The UD barefoot phenomena


Honestly, it is a mystery to the majority of the UD population why certain students prefer to walk around barefoot. We see them everywhere, from walking on the mall to inside the Cap Bar, the dorm laundry rooms and even our public restrooms — the audacity! 

I take a strong anti-barefoot stance, because choosing to go barefoot in public, shared places in not only socially unacceptable but plain disgusting. I will support my argument by listing five science-supported reasons why walking around barefoot is detrimental to your physical health. 

Firstly, shoes protect your feet from injury and hookworm. Hookworm is acquired by walking barefoot on contaminated soil — looking at you,  those who walk across the grass to climb the trees around the mall. The Mall itself is a safety hazard and greatly resembles the ancient streets of Rome with the uneven ground and the random sharp-sided stones that stick up random places; there is a reason us women refrain from wearing high heels on the mall. If someone cuts their bare feet on a dislodged stone in the mall, and if they walk barefoot on grass later, it is a recipe for infection. 

There is also the possibility of random pieces of glass, used Cap Bar cups and legos from professors’ children lying in wait on the mall. Have you ever stepped on a Lego? If you go barefoot, try stepping on a Lego and you will understand why I am anti-barefoot. 

Furthermore, shoes provide essential foot and ankle support for navigating the uneven ground that is our earth, especially when there is an incline. UD is full of hills; I walk up the hill from Clark every day. Shoes prevent feet from getting stuck in nooks and holes in the ground, thus impeding the possibility of twisted ankles and muscle strains. Additionally, if one does any form of exercise, it is critical that they have supported ankles and feet to allow for the natural process of lower body muscle healing and regeneration. 

Another reason going barefoot is hazardous to your health is it allows for the possibility of falling objects to land on your foot. There is a reason gym lifters pay special attention to their posture; a bar with 90 additional pounds on it landing on their feet could cause a disastrous break. With the way some freshmen race to their class as if they were coming straight out the ninth circle of Dante’s hell, their books and water bottles could fly anywhere and land on your feet. Moreover, going barefoot constantly puts you at greater risk for shin splints because your leg, ankle, and foot muscles are unevenly aligned. 

I work as a barista at the Cap Bar. We drop espresso grounds, tea packets and drops of syrup, honey and milk constantly. It blows my mind why barefoot people voluntarily walk around in a place where there are spilled beverage products and food! I mean, seriously, it is so socially unacceptable and socially unaware. What is even more cringe worthy is when they go into the restrooms barefoot. I don’t even want to get into that, because, EW, just ew. 

To the barefoot people, you are NOT a Hobbit from the Shire and you need a reality check. Frodo Baggins himself would DISAPPROVE of you because going barefoot is for Hobbits, not humans.


  1. I am a 79 year old confirmed barefooter and think that shoes are harmful in the long run. The skin is a natural barrier to pathogens and although it is easily punctured, the hazards are not nearly as prevalent as our fears would suggest. Walking barefoot is natural, strengthens our foot & leg muscles and gives us an almost meditative sense of harmony with Mother Earth. I started walking & bicycling barefoot in High School and have gradually increased the time spent without shoes, every day.
    SBl member at

  2. I guess I’m too tall for a hobbit.
    I’m just a 51 year old man who realized the purpose of shoes is protection from coldness and unpleasant ground. So, not needed except in unusual circumstances, along with gloves or helmets.
    Hookworm, as mentioned in the article, can spread where infected people defecate in the street. The best way to stop it is to install toilets, do you know what those are?
    Uneven ground is a lovely workout for bare feet, walking barefoot results in stronger muscles, better circulation, tougher skin, better posture and … yes, watching your step is essential, being aware of your surroundings. Us barefooters see any broken glass. Lego bricks? I don’t see those that often, those are certainly big enough to see.
    “Ankle support” isn’t needed by a healthy person with good leg muscles. How do you get good leg muscles? By walking and running barefoot on uneven ground.
    Falling objects? By that argument people should wear safety shoes everywhere and sandals would need to be outlawed. Not all people are that clumsy, anyone who notices something is also able to avoid it.
    Restrooms? Regularly cleaned, no problem. Any spill on the ground can easily be seen and avoided.
    Discovering what your feet can do is a lovely thing, anyone who tries might soon see that in most situations of life it’s actually easier and more pleasant without footwear. And if it’s not for you, wear shoes but don’t condemn others for deciding differently.

