Sunday, 27 February 2011

Going Barefoot

For the first time this year, I was out and about with bare toes in my Birkis today and yesterday.  A moment of silence for wild inner rejoicing.

I love to go barefoot.

Sturdy shoes cause me the same difficulties as wearing gloves.  In order to engage successfully with the world I have to be able to touch it, feel it.  Gloves and shoes remove the feedback that seems to me to be so vital for complete engagement.  Without my fingerpads and the soles of my feet, I can’t always tell what the world means.  I can’t bear wearing rubber gloves to carry out household tasks.  Up through my bare feet come the thoughts of the earth.  When it comes to worship, I’m right there with Moses – bare feet R us.

In former years, before hawking up germ-laden phlegm and spitting it onto the pavement came so ubiquitously back into fashion, I went most places most of the summer in bare feet.  My compromise, that takes me through from March to November, is Birkestock sandals for out and about, and bare feet in the house and garden.  I drive in bare feet too.  As I get into the car I take off my sandals and lift them in, placing them on the floor behind my seat.  As a result of this I have several times left a pair of Birkenstock sandals in a car park or at a roadside.  I only ever lost one pair permanently doing this.

In the same way as Plain speech can cause us to undergo a complete rethink of our habits of mind (as Karen Mercer thoughtfully reflected here on Quaker Quaker) so going barefoot can encourage us to look more deeply into the Way we walk, our relationship with the earth, and our self-understanding.  Walking barefoot becomes a metaphor as well as an actuality.

Walking barefoot requires a person to use the foot differently from walking in sturdy shoes.  In shoes, the heel goes down first, striking the ground firmly.  Because walking barefoot requires a certain caution or circumspection, the foot goes down foxfoot, with the emphasis on the ball of the foot and toes, not the heel.  Steps are shorter and lighter.  To practice, while shod, the barefoot walking mode, the thing to do is imagine going stealthily through a perilous situation where it is necessary to walk as softly, quietly and lightly as possible.  The foot acts differently.

There is in the world a whole army of people who prefer to go barefoot, whether walking in the ordinary way or running.  They see the need to protect their feet from infection and injury, but are reluctant to relinquish the sense of connection with the living Earth.  This website and this one give good information about the barefoot revolution.  Out of this passion barefoot shoes were born.

The Luna is a barefoot sandal – one can either purchase the necessary materials and make it oneself, or have a pair made up from a selection of options.  Barefoot runners say it is wonderful – feeling as though the feet had nothing on them at all.  The Luna is reminiscent of traditional sandals from places like India.  Following in the footsteps of Jesus, maybe.  Over time, Lunas mould to the wearer’s feet.  To me, there is something peculiarly beautiful about that.  Buddhapada or images of ascension or something.

Sockwa  make a high-top – inevitably of interest to any Plain dresser!  Though at present the high-top Playa is suited for soft ground, not daily wear on concrete surfaces; or so they say!  The Amphibian can go anywhere though.

Our Hebe is a convert to Terra Plana’s Vivo Barefoot range; they make some very stylish, pretty shoes.  There’s a lovely red one.  For those of us designed like marsupials with feet that go on forever, the Vivo Barefoot range is sadly too limited.  They go up only to size 42 – and recommend taking a size up from the wearer’s normal shoe size.

Soft Star, like Luna, are very precise in sizing, and will custom-make shoes, and they both go up to really big sizes anyway.

Probably the funkiest barefoot shoe of all time is the Vibram Fivefinger – aren’t they fab?

There is also a new shoe, the Stem shoe, coming out later this year, which looks really good.

Many of these shoes are vegan and employ recycled material, as well as manufacturing in situations and with techniques and materials as respectful of the human race and the rest of creation as possible.  These are responsible, comfortable footwear making us more aware and responsive and enhancing our health.  A good thing in the world.


Anonymous said...

As I finished reading your post, I had to a youngster, I went about barefoot everywhere! :)

But once I came to the States, I lost this glorious habit. You are right, you walk differently when you go barefoot. a bit scared...hmm, maybe. But it does make you take your time while walking and you are more aware of the earth.

At this moment, since it is winter here in the mountains, going barefoot has to wait just a bit more :-)

Great post as always!

Blessings in His Name,


Anna said...

Shoes! I was just doing a little planning the other day about what-to-wear this summer. I am considering Rainbow flip flops because of their durability. The Soft Star shoes are just right! Thank you for doing a post on this from a barefoot perspective.

Ganeida said...

I have very wide feet across the toes, thanks to a misspent childhood of always going barefoot, so now regular shoes rarely fit me & I usually wear a pair of surfer's thongs [flip~flops?]: thick rubber sole, extra wide, with a nice material strap between the toes. In winter I add toe socks unless particularly cold weather puts me in my uggies. I have never worn heels but do have a pair of flat sandals for formal concerts of Star's. They don't fit properly & I slip them off as soon as I'm seated. I have been known to walk out of the theatre barefoot & carrying the sandles. ☺

Elin said...

