Aug 7, 2012
As someone who really likes being barefoot, wears Vibrams when doing anything “athletic,” and who has a husband who would much rather wander around town with no shoes on, these types of signs prove to be a rather interesting discussion point in our home.
I personally won’t complain that certain stores, restaurants or other such places require people to wear shirts. I like people to not wander around topless, whether they’re male or female. Mainly though that’s just because it seems like those who “shouldn’t” be topless are the ones who are…and I don’t really want to see you topless while I eat a burger.
Shoes, on the other hand, are the intriguing part of this “rule” to me. I think that the general thought is that people don’t want someone to step on something and hurt themselves, or catch some sort of “disease” from walking on the ground where everyone else walks, or to stink up the place with their “smelly” feet. And last but not least, it’s the law according to health regulations. At least, these are the reasons I seem to hear in discussions. But here is my take on those arguments:
1. Stepping on something and hurting yourself: You could easily do this whether you wear shoes or not. In fact, I’ve heard of plenty of cases where someone has stood on something that has gone straight through their shoes and into their foot. And in reality, if you go barefoot more regularly it means that your feet are a.) tougher than someone who rarely goes barefoot and b.) you’re more aware of your surroundings and are actually more careful with where you step.
2. Catching a “disease” by going barefoot: Have you ever had athlete’s foot? Or hand, foot and mouth disease? Well, you didn’t catch those from going around barefoot, but somehow you still caught them. In reality it’s not so much the going barefooted that causes us to catch the diseases, but rather the way our society lives and does things that opens us up to the susceptibility of it all. In rural locations around the world people go barefoot all the time, and they don’t “catch diseases” just because of it.
3. Smelly feet: I can tell you first hand that my feet stink MORE when I wear shoes than when I don’t. I can remember as a kid wearing black leather shoes and knee highs to school (I wore a uniform) and when I’d get home and take my shoes off, PHEW! They stunk. Similarly, Peter has a couple of pairs of shoes that make his feet absolutely stink when he wears them. But when he’s barefoot? No smell. So if you want to stop smelling dirty feet, don’t wear shoes.
4. It’s the law! No, it’s not. There is no health code regulation requiring customers to wear shoes in restaurants in the USA or Canada. Employees are required to wear shoes, yes. Some insurance companies will require this for anyone on the premises, but that’s a different story.
In fact, the only reason that this whole shebang started is because back in the 1970s it was really common for hippies to dress in such a way that they didn’t wear shirts or shoes all that much, and store owners wanted to keep them out. So they made the sign, it caught on, and we are where we are today.
I like what wikipedia has to say about going barefoot: “There are health risks and benefits associated with going barefoot. Footwear provides protection from cuts, abrasions, and bruises, from objects on the ground, as well as protection from frostbite and parasites like hookworm. However, some shoes can limit the flexibility and mobility of the foot, and can lead to higher incidences of flat feet or toes that curve inwards. Walking barefoot also results in a more natural gait, allowing for a more rocking motion of the foot and eliminating the hard heel strike and generating less collision force in the foot and lower leg.”
Here are some articles/blogs on the subject so you can see what other people have to say from both angles:
- Society for Barefoot Living
- No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service: The Baltimore Chop
- No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service. No Seriously: Orlando Sentinel
- The Origin of “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service” Policy
- Health Benefits of Going Barefoot: Barefoot Canada
- Protect Your Feet: Government of Canada
- Shoes Off at the Door Please: A blog dedicated to not wearing shoes indoors (read the list of reasons why you should do this, located on the right of the blog!)
And now, I leave you with this hilarious video: