Last week I was stopped by two burley security men in our local shopping centre. They looked down at my naked feet and solemnly shook their heads…’Sorry love, you can’t come in here without shoes on’.
Yes, it's against the rules to walk in these temples of consumerism unless you have something to separate your bare skin from the shiny, sterile floors.
I laughed and wondered whether to launch into a speech about the benefits of walking barefoot and the ridiculousness of this rule that was probably created after someone stubbed their toe and tried to sue the shopping centre…but I realized, (looking at their big boots which were possibly tipped with steel for extra protection) the argument would probably be futile. So I smiled widely, had a bit of a giggle and walked out to find another entrance (without security guards!), all the while pondering the vast distance human species had travelled away from nature and how much damage it was doing us.
I just love to bare my feet – it makes me feel connected. I savour the delicious freedom for my toes to wiggle and flex, to feel the textures and temperature of the floor beneath as my feet lightly grip the earth. There is nothing like running barefoot on the beach, with the squeak of the soft sand yielding to the compacted sand closer to the waters edge and then the cool, crisp splash of the ocean as it reaches your toes. Sometimes I close my eyes and run so I can feel that sensation more acutely, matched with the nurturing warmth of the morning sun…absolutely blissful!
I remember the beautiful feet of the nomadic Penan when walking with them in the Borneo forest – toes spread wide to be able to grip the Earth on the steep slippery mountain slopes. Their soles hard enough to resist most spiky barbs of jungle plants, but sensitive enough to send the signal to ‘jump quick’ if they encounter the cold soft flesh of a snake on their path. Padding silently through the ancient forest, they step lightly in a kind of reverence of walking meditation.
Some of the advertisements about the shoes you ‘should’ buy, especially for health and fitness make me laugh – they are so very expensive and now proving to be doing more long-term damage than good. And it was even worse in my Mother’s younger days – her delicate toes squashed into tiny pointy high-heeled torture contraptions that have left a painful legacy for her every since. Things are slowly changing and there are groups around the world promoting the benefits of 'nelipotism' like: http://www.barefooters.org/ , and the great work of Sloth Club aficionados like my good friend Terry Futaba who runs the barefoot society in Kyoto: https://www.facebook.com/groups/203256943206739/?ref=ts&fref=ts
It’s the simplest thing, and I encourage you to give it a try - even though it means occasionally breaking some cultural taboos and arbitrary rules. Spend some time liberated from your shoes!