These pages are not legal documents. They are not intended to be legal documents.
The main purpose of these pages is to make the idea of going barefoot more accessible to people, especially people like me who have been forced to suffer needlessly in shoes, and who may not realize that there is another option, and also to make people more aware of the needless barriers to going barefoot, in the hopes of effecting change.
It's also a stress reliever for me, an attempt to be more proactive in dealing with these issues, an attempt to have some fun in the middle of all of it.
Some pages have had their links removed. The pages are still there, and will stay there as long as I am with my current web host.
April, 2012, updated February 2013
What's the big deal with shoes? Why do I hate them so much?
Shoes have always been too tight through the toes. Always. I have very wide square-toed feet, especially my wider right foot, and women's shoes just don't come that spacious. They are almost always tapered rather than square-toed, and the average width is a B width. (European shoes tend to be C width, and "wide" shoes D width.) My feet, last time I measured them, were in the 4-6E range. At one point I measured my newly liberated wider foot and it was 3/4" wider than the last pair of shoes I'd been wearing.
And then there are my poor heels. You see, at the same time shoes are too tight in the toe area, they are too loose in the heel area, even in wider sizes, and new shoes often make my heels bleed. They strip the skin off my heels, basically. Then for a while my heels toughen up and the shoes soften up. But then the interior of the shoe heel shreds from the constant rubbing of my bony heels, and then they start to shred the skin on my heels again. And I always wore through my socks in the back of the heel, which didn't help either. I once had a really wide square toed pair of winter boots. The inside of the heel shredded pretty quickly, but my mother took me to the local shoe repair and they padded the inside of the heels and lined them with suede patches. I wore those boots for over a decade, replacing the zippers every year. Eventually I replaced them with a pair of kids' winter boots (because kids' footwear tends to have more room in the toebox). Those boots only lasted a year or two, and I kinda regretted not keeping the earlier pair even though they were really nearing the end. Then I started wearing my Greb Kodiaks (sans steel toe - they were what people wore for hiking boots before hiking boots went all yuppie). They had a smooth leather inside to the heel, so the rubbing wasn't too bad, and of course I wore them with two pairs of socks. They lasted for decades, until the leather inside the heel finally wore through and there was nothing I could do.
None of these shoes/boots were the actual shape of my feet, so there was always some smoosh in the toe area, but they did less damage than other possibilities.
Well, you ask, shouldn't you just avoid wearing women's fashion shoes and stick with sensible walking shoes? That's what I was doing!!!!! I tried a pair of my mothers espadrilles with high heels one day - wore them to school and back (30 minute walk each way) and my arches screamed at me. So that was that. I did wear sandals with 1-2" heels - my first pair were a D width, so much easier than a B width, and when those fell apart I went with a pair with a slightly higher heel and a C width. That was in high school. I also bought a fancy pair of dress shoes for the dinner I went on when I graduated high school. I got rid of them after one wear because of how numb my toes got. They were beyond too tight. After that I pretty much stuck with flats (with socks, for cushioning). I was a geology major by this point so nobody really cared.
Oh, and I tried wide sizes and those speciality stores. In my teens. Back in the 1980s. Before some of you were even born. And I even tried to get a pair of hiking boots custom fit, with more room in the toes than my Kodiaks. Guess what? They were tighter through the heel, but they were also tighter through the toe, because I asked for rounded toes, like my feet, and he gave me rounded toes rather than pointed toes or square toes. (Because "rounded" is a technical term, apparently, referring to toe boxes that sure look pointy to me.) So asking for something with enough room for my toes still wasn't enough. I had to go to small claims court to get my deposit back.
Flip flops? I hated flip flops. I wore them when I was a little kid, but gave them up in my early teens. The summer I was 16 I was working as a mother's helper and my boss said I couldn't possibly wear closed shoes in summer, so she bought me a big clunky pair of flip flops. I wore them that summer because I felt like I really didn't have any choice, but my brother (with much larger feet) borrowed them and liked them so I let him keep them. For some reason I find flip flops really hard to walk in. Some people swear by them and others hate them and I have no idea if there's a pattern there (foot shape?), but I'm a hater. And you can really hurt your feet in them. People do all the time.
