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Barefoot is the most common term for state of not wearing any footwear.
Hereby being barefooted, unshod or rarer discalced is usually a volitional as well as transitory situation steadily containing the option to revert to footwear by choice particularly in urbanized cultures.
The general use of clothing notably comprising footwear as an integral component thereof is hereby an exclusive human characteristic and has been a standard sociocultural feature since early antiquity. Since then wearing some type of shoes almost entirely superseded going barefoot in most situations. The primal aspects of practicability soon emerged into a generic societal convention, which is the present-day standard in most cultures. Accordingly being attired in footwear represents the social norm particularly in urbane civilizations of today and going barefoot is regarded to be an uncommon state while it is often perceived as an idiosyncrasy outside of socially appected situations such as practicing certain types of sport or recreation. Therefore it quite naturally attracts a certain degree of attention in most social situations.
While footwear is generally worn for functional, fashion and societal reasons, many people deliberately choose to not wear shoes in privacy and go barefoot in situations where the mentioned aspects are regarded as non-essential. Hereby societal requirements and conventions tendentially preclude going barefoot for most social occasions. As going barefoot by nature induces a sense of vulnerability, it is predominantly chosen for occasions where the area is not likely to cause any palpable inconveniences and the aspect of protection is inconsequential. As a result most people choose go unshod only in situations of exclusive privacy, recreation or specific sports.
Contrary to popular assumption the state of poverty has never been an actual reason for unwantedly having to go barefoot in any civilized culture, as simple forms of footwear could freely be handmade with disposable materials throughout all ages and in all surroundings. In this regard early forms of overall fully developed shoes made from natural materials already emerged during the Mesolithic age. During the Middle Ages it was moreover commonly feared to be seen in bare feet, as it could bring one into bad repute. Hereby especially unclothed female feet were generally perceived as suggestive and therefore denigrated as obscene in the puritanical appreciation of a human body during that era. Therefore it was cautiously avoided to show unclothed feet at any time and even people suffering severe penury usually strived to attire themselves in some sort of footwear. Accordingly shoeless feet were scarcely seen during that historical period in any social class. Even in contemporary depictions people were almost consistently shod except for situations where the imagery of bare feet was pointedly used as a stylistic device. This habitual mindset still has an effect on the common opinion about the sight of bare feet in today's world, where it is met with reservation in the greater part of societal settings.
This valuation is essentially derivative from the aspect, that it has often been imposed upon defined individuals to go barefoot as a visible mark of a subordinate legal or social status throughout most parts of human history. Usually in settings of significant imbalance in power specifically categorized people were intentionally subjected to this detail by prevailing authorities. In this context bare feet mainly served as a distinguishing mark for the loss or absence of personal freedom due to imprisonment or other forms of judicial captivity and in particular designs of a social order also as a byproduct of slavery. Hereby the difference in status was accentuated by setting up a striking visual contrast to the traditional civic appearance, that did not escape notice in any case. As bare feet effortlessly delivered the most apparent difference in outward appearance to any other passable form of modification in clothing, this simple attribute has been used in most cultures rather congruently. In some cultures a barefooted semblance also served as an identifier of a servile or menial status in a similar assessment of this attribute. From this generally accepted classification shoes have become a traditional manifestation of freedom and authority in most civilizations while captivity and subjection are often linked with the imagery of bare feet.
The mentioned effects of general perception and special attentiveness elicited by shoeless feet are still used within penal institutions in many countries of today where prisoners are constrained to go barefoot by regulation (see below). Besides the practical objectives of visually tagging individuals as prison inmates and weakening acts of resistance as well as impeding escape from custody this situation naturally causes a certain extent of humbling for the detained person, as in respective cases the state of being barefoot is involuntary, mostly reluctant and often perceived as stigmatizing. By implication the person is forced to remain barefoot during situations where footwear would normally be in order for practical and notably for societal reasons, at this contrasting the conventional visual appearance. The purposefully withheld protection of the feet often causes a certain level of persistent discomfort within regular confinement surroundings due to unpleasing ground temperatures or textures and usually sets up a variety of obstacles in everyday situations. The striving to avoid painful collisions and impacts onto the unprotected feet forces the individual into a considerably more cautious mode of movement and general action, typically also unfolding an effect on situations of personal interaction. Hereby the prisoner's actions are restrained by nature, also complementing the restrictive effect of additional physical restraints such as ankle shackles. For a person subjected to a barefoot constraint within a confinement setting it is generally impossible to obtain items of footwear altogether, also it is usually not possible to make some sort of foot protection by hand either. This curtailment distinctly sets the prisoner apart from any free person even in ancient times, that could at the very least resort on making some kind of usable footwear by hand as an option to circumvent unwanted barefootedness. As a resulting side-effect the mentioned circumstances of enforced barefootedness deviate from normality in freedom to an extent, that they often elicit near constant awareness of the prevailing captivity situation. Hereby the virtually permanent sensory input through the tactile sensitive soles complements this effect as a steady reminder. In the context of imprisonment the imagery of bare feet is typically also used to showcase the prisoner's status within the respective hierarchy structure.
Many stores, restaurants and other public venues in the United States employ dress codes prohibiting bare feet. While private business owners are free to set their own policies, many cite different health regulations, though these typically are occupational safety requirements that pertain to employees only. Contrary to occasional belief it is not formally prohibited to operate a motor vehicle barefoot, as long as the apparatus can be operated with adequate safety not putting other people in danger.
There are health benefits and risks associated with going barefoot. Footwear provides protection from cuts, abrasions, bruises and impacts from objects on the ground or the ground texture itself, as well as from frostbite and parasites like hookworm in extreme situations. 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, eliminating the hard heel strike hereby generating less collision force in the foot and lower leg.
