[101] Individual businesses, however, are free to refuse service to customers without footwear or clothing that they deem inappropriate, as stated on "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service" (or similar) signs. Individual cities and towns may require certain footwear in public places. In August 2009, Burger King admitted that it took this rule perhaps a bit too far when employees at a Sunset Hills, Missouri restaurant asked a woman to leave because her six-month-old baby was barefoot.[102]

It is not illegal to drive a motor vehicle while barefoot. Some people speculate that driving barefoot increases the risk of an accident if bare feet slip off the pedals.[103] It is legal throughout the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom to drive barefoot.[103][104][105] However, in some jurisdictions, police officers may ticket a driver for other things if the fact that they were driving barefoot or in flip-flops/high heeled shoes hindered their driving and/or resulted in an accident.[106]

Sports and recreation[edit]

Bare feet are allowed in public parks in New York City, such as Gantry Plaza State Park in Queens (New York).

There are several recreational activities one can participate in while barefoot. Those involved in water sports such as swimming and water polo almost always participate barefoot due to the difficulty of swimming with footwear.

Other common activities performed barefoot include hiking, running, water skiing, beach volleyball, surfing, tubing, gymnastics, and martial arts. Wrestling can be done barefoot. Although most modern Greco-Roman and WWE wrestlers wear shoes, sumo wrestling, Yağlı güreş (oil or "Turkish" wrestling), and mud wrestling are commonly done while barefoot. Fijian wrestler Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka of the WWE has wrestled barefoot as well.[107] American football is not traditionally a barefoot sport, though several placekickers have preferred to kick barefoot, including Tony Franklin of the Philadelphia Eagles and Rich Karlis of the Denver Broncos.[108][109] The two schools of thought involved in barefoot placekicking were that the lack of a shoe provided the kicker with a better "feel" for the ball and greater control over its trajectory. The second theory is that shoes and socks absorbed kinetic energy, and kicking flesh-to-leather created more torque.[110]

Hiking[edit]

People of all ages all over the world can participate in barefoot hiking, gathering for walks through forest and hiking trails sans footwear. Barefoot hikers claim that they feel a sense of communion with the earth and enjoy the sheer pleasure of feeling more of the world with their feet.[111] There are several clubs throughout North America practicing regular barefoot hikes, including the Barefoot Hikers of Minnesota, Seattle Barefoot Hikers, East Bay Barefoot Hikers, the Barefoot Hikers and Grass Walkers of Greater Kansas City, and the Barefoot Hikers of Connecticut.[111][112][113][114] Two sisters, Lucy and Susan Letcher, hiked approximately two-thirds of the 2,175-mile (3,500 km) Appalachian Trail barefoot from June 21, 2000, to October 3, 2001.[115][116] On November 12, 2010, 2,500 people in Mahabubnagar, India, participated in a barefoot walk, which was recognized by Guinness World Records as the world's largest.[117]

In European nations, including Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, there are barefoot parks or walks.[111][117][118] These parks are kept clean and maintained on a regular basis, so that barefoot hiking can be done in an environment suitable for people who are habitually shod. Barefoot parks usually include a lot of adventure stations, allowing visitors to experience the feeling of soil textures underfoot; to wade through rivers, mud, brooks, or ponds; and to exercise foot gymnastics, balancing and climbing. The Barfußpfad (barefoot trail) at Bad Sobernheim in Germany attracts over 100,000 visitors annually and has seen approximately 1 million visitors since its inception in 1999.[119]

This concept was first developed in the 19th century by Sebastian Kneipp, one of the founders of the Naturopathic medicine movement. He believed that applying your feet to a range of natural stimuli would have therapeutic benefits. This is related to the ancient practice of reflexology, practiced in China for thousands of years for relaxation and to promote longevity.[120]

Seoul, South Korea, has 158 barefoot parks, allowing people to relax in a natural environment.[121]

Running[edit]

Main article: Barefoot running

Many leisure and competitive runners have been known to run barefoot, including well-known athletes Zola Budd of South Africa and Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia.[122] Todd Ragsdale, of Talent, Oregon, set the world record (pending confirmation by Guinness World Records) for the longest distance run barefoot on June 5, 2010, as part of the Relay for Life fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. He logged 102 miles (164 km), or 413 laps on the South Medford High School track, barefoot.[123] The fastest person to run 100 meters (325 feet) on ice while barefoot is Nico Surings of Eindhoven, Netherlands, who ran that distance in 17.35 seconds on December 8, 2006.[124] Laboratory studies suggest that, due to the lack of extra weight on the feet, the energy cost of running barefoot is reduced by 4%, resulting in lower oxygen consumption.[122] There is evidence that wearing traditional shoes while running leads to heel strike gait that, in turn, leads to higher impact as well as a greater risk of injury.[90] Barefoot running encourages the runner to switch to forefoot strike and may reduce the risk of knee damage.

Barefoot running can be dangerous, especially to runners who do not adequately prepare or give their feet time to adapt to the new style. Many injuries are possible, such as injuries to the Achilles tendon or plantar fascia, or stress fractures in the metatarsal bones or lower leg. Barefoot runners who do not prepare their bodies could provide, "a stimulus plan for podiatrists, orthopedists, and physical therapists."[125]

The official position on barefoot running by the American Podiatric Medical Association states that there is not enough research on the immediate- and long-term benefits of the practice and that individuals should consult a podiatrist with a strong background in sports medicine to make an informed decision on all aspects of their running and training programs.[126]

One alternative to barefoot running is to wear thin-soled shoes with minimal padding, such as moccasins, plimsolls, or huaraches, which result in similar gait to going barefoot but protect the skin and keep dirt and water off.[127] Some modern shoe manufacturers have recently designed footwear to maintain optimum flexibility while providing a minimum amount of protection. Such shoes include the shoes made by Vibram FiveFingers,[128][129] Vivobarefoot,[130] and Nike's Nike Free shoes.[131] Sales of minimalist running shoes have grown into a $1.7 billion industry. Sales of Vibram FiveFingers alone grew from $450,000 in 2006 to $50 million in 2011.[132]

Water skiing[edit]

A barefoot skier
Main article: Barefoot skiing

Barefoot skiing originated in Winter Haven, Florida, in 1947, when slalom skier A.G. Hancock tried to step off his ski.[133] The same year, in Cypress Gardens, Florida, competitive skier Richard Downing Pope, Jr., became well known in the sport of barefoot skiing.[134] The first barefoot skiing competition was held three years later, at the 1950 Cypress Gardens Dixie Championships.[135] In 1978, skiers from ten nations competed in the first World Barefoot Championships in Canberra, Australia. The same year, the American Barefoot Club (ABC) was formed, which governs competitive barefoot skiing events in the United States.[133]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Scarpa, R; Dorner, T. (1988). Barefoot water skiing: an illustrated guide to learning and mastering the sport. World Publications, Incorporated. p. 161. ISBN 978-0-944406-01-4. 
  2. ^ Wallack, R.M. (2009). Run for Life: The Anti-Aging, Anti-Injury, Super-Fitness Plan to Keep You Running to 100. Sky Horse Publishing. p. 34. ISBN 978-1-60239-344-8. 
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