  3. Here is are a few science supported facts for you:

    Shoes do more damage to feet, ankles, knees, hips and backs than they do good.

    Shoes deform feet. Shoes are like wearing a cast on your feet, which cause atrophy in the muscles and joints of your feet.

    Shoes are the cause of bunions. Feet don’t normally have big toes pointing inwards towards the other toes, this is caused by shoes!

    Shoes and socks trap in sweat, which turn into bacteria, which is where foot odor comes from, but also causes other issues like athletes foot and other issues.

    Each foot has 3 arches, which if you know anything about structures, the arch is the strongest shape. This means that we DO NOT NEED arch support. Have you ever heard the term “use it or lose it”, well that applies to the arches of your feet. You add arch support, guess what, you’ll end up with flat feet.

    All shoes have an elevated heel, even if it’s is small, it still throws off the natural geometry of the human body, causing additional stress on your ankles, knees, hips and back. We weren’t designed to walk with elevated heels!

    Human skin is designed to keep us safe from contaminants, and the skin on the bottom of your feet is no different. In fact the skin on the bottom of your feet, as you walk barefoot, forms thicker pads (not callouses), that provides additional protection as you walk. So much so that with well developed pads, you can walk over some broken glass without getting cut (take my word, but don’t try this at home!).

    I started walking barefoot over 8 years ago, due to a bone on bone condition in my knees, brought on by many years of wearing “foot coffins”, and although walking barefoot can’t undo the damage that has been done, it has bought my a few years before my eventual knee replacement that I’m sure is heading towards me.

    Also, in these past 8+ years, my feet (26 bones and 33 joints) have started to regain their proper shape, my little toe is no longer “rolled” in towards the toe next to it, which was caused by many years of wearing shoes. Also I am regaining the natural toe splay that we all should have.

    I try to do everything while barefoot, mountain bike, hike, cut my grass (don’t play the “it’s not safe” card, as shoes will not protect your feet from a spinning lawn mower blade, ask me how I know!), do home repair, go to church, shop, and pretty much everything else. About the only thing I don’t do is walk barefoot around the general office space where I work, but once I’m in my office I am barefoot.

    The human foot, like the rest of the human body, is an amazing creation, and was well designed, use it as it was designed, and reap the rewards!


  4. Science supported means that there is research to support your claims. Growing up in a traditional Mexican family, I learned a lot of outlandish reasons why someone should not go barefoot. However, I was starting to have problems with my feet about 12 years ago, so I started walking and running bf and here I am, almost a 99 percent of the time bfer. I would recommend you try it making ignorant statements.

  5. Give me the confidence of this author, to go around insisting to everyone, including those with decades of experience of living without shoes and not getting any illnesses or injuries as a result, how dangerous and unhygienic it must be.

    Ms Dietrich, you are allowed to not like the sight of feet. You are not alone there. And you also well within your rights never to feel at ease with the idea of going barefoot yourself. That’s your taste and your opinion, and you are as entitled to that as the rest of us. What you cannot have, however is your own facts tailored to fit your taste and agenda.

    The fact is that for most people, almost all in fact, shoes serve only one purpose, and that is to follow a commonly adopted dress convention that enables one to fit in and appear “normal” to everyone else.

    Everything else is in your imagination. Our skin is well equipped to keep the outside out and the inside in. It’s robust and flexible at the same time, and hence far more difficult to break or penetrate than you might think, especially when allowed to develop properly. Our feet contain a large number of bones and muscles, enabling efficient and healthy movement and balance, most of which is lost inside shoes that reduce them to a single solid object.

    Dirt is easily kept out by the skin and then washed off in the shower, and ironically it’s the visible dirt that we pick up from walking barefoot that encourages us to clean our feet thoroughly each day. Bacteria, viruses, fungi, and even your favoured hookworm (which is ridiculously hard to find unless you’re often out walking in dirt fertilised with excrement ) don’t really get a chance to attack your feet until you transfer them to the insides of your shoes. Once they’re in there they have an ideal warm moist anaerobic environment and can get to your feet every time you put those shoes on. They can’t do very much to you in the open air though, especially when they get brushed off as easily as they get picked up, and then get washed off in the shower once you get home.

    Let’s not pretend there isn’t anything more to this than you not liking feet. Don’t go making yourself look silly by talking to experiences barefooters, with your zero experience, as if you know more about it than they do.

    As someone who hasn’t owned any footwear for years, I can assure you that we know exactly what we’re doing and it’s a lot easier, safer and more pleasant than people realise.

    As I said, you’re allowed not to like it. I’m not going to change that any more than I can cure people of arachnophobia by writing a few paragraphs. But please, keep your dignity and avoid making ridiculous assertions. Just accept that it’s happening and there’s nothing wrong with it. No need to make a fool of yourself over it.

  6. Many things that are socially acceptable now (and rightly so!) used to be socially unacceptable. If someone prefers to go barefoot and takes steps (pun intended) to ensure they do so safely, why should that be a problem for those who prefer wearing shoes? Freedom of choice should not end at the ankles. Live and let live, and when we feel the urge to look down on or shame someone else for living differently than we do, perhaps some honest self-reflection is in order.

  7. Sad to see such unsubstantiated prejudice in a University publication. This reflects badly on the school.

    (1) you don’t cite any sources.

    (2) statements like “choosing to go barefoot in public, shared places in not only socially unacceptable but plain disgusting” are not in fact arguments – they are statements of personal opinion and prejudice. If you’re not convinced, try chaging ”choosing to go barefoot” to “Allowing black people” or “Allowing women” and see if you still agree with the sentence. This is one step short of hate speech, since barefoot people aren’t a protected minority, but it’s still unacceptable. Maybe it’s meant to be parody, and fails to achieve it?

    Perhaps you could consider revising the article to say, “I find bare feet disgusting and I would prefer not to have to see them” to make clearer that it’s a personal opinion.

  8. Emily, of course barefoot people aren’t Hobbits. I hate to break it to you, but Hobbits are fictional characters in books and movies. 😉 They don’t really exist. But going barefoot is a distinctly human activity, as that’s what our feet were designed for – not to be bound up by coverings that not only deform the natural shape of feet and toes over time, but directly cause or exacerbate an estimated 90% of all medical ailments of the feet. Shoes are also the direct cause of foot odor due to the fungi that live inside of all shoes that are worn on a regular basis.

    As to your five reasons for not going barefoot, they are not “science-supported” at all. I’ll try to clarify, as briefly as I can.

    1.Hookworm is not an issue for bare feet in any developed country that has modern sewage systems. Hookworm infective larvae live only in the feces of already infected human beings who have recently defecated on open ground. I don’t know if you have students or others who have a current hookworm infection and who go around defecating in the grass on campus, but I seriously doubt it. So hookworm is absolutely no issue at UD. As to injuries from being barefoot, the fact is that statistically, there are many, many more injuries from various types of footwear than from being barefoot. Someone barefoot is always careful where he or she walks, and is hardly likely to get injured, due to their increased awareness.

    2. Pieces of broken glass lying around that are lying flat are highly unlikely to cut anyone’s bare foot – that is, unless they are sliding or shuffling their feet along the ground – and barefoot people just don’t walk like that. Besides, someone barefoot is much more aware of what’s on the ground where they are walking and will avoid glass if at all possible. As to stepping on Legos, I really can’t see how that’s big problem on UD campus for barefooters.