I love being barefoot as well. I go barefoot in public and I do not worry too much about dirt and glass or anything of that kind really. I have stepped on glass two times and hurt my feet, both were indoors and because of sloppy cleaning on my behalf. I wear shoes to and from work but I go around barefooted while at work. I say I wear shoes 90% of the time because society expects it not because I need it. My favorite shoes if I have to wear them are tennis shoes with soft soles and crocs. Yes, crocs are probably the ugliest shoes there is but they work for me and my feet.

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) Hi ladies! x

Trish said...

I LOVE to go barefoot!
Can't stand high heels or narrow shoes that squish my foot.
Some of those links had very comfortable looking footwear, but I am intrigued by the 'five fingers' shoes.
Wouldn't that be 'five TOES' shoes?!! lol!
bless you..Trish

Michelle-ozark crafter said...

Jack teases me because the shoes come off first when I am forced to wear them! I love to be barefoot!

Nabila Grace said...

Oh I love going barefoot and LOVE Birkenstocks! ;o) I have even been barefoot while cutting hair! ;o)

Pen Wilcock said...

Hey, ladies!

Nabila Grace, if I were a hair stylist I'd cut hair in bare feet too. When I was a preacher I used to preach in bare feet - it helped me to connect and get in the rhythm of life the pulse - touch the earth and also connect with God like Moses :0)

Unknown said...

Shoes and I only get along when I must wear them, but they come off first before my coat when I get home when out and about. My feet can't breathe....they feel trapped....isn't that funny!

Pen Wilcock said...

Me too, Yvonna :0)

Julie B. said...

I live in my legs say "aaaaah" when my feet feel that heel cup and arch support in the mornings.

God bless your week....

Pen Wilcock said...

:0D I shall think of thee in the mornings with thy legs saying 'aaah...'

Buzzfloyd said...

I'm going to order Michael some Soft Star shoes. I'm so excited! Not only are they better for his feet than the normal shoes we could get for him, but they are so much *funkier*! Now I just have to figure out how to get him to stand still long enough to measure his feet. Maybe I'll line the area in front of the telly with paper and try to be sneaky about it.

Unknown said...

I hail from Germany originally,transplanted to the US 33 years ago I remember being barefoot all summer except in school or church...I still go barefoot whenever I can and love my Birkis for the summer and most winters with thick,handknit socks!

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi Mary - yes, Birkis are among very few sandals that still look good with socks!

Buzz, I had a look at the Soft Star children's shoes after I saw your post and Avgi's on Facebook - and aren't they beautiful? Something else good is that because they will custom-make shoes, and they are so soft anyway, Mikey will be able to still be in shoes suitable for little children (or simply for human feet) as he grows, not forced into adult ranges because of being big. Hooray for barefoot shoes! The Stem shoes will probably be good for him once they're in production, too. xxx

Tess said...

Hello, I just found your blog via your In Celebration of Simplicity book, which Amazon has been suggesting to me so relentlessly that I've just now given in and ordered it.
Yes, barefoot is good. I remember as a teenage hippy back in the '60s my father refusing to let me out of the house in bare feet! I have wide feet which I've damaged in the interests of fashion and now I suffer in shoes.
Looking forward to reading more of your blog, and to your book arriving. And wondering if there are to be any more entries in your wabi-sabi blog, which speaks to my soul...

Pen Wilcock said...

Hey, Tess! Nice to meet thee! Yes, eventually I will get round to more entries in the wabi-sabi blog. At the moment I am 2/3 of the way through writing a novel, but after a year or three of relentless writing have suddenly found myself in mental quicksand, so am marking time for a few weeks before getting going again.
Come back and let us (by us I mean not the royal 'we' but the folks who congregate here to compare notes) know how thee got along with the simplicity book - I sure am chuffed Amazon targeted thee so persistently!!
God bless thee, nice to meet thee - pop in again soon and tell us more about thyself :0)

AbiSomeone said...

Greetings to thee, sister Ember! I found thee through Alice Y., who visits my own wee blog....

Your post resonated greatly with me, for I posted about being grounded not too long ago, (You can find the link here, if you are interested:

I am gratified to hear that you are continuing with a new trilogy following your Hawk/Dove series. A friend of mine said she thought I would resonate with them ... and she was right! I find much in common with Father Peregrine, and his story has helped me persevere in mine own.

I am also reading your book on simplicity ... and am looking for ways to implement its wisdom as I can ... whilst raising three boys (10, 12 & 15). I am also a former minister ... and have looked for ways to connect with you to encourage you -- and thank you for sharing your wisdom.

Be blessed....

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi AbiSomeone!
Glad thee's enjoying The Hawk & the Dove :0)
Thee said thee has been looking for a way to get in touch.
It may be that joining in with comments here is all thee wanted to do.
But if thee wanted to contact me other than that, there are two possibilities. Either look for me on Facebook where I am Pen Wilcock, add me as a friend and message me there; or send me a comment on any post in this blog with a private message and thy email address. All comments from here come to my email inbox for approval before publication, so if I get an obviously private message with someone's contact details I just get in touch by email and leave the comment unpublished.
I can also be found and messaged on Quaker Quaker, but that site might not be a natural community for thee.
Hope that helps.
Good to meet thee!

AbiSomeone said...

Thank you, Ember ... I have sent off a friend request at FB!

Anonymous said...

I think I'll stay barefooted thanks all that same Ember.I live in the country so the worst I encounter on the road is mud.