Sandals. Not the ladies' dress sandals, but the hippie Birkenstock kind? I tried Birkenstocks on in my late 20s or early 30s and they felt wrong on my feet. The moulded insole was the wrong size and shape. I found a pair of Lynn (Linn?) sandals that fit better, with a strap across the front of the foot and a strap around the ankle (the ideal configuration for me), and they fit much better. Once I shaved off the little ledge between the ball of my foot and my first toe on my right foot (because the bottom of my toe is flat there and it hurt) I was good to go, relatively speaking. I got blisters on my heels and my fourth toes stuck out over the edge of the shoe, but considering my alternatives, it was a choice I could live with. In a world where I would be arrested for going barefoot, that is. I assumed I HAD to wear shoes and so I chose the best I could find. I looked on the internet a while back (in case any of you are wondering why I don't try to get another pair) and I don't even know if that company still exists. Which is why I'm not sure how to spell it. And they were much harder to wear than going barefoot is. Even without all the little stones that would get stuck between the shoes and my feet.
Rubber boots: fun in the rain and mud but they're stiff and shredded my heels, no matter how tough my wool socks were.
Ecco shoes. I discovered Ecco Soft shortly before moving to Vancouver from Ottawa (early 30s, 1998) and they were a revelation, because I could wear them out of the store and my feet wouldn't bleed. They were so flexible they moved with my feet. They did rub a bit, but not enough for me to be afraid of them. Ever been afraid of shoes? For me it's pretty much been constant. And I've had to give shoes away because of rubbing etc. even when I thought they'd be ok. I wore Ecco Soft until the Vancouver bus strike, when a 4 km walk downtown killed the insides of the heels (and the bleeding began again). I patched them with soft leather, but shifted to wearing Ecco Track, which were an almost as flexible ankle boot (sports/hiking) that were more shred proof inside the heels. I wore those until they wore out, then replaced them with the squarer toed boots in the pictures, then when those wore out I bought the skinny shoes/boots in the pictures. These last were a B width I think, in a size 8 instead of a 7. (My feet are sized 5 - 5 1/2, I think. Maybe 5 1/2 in socks, which I no longer own.)
So Ecco was perfect, was it? Well, no. There was nowhere near enough room for my toes, but that was normal, so I made do. And before I bought my last pair, I was patching the previous pair, which were falling apart, as I waited for the new line of fall Ecco boots came out. (Ecco is seasonal.) And then the new boot styles (Yak?) were far too stiff to wear. I ended up getting an on sale pair from the previous year, because nothing from that year was flexible enough for my feet. I would have hurt my feet. I would have bruised my shins, even. And this is one of the problems with having feet too short for men's shoes. (I've tried boys', but they fall apart and don't really fit either). You could still buy men's Ecco Track and Ecco Track II, but they stopped making women's Ecco Track a long time ago (before I got the brown boots). And of course women's shoes are narrower, because women on average are smaller boned than men. Who's bigger boned than the average man (controlling for height)? Me, of course, My hands are really wide, too (women's gloves are often too tight to get on); and I'm barrel chested and barrel hipped (if that's a term). Off the rack does not fit. I sew my own pants and shirts, making them narrower and deeper to accommodate my bigger boned frame.
When I was a kid, we went to the cottage for the summer (my mother, my sibs and I) and ran around barefoot for 10 weeks. Then we'd come back to town the day after Labour Day. My mother would then take all four of us kids into the kids' shoe store (Kiddie Kobbler in St Laurent Shopping Centre in Ottawa, back when St Laurent was a lot smaller). And we'd have to pick out one pair of leather shoes and one pair of running shoes each. In one day (because school started the next day). After running around barefoot all summer. Widening our feet. My mother would naver have the gumption to say "To heck with shoes, go to school barefoot! I'll give you a note!", but I bet she wished she did from time to time. They'd tell us each year how the shoes were supposed to fit, and to only choose the shoes that actually fit, but none of them ever did, so I just went with the pair that were the least awful.