There are many sports that are performed barefoot, most notably gymnastics and martial arts, but also beach volleyball, barefoot running and water skiing. In modern language, someone who tends not to wear shoes in public or is participating in the afore mentioned sports may be described as a barefooter.
- 1 Historical and religious aspects
- 2 Imprisonment and slavery
- 3 Corporal punishment
- 4 Arts and entertainment
- 5 Health implications
- 6 Laws
- 7 Sports and recreation
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Historical and religious aspects
People in ancient times, such as the Egyptians, Hindus and Greeks often went barefoot, as the inhabited terrain mostly mandated no practical necessity for footwear. 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 generally unclothed. Even the gods and heroes were primarily depicted barefoot, the hoplite warriors fought battles in bare feet, and Alexander the Great operated 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 explicitly including footwear was seen as a sign of power and as a necessity of living in a civilized world, accordingly slaves usually were to remain barefoot. 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.
During the Middle Ages, both men and women wore pattens in Europe, commonly seen as the predecessor of the modern high-heeled shoe, while menial classes occasionally had to remain barefoot. 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".
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. It was first used in the early 20th century, possibly by Dr. Arthur E. Hertzler (also known as the "Kansas Horse-and-Buggy Doctor"), promoting a hypothesis that:
|“||The only way to keep a woman happy is to keep her barefoot and pregnant.||”|
Bare feet have come to symbolize innocence or childhood in a glorifying perception of freedom from real-life requirements. 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. 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.
In many religions, bare feet are often seen as a sign of humility and subordination under a higher power, and some religious practitioners may have taken a vow of poverty. With regard to the use of footwear as the habitual state the art of many cultures throughout the world shows a person without shoes symbolizing poverty, servitude or captivity. 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. It is customary in Judaism and some Christian denominations to go barefoot while mourning. 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).
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:
|“||Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest [is] holy ground (Exodus 3:5).||”|
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. Both United States President George W. Bush and Pope John Paul II paid him this honor. 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, subordination and respect towards their status.
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.
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).
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 and India, 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 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. 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". 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.
Imprisonment and slavery
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.
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.
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 disadvantages on the individuals.
Since ancient times it is a common practice throughout all civil societies to be clothed in footwear as a standard feature. Contrasting 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." This 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.
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).
Prison inmates are uniformly detained in their bare feet as standard procedure of penal institutions in several countries.
This practice is presently documented from prisons notably in China, Zimbabwe, Thailand, Uganda, Iran, Pakistan, India, Congo, Malawi, Ruanda, Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), and North Korea among others.
In Germany it was common practice during the Nazi-era to uniformly detain female prisoners in their bare feet. Inside women's penitentiaries in socialistic East Germany (German Democratic Republic) especially political prisoners were often kept barefoot.
The tagging of prisoners through bare feet has also been practiced on female detainees in the United States. It was a common practice for penal institutions especially in Texas until the early 20th century to exclude imprisoned women from being provided with footwear and keeping them constantly barefoot. Opposed to this practice appropriate shoes were continuously issued to male prisoners. Hereby the gender-specific hierarchy among the detainees as well as the notion of the criminal courts, who regarded prisoners as official slaves of the state was visually signified. In this an analogy to the social state of former slaves was established, who were regularly forced to remain barefoot as well (see above). For the incarcerated women this determined an especially severe form of social degradation. The women's exposed bare feet hereby were an example for the discrimination against female inmates, who unlike male detainees could not claim legal remedies at that time.
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 1950s.
Arts and entertainment
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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." Jimmy Buffett is known for performing barefoot at concerts, promoting an island/beach bum lifestyle, and Cesária Évora of Cape Verde was known as the "Barefoot Diva" for her habit of performing sans shoes. Other performers include Shakira, Steven Wilson, Florence Welch, and Gwen Stefani. 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.
Tony Meléndez and Mark Goffeney have played the guitar on stage barefoot, with their feet, since they were born with no arms. Similarly, in 2008, Jessica Cox became the first person with no arms to use her bare feet to fly an airplane. There are armless artists who use their bare feet to paint, including Simona Atzori, who is a dancer.
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. Feet that have never worn shoes rarely exhibit problems such as bunions, corns, and 'fallen arches', 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, as well as having a much reduced incidence of problems such as callouses.
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. 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, 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. 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. 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. 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. Similarly, barefoot running usually involves an initial forefoot strike, instead of on the rear of the foot, generating smaller collision forces.
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. 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. As such, the fungus is very unlikely to develop on a person who goes barefoot all the time.
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). However, as the parasite tends to be found mainly in mud and cesspools, its spread cannot be stopped by most standard shoessince 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. 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. Blisters on the feet may occur in the first few weeks of going barefoot, until the skin has become more robust. 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.
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. 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. 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. Additionally, employee footwear, where required by OSHA, must comply with one of the standards described in OSHA's regulations. State and local laws may dictate when and where an employee must wear shoes.
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. 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.
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. It is legal throughout the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom to drive barefoot. 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.
Sports and recreation
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. 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. 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.
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. 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. 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. 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.
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In European nations, including Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, there are barefoot parks or walks. 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.
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.
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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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."
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.
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. 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, Vivobarefoot, and Nike's Nike Free shoes. 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.
Barefoot skiing originated in Winter Haven, Florida, in 1947, when slalom skier A.G. Hancock tried to step off his ski. The same year, in Cypress Gardens, Florida, competitive skier Richard Downing Pope, Jr., became well known in the sport of barefoot skiing. The first barefoot skiing competition was held three years later, at the 1950 Cypress Gardens Dixie Championships. 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.
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