Frequently Asked Questions

Naturally people occationally ask questions when unexpectedly meeting someone who's barefoot. Why would someone dressed so neatly not be wearing shoes?

The British reserve prevents too many thoughts passing from mind to mouth, but here are a few regulars:

If you have a burning question, click to scroll down:

  1. Where are your shoes?
  2. Why don't you wear shoes?
  3. Aren't your feel cold?
  4. That must be painful?
  5. Isn't the ground really dirty?
  6. What about dog poo?
  7. Public toilets?
  8. Broken Glass?
  9. How can I toughen my feet?
  10. Is driving barefoot legal?
Please send any other questions that could be added the contact page.

A frequently overheard conversation:
“Mummy, Why doesn´t that man have any shoes on?”
“I don´t know darling; why don´t you go and ask him”
“Because I like to be able to feel everything, and my Mummy doesn´t make me wear shoes...”

Where are your shoes?

Why don't you wear shoes?

Aren't your feel cold?

"No, they're fine thanks" is hard for people to believe, because they cannot conceive that they themselves would not be too cold. They have no experience of acclimatisation or vasodilation. This is explained on the page about Cold Weather.

That must be painful?

Pain & Suffering is usually caused by injury or illness. But a shoddy is not a healthy person. Feet that have been immobilised in a cast filled with sweat, for years on end, are weak and hypersensitive.

When the soles have recovered their natural strength and returned to normal sensitivity, and the brain has learned to differentiate between danger and loud, what might have been “painful” has become “interesting”. People who live barefoot very rarely experience pain – quite the opposite in fact or they probably wouldn't do it!

A profoundly deaf person, on removing metaphorical leather stoppers from their ears for the first time, would probably be overwhelmed by an incomprehensible cacophony of painfully loud sound. They would not immediately comprehend the meaning of speech or the understand the rich beauty of music. Living barefoot is not dissimilar.
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Isn't the ground really dirty?

It's not the dirt that you can see that you should be worried about. One of the disgusting places you can put your foot is inside a shoe: The soles of your feet have more sweet glands than any other part of your body (250,000 per foot), enabling each foot to produce more than one pint of sweat per day, keeping them permanently wet if enclosed.

Pathegens and fungus thrive in the warm, dank, petri-dish conditions of closed shoes, and feed on moist soggy skin and perspiration to produce invisible by-products including those awful smelling sulphur compounds. If the smell of your shoes is stronger than the smell of your toilet, there's a reason. The germs and fungi you can't see are often much worse than the dirt you can see. The skin is a fantastically engineered protection barrier, but moist warm shoes do not aid it. Further details of this can be found in the Health article.

Travel-stained soles are the natural result of walking, just as it's natural for hair to becomes oily. A shower and you're clean. Bare feet that are cleaned thoroughly at least once every day are much cleaner than feet kept in fungi-filled shoes that rarely get cleaned other than the occasional wipe on a doormat.
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What about dog poo?

Dog poo is not everywhere, and is easy to avoid by looking where you are going. Ironically long damp grass is fantastic for cleaning your feet, but if you are in an urban area, just don't walk in the long grass along-side the edge of the path.
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Public Toilets?

Most public toilets, particularly those in shops and airports, are cleaned pretty regularly, and you have the choice of stalls. However if the floor is slightly damp it's nothing to worry about. Although urine is not sterile, neither is the rest of you, and actually urea is a pretty useful substance: The active ingredient in most foot conditioning creams is urea. (eg: “Flexitol Heel Balm” is 25% urea.) Nature got it right as usual. In preindustrial times, huge industries were based on urine's cleaning power and corrosiveness. It's been taxed by the Romans (who used it for teeth whitening), used in soaps, as a stain remover, for making gun-powder, for fixing dyes in cloth, for making paper, and as an excellent nitrogen fertilizer for plants! It's nothing to be squeamish about.
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What about Broken Glass?

The streets are not covered with broken glass, but the odd few bits that do exist don't concern regular barefooters. The soles of the feet are usually tough enough to prevent small pieces from penatrating. Larger pieces that may reach up to the soft instep of the foot are easily avoided by just looking where you are going, or reacting before applying your full weight. If you do feel glass sticking into your sole, just stop and gently brush it off before it works it's way in - gently so as to not to cut your fingers which are less well protected!

London barefooter, Ben Donnelly, demonstrates how dangerous broken glass isn´t in the video clip below. (Ben, who judging by the nails was on his way to see QPR play, does not own shoes and has many more barefoot-related videos on his YouTube channel).

Standing on broken glass is dangerous for shoddies, and should be avoided until your feet are in good condition.
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How can I toughen my feet?

The soles of healthy feet are the toughest thing in the human body. (Toughness is the ability of a material to absorb energy and plastically deform without fracturing.) Keratins, a family of proteins that make up hair and nails, reinforce the outer skin on the soles of feet through a process of pressure & abrasion over an extended period of time as the underlying skin grows. Time is a vital ingredient; you cannot harvest the day that you sow.

Wikipedia explains: “Cells in the epidermis contain a structural matrix of keratin, which makes this outermost layer of the skin almost waterproof, and along with collagen and elastin gives skin its strength. Rubbing and pressure cause thickening of the outer, cornified layer of the epidermis and form protective calluses, which are useful for athletes and on the fingertips of musicians who play stringed instruments. Keratinised epidermal cells are constantly shed and replaced.” The process of keratinisation occurs when metabolism ceases in a cell, and the compressed cells are almost completely just keratin.

Damp skin tends to blister, while dry skin tends to develop callosities. This is probably because damp skin produces higher friction, above the breakdown threshold for the skin compared with frictional forces induced in dry skin. #1

The internet is awash with crazy solutions to this age old problem (from surgical spirit to taekwondo students kicking trees!) Some thickening of the outermost layer of the epidermis has been observed in response to ultraviolet light, mechanical, chemical, electrical, and thermal stimulation, but the only practical way of building up calouses is to walk regularly on hard dry surfaces.

Interestingly, this does not lead to loss of tactile sensitivity while walking #2.
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Is driving barefoot legal?

Yes, driving barefoot is permitted. For optimal control of your vehicle, it is good to be able to feel how the controls react and know precisely where they are.


RELATED ARTICLES

Barefoot.uk homepage
 Barefoot is sensational. The first thing you do at home is kick off your shoes, But why wear them the rest of the time?
Health costs of wearing shoes
Shoes cost more than the contents of your wallet.
Stepping Out
 Practical advice for someone interested in living barefoot. How do you go about it? What will you encounter?
Cold Weather
Are your feet cold?

No.

How can that be?

Barefoot Law
 Discrimination in the eyes of the law.
Charity Disparity
Old shoes are given to third world countries by the ton; but good-will and good intentions lead to product dumping, misery and destitution.
What is barefoot life like?
Every texture tells a story. It is part of the experience of being where you are.
Barefoot Shoes
 Footwear is a tool. How to choose the right tool for the job.

Set Your Piggies Free
 That Sesame Street video.
Letters to the editor
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