Then when my feet got too long for kids' shoes, it was time for me to find adult shoes. Kids' shoes have a lot more room in the toe box, and those leather shoes we wore stretched nicely, so this was quite the transition. I remember buying my first pair of shoes. My mother told me to go to the local department store and pick out a pair to replace the rags I was currently wearing. I tried on a pair of Keds hopefully and couldn't even get my feet into them. (They are very flat as well as very narrow, so big bony foot knuckles like mine haven't got a chance.) I got lucky and found a pair of Pumas with fake leather inside the heel, so they could rub all they want and not shred my heels. I wore those into grad school (close to ten years or longer) because I really needed that smooth fake leather inside the heel. They flopped around on my feet a lot, and of course were too long and not wide enough in the toes. But they didn't make my heels bleed. Always important for school gym class.
For some reason the period when I transistioned to adult shoes that fit so much more poorly than kids shoes was the period where I became much more sedentary. I didn't even realize what was going on until I started going barefoot full time: even though my feet were tender and blistered, I still felt a huge weight come off the top of my head as soon as I stopped wearing shoes. Walking barefoot is, for me at least, much much easier than wearing shoes. Much less tiring. And I'm talking walking shoes and hiking boots and sneakers, not outrageous catwalk monsters here. There are other factors that also contributed to me becoming more withdrawn, playing with the other kids less, but I withdrew in ways that the others didn't, even though I wasn't the only one who was abused, and I might not have been the only autistic kid in my crowd either. But I did have the widest feet.
And, you know what? It's so much easier to walk barefoot that I started getting ambitious about my fitness. I was shocked at how unfit I was compared to others, but I was determined to some day be able to do parkour, something I could never do before because of not really being able to put my weight on the balls of my feet. Wearing shoes meant overlapping toes and bleeding heels; toenails that gouged neighbouring toes unless I cut them right down (none of this cutting them straight across - that was a recipe for blood); and corns on my fifth toes. Those wider boots I wore after the Ecco Track were the ones I was wearing when I developed a painful soft corn on my left foot between my fourth and fifth toes. And because my toes were so smooshed, I pretty much had to walk with a hard heel strike, which is or appears to be bad for your joints. You want to be fit, don't smoosh your toes. It automatically makes fitness a lot harder.
You need to be able to walk on your feet before you can run and play on them.
And while I still can't vault to save my life, I've been able to run since then, and even bunny hop up a flight of stairs over and over. That's freedom.
P.S. Shoes I haven't tried - and why I won't, besides being fed up with having to try:
And why not just wear socks outside?
Finally, I have to ask, what's so important about getting other people to wear shoes? For me, going barefoot is so much easier it's no contest. I simply will not go back to shoes again, no matter how much pressure I get and how many services (e.g. transit) I'm denied. Why, oh why, do I have to do things the hard way to make society happy?
Finally finally, there is one more thing. My emotional reactions to shoes and pressures to wear them, even from other barefooters who can go back and forth, presumably without all that smoosh, are so strong I really wonder if I could have gotten PTSD just from being forced to wear shoes. It is abusive to force people to do things that are more than they can cope with, as I was with shoes. I swallowed it all down because I thought I had to, then I exploded when I found it was all for nothing. I have PTSD already from other things, so it's hard for me to know if my DSM category C and D symptoms could have come just from the shoes, but I sure clean up with the category B symptoms. It's something to think about. The stress of wearing shoes isn't just the smoosh, which can be fun when it's your idea and you can stop at any time. It's the part where you don't ever get to decide for yourself how much you can take. And it's somehow always your fault if you can't take it. And nothing short of a total revolution ever changes it.
I'm not about to start burning shoes in demonstrations (too polluting), but I sure feel that angry and rebellious.