    3. It is a myth that feet or ankles need “support.” Footwear in fact causes feet and ankles to become weak, and therefore twisted ankles statistically occur at a much greater rate among people wearing shoes or boots.

    4. There’s no greater risk of objects falling on bare feet than falling on feet that have shoes on. In fact, there’s less risk. Again, barefoot people are always much more careful and aware than shoe wearing people. Shoes or other footwear give people false sense of security, thus, shoe wearing people are much more likely to let something accidentally fall on their feet. And most shoes would certainly never prevent a foot injury if a 90 pound barbell weight fell on it.

    5. As to spilled beverage product or food, are you saying that’s somehow dangerous or harmful to someone’s feet? It isn’t. And people wash their bare feet regularly anyway. Nobody washes their shoes that step on the same things. There’s nothing in restroom floors that could ever harm bare feet either. Again, people step on the same floors with their shoes, which are never washed, yet are touched later with hands that in turn touch everything else, including food and other people. People as a rule don’t touch their bare feet with their hands unless they are washing them.

    If you don’t think bare feet are socially acceptable, may I suggest, just don’t go barefoot. But please don’t try to tell others how they should dress. It’s really their own their business, not yours.

  9. Bravo. I agree with all three commenters. My experience supports everything they said and refutes the author’s spurious contentions. The only point I cannot refute is the assertion that being barefoot is socially unacceptable and unaware. That at its best is a personal point of view. My experience is that most people don’t care and that those who raise loud objections essentially end up trying to force their personal view on everyone else. In fact, despite some people’s claim, there is no law in any state in this country against barefooting. Hence, at least an inference that this just isn’t an important issue, except for those few trying to make it so.

  10. Oh dear, I won’t waste precious time arguing as barefoot people aren’t like that. I’m a 53 year old gym goer for 40 years. I have been barefoot a long time. I am healthier, physically and mentally that a lot of people less than half my age. If you are able, please do some accurate research into barefoot living. When you live the life you are able to let people like yourself know that we are proof that your points are not quite accurate. We all have freedom of choice and I would never force anyone to do anything. I just know the way it helps me. Thank you for sharing your thoughts though, it’s good to debate.

  11. “Choosing to go barefoot in public, shared places in not only socially unacceptable but plain disgusting.” So you think that everyone should wear shoes at the beach, in swimming pools, in toilets that are part of swimming pools, in martial arts venues, in yoga and other exercise classes (all examples of public, shared places)? Good luck!

    Going barefoot is socially acceptable in the place listed above, why shouldn’t it be so in the laundry room, bar and restrooms? What is seen as normal, acceptable, respectful behaviour differs from one culture to another. In the Hindu culture for example, it is disrespectful to wear shoes at the temple. The Japanese also remove their footwear before entering a place of worship. The reason is that shoes are full of dirt as they very rarely get washed (when they do, it is only the upper that gets cleaned), unlike the feet of people going barefoot who will get scrubbed at least once a day.
    Shoes are often dirty on the outside from hardly ever getting cleaned but they also provide a sweaty and humid environment, especially if you wear them indoors and especially if you run in them too. Moist skin is the perfect breeding ground for fungus, such as Athlete’s Foot, which is highly contagious and not pretty.
    Walking barefoot has its risks and you can get a cut but if you are used to going barefoot, you become more aware of what’s on the ground and your feet develop a thicker protective layers of skin.
    When you actually use the many muscles and joints in the feet, they are then able to cope with any bumps and holes in the ground. Shoes immobilise the feet and therefore weaken them, rendering the joints unable to articulate around uneven terrain. They prevent sensory nerves in the feet to receive feedback from the ground and communicate with the brain. A piece of lego is rarely a problem is you are used to going barefoot.
    I agree with you that shoes provide ankle, foot (and arch) support. This support is non essential though and actually detrimental. It is the very reason why feet become weak and that people sprain their ankles – the foot loses mobility in its (33) joints when stuck in a supportive shoe, the muscles atrophy and can’t provide the necessary stability, so the ankle has to move excessively instead, at the expense of its ligaments. Healthy feet don’t need external support. They have all the support needed, provided by muscles, so long as they are used without restrictions. Lower body muscles heal quicker the more muscles are involved. If you stop foot muscles from working, the lower leg muscles will have to work harder. Less blood and lymph will be pumped and the healing will be delayed.
    It seems that in your arguments, you worry about barefooters’ health and safety while being repulsed by the sight of bare feet. The former is really not your business but the unshod person’s. The latter is really a matter of personal preference and potentially a lack of acceptance of a very natural body part, which only bothers you in a few particular contexts. I hope my comments will provide you with some insights. I understand that you have a preference for shoes, but that is really for you to decide what is best for you.

  12. As a fit specialist in footwear industry for 12 years, I can tell you footwear do not always protect you. Many foot disorders like ingrown nails, hammer toes, bunion, foot disformation, and as well back pain and headaches are due to your shoe and could cure by going barefoot.

    As many think flip flop, high heels and sandle are safe and would protect your feet, in which they do not. Also for ankles support brace doing that much better than your boots, shoe itself would not provide proper support, and many wearing tennis shoe for long time walking actually much dangerous than you going barefoot. As they called tennis shoe is because they are mainly for tennis, and yet many working with them for long time period of standing, like bartender, barista wearing the black tennis shoe and ended up slip and fall at work. It is like you try to drive a sport car going off roading, they wouldn’t work.

    Would you wear glove everywhere you go? You know you only use gloves when you doing something extremely hazardous and many even with such situations would still go with bare hand. Think about when was the last time you see a barista wear gloves when they handle hot drinks? Our feet were born to be bare as our ancestors they walked miles and they had less injuries because their feet get conditioned to be strong and tough. As doctors would tell you do not wear braces if you do not needed cause they would restrict muscle grow properly and they get weaken from time.

  13. UD-culture is raging in the comments about some kid who’s simply sick of seeing bare feet everyday, and parading around saying “free the foot!”

  14. Hanna Brooks Olsen and Jason Carrell were quoted in The Wall Street Journal article regarding bare feet in gyms saying equally absurd things, they also learned via comments how foolish they were talking in their interviews.

  15. Basically there were no scientific sources or info listed. This seems more like a personal prejudice based on common social conformism and fears, rather than factual or true scientific reality that is easily documented should someone wish it, could be provided.

    Barefooters develop strength in their feet and ankles that stregthen natural shock resistance, and the strength also guards against easily rolling and twisting ankles. They also develop a more leather like skin that helps prevent cuts from random glass or rocks, along with an awareness to avoid such objects that may be dangerous.

    My biggest issue from personal experience, is the statement about shin splints. I actually would develop shin splints on my 3-5 mile jogs with common athletic shoes and need to recover for 2-3 days before being able to comfortably go for another jog. I found that minimal/barefoot shoes actually eliminated shin splints. In an instant my shin splint issues were eliminated. This started my journey towards doing more activities in minimal shoes or barefoot. Eventually the shoes came off for me more and more, and I now log 100-120+ miles of barefoot hiking these days per year. I also barefoot around my house, yard and garage; along with every activity from household construction, garage work on the car, to yard work mowing my lawn, cutting wood, starting campfires, driving and filling gas at the pump, just to name a few common activities. I have not experienced any of said detrimental foot crushing, cuts, or hook worms mentioned here. In fact my feet dont have bacteria or stink since i am not creating a warm enclosed environment with shoes and socks.

    In conclusion this article is biased, non sourced and unfactual. It is lacking experience of reality or commonly documented studies on realities of bare feet.

  16. I read this article because it was referred to in the NY Times. I am from Germany and just want to add that barefoot hiking becomes increasingly popular in the Alps and apparently makes it more secure on most paths because of the direct contact to the ground. Here is an inspiring article in German language (can be easily translated via google translate etc.)


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