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Barefoot is better

It’s finally summertime and you know what that means: it’s time to let those dogs out of the kennel

A pair of bare feet stand nestled among plants and bees. // Illustration by Jazmín Muratalla-Sánchez

What dogs, you ask? Yes. I’m talking about feet.

Oh, I’ve heard it all before. “You gonna charge for that?” “Put those dogs back where they belong!” And still, despite the backlash, I’d choose to roam barefoot over wearing a pair of sad old Converse any day.

No, no foot fetishes here. I promise. If I’m being honest, I don’t enjoy seeing other people’s feet at all. But I do strongly support other people’s choice of going barefoot.

Think about it. We aren’t born with shoes on. The soles of our feet are literally made for taking on the world. We’re meant to know the feeling of dirt beneath our feet, of grass rustling between our toes. 

Growing up, I would run through the woods every day with bare feet if the weather was nice. By the end of each summer, the soles of my feet were tough enough to walk across hot pavement and gravel with ease. Being forced to wear shoes everywhere as an adult has caused the soles of my feet to lose that toughness. Wearing shoes makes us weak.

In Western society, we view barefootedness as unprofessional or unsanitary in public settings, but in other parts of the world, like India and Australia, this is not the case. Shoelessness is also considered by many in our society to be a sign of poverty when really those who choose to let their feet loose are the ones who get the richest experience of all.

Dr. Josh Fisher, a professor of anthropology at Western Washington University, says that our expectations around shoe-wearing reflect the social, political and material structures of our society.

“In his article, ‘Culture on the Ground: The World Perceived through the Feet,’ anthropologist Tim Ingold writes about the history of this bias against barefootedness,” Fisher said. “He says it’s a long-standing tendency, in Western thought and science, to elevate social and cultural life over the ground of nature.”

Madeline Sweet, a second-year at Western, puts it quite simply: “we all have feet and as a society we need to accept that.”

Sweet also mentioned that she believes shoes being required in most places is just one big marketing scheme. The more places shoes are required, the more shoes you have to buy. 

See, going barefoot even saves you money.

“I like to remember that I’m an animal,” said Oliver Rajsbaum, second-year at Western. “Feeling the grass in my toes is a good reminder.” 

Rajsbaum went so far as to start a movement for barefootedness in his high school in Mexico City. He and his friends walked their school hallways barefoot, much to the distaste of their teachers.

Being forced to wear shoes causes us to lose touch with nature, to become less grounded and more focused on the artificial.

I don’t think shoes should be required anywhere, except in places like restaurants and hospitals, for health reasons, I suppose. 

Bellingham resident Henry Knight rarely wears shoes around town, unless he is going for an extra long walk. In the summer of 2019, Knight only wore shoes 20 times over the course of three months.

Knight does not wear shoes because he does not like how they feel on his feet. Others, like second-year student Gavin Scoville, do so because of deeper, more personal beliefs.

“Going barefoot keeps me humble,” he said. “I gotta stay close to the ground, otherwise I might start thinking I’m better than it. In the moment, knowing exactly what I’m stepping on, it helps me be a better person.”

If we weren’t expected to wear shoes, we’d spend a lot less time worrying about our appearance, whether our shoes go with our outfits or if they fit in with the latest style. When I leave the house barefoot, it takes a whole load of stress off my shoulders. Life becomes so much simpler. 

Walking uphill on my way home from downtown, my feet tend to get quite sweaty. Walking home barefoot? 10 times drier.

There is really no end to the upsides of taking on the world barefoot.

To those who are still not convinced: the next time you’re out walking on a hot and sunny day, take your shoes off. Let those dogs out. Maybe take them for a dip in the bay. Please just try. For me.

Once summer is officially here, my dogs are coming out for good, and there’s nothing you can do to stop me.

Hanna Rhody

Hanna Rhody (she/her) is a campus life reporter for The Front this quarter. She is a second year majoring in environmental journalism. In her free time Hanna enjoys all things music and all things cheese. 

You can find her on Instagram at @hannatheginger. 

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