All over the world, small groups of people are kicking off their shoes and getting footloose. Their arguments range from the simple (shoes are hassle, man!) to the spiritual (literally connect to the planet, man!) to the vaguely medical-sounding (studies, which we’ll come to, man!). There is even an association, Barefoot Alliance, which advocates the acceptance of “barefooters.”
It has a tough job, as illustrated by a defensive Twitter thread from March, when people were mean to the barefooters. Perhaps the haters should walk a mile in their... oh, never mind.
'For many thousands of years, barefoot was sufficient for our species. It is our innate condition and we believe there are strong reasons why that still applies today,' the group wrote.
One person who might applaud those sentiments is Gwyneth Paltrow, who consciously uncouples from her shoes whenever she can. Paltrow “swears by” a practice called earthing “for everything from inflammation and arthritis to insomnia and depression”. Musicians, from Sandie Shaw to Florence Welch and Tim Minchin, frequently perform barefoot, with some believing it allows them to better channel their vocal energy. Earlier this year, the Australian cricket team walked barefoot around Edgbaston in an attempt to capture “positive energy coming out of the earth” before their world cup semi-final against England. They lost by eight wickets.
A recent study of shod and unshod walkers in Kenya found that, over time, shoes may have had a negative effect on our joints, especially for runners. Other researchers have said that toddlers who spend the majority of time barefoot have better balance and jumping skills.