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.
June 15, 2014
pdf of report (2.5 Mb)
Notice, June 15, 2014: I would like to apologize for the multiple emails that were sent out today. I don't know how it happened.
Three hundred and eighty-nine people participated in this survey. Twenty-five percent was female, and ages were distributed evenly between 18 and 65, with only a few people older and younger. Women were on average younger than men, as they were last year. Fifty-one percent of the sample was from the US, with significant numbers from the UK and from the rest of Europe as a group. There were enough numbers to consider the Netherlands, Canada, and Australia/New Zealand separately in the analysis, as well as other countries from the Americas as a group, and there were a few others from other countries.
Of all "footwear" worn, the most common were bare feet and minimalist shoes. Seventy-six percent preferred to go barefoot, followed by eleven percent preferring minimalist shoes. Obviously this sample was biased in terms of barefooters and, to a lesser extent, minimalist shoe wearers. The most common "footwear" worn was bare feet, followed by minimalist shoes and conventional shoes/boots. Women were significantly more likely to prefer and to wear conventional shoes/boots than men, possibly due to where subjects were recruited from.
Not very many people said they go barefoot all the time or never go barefoot at all. People were equally likely to go barefoot at all other frequencies. Compared to this, people who wore minimalist shoes tended to wear them less often (each less frequent category had more people in it, with "never" being the biggest). Women in this survey were more likely to never go barefoot. Minimalist shoes were more popular with people in the 35-44 age group and less popular with people over the age of 55.
In terms of how long people have been going barefoot, the biggest category was one to three years, then three to five years. This was also true for minimalist shoe wearers, however minimalist shoe wearers are unlikely to have worn them for longer than that, unlike barefooters, many of whom have been barefoot for more than ten or twenty years.
Walking is the most popular barefoot activity, followed by driving, socializing, running, hiking, and shopping, with going barefoot at work much less common, probably due to discrimination. In comparison, people wear minimalist shoes most often for shopping (possibly due to stores sometimes requiring footwear to enter, especially in the US), then walking, socializing, running, work (more often than bare feet), driving and hiking. Women were less likely to say they drive or hike barefoot.
The two biggest reasons for going barefoot were lifestyle and medical reasons. Medical and lifestyle reasons were also the most popular reasons for wearing minimalist shoes, especially among people who prefer minimalist shoes, while people who preferred to go barefoot were more likely to wear minimalist shoes for cultural reasons, probably because of dress codes.
The three most common benefits to going barefoot were enjoying the sensation of going barefoot, healthier feet and happier feet, while the most common benefits to wearing minimalist shoes were healthier and happier feet. People who preferred minimalist shoes were more likely to cite enjoying the sensation as a benefit to wearing minimalist shoes, while people who preferred bare feet were less likely. Men were more likely to cite fitness as a benefit to going barefoot than women were.
The three biggest problems with going barefoot were cold weather, discrimination and rough ground. People who preferred conventional shoes/boots were more likely to have problems with rough ground while barefoot. People who preferred minimalist shoes were more likely to have problems with hot weather while barefoot, while those who preferred bare feet had fewer problems with hot weather. Women were more likely to have problems with rough ground and hot weather than men, same as last year (women are more temperature and pressure pain sensitive than men are). Also, hot weather was more of a problem in the US and less of a problem in Canada. Discrimination was a larger problem in the US (not surprising) and less of one than expected in the Netherlands.
In contrast, the most common problem wearing minimalist shoes was "none". For those who did have problems, the biggest ones were fit/comfort, cost, wet weather and cold weather, in that order. Some people, mostly women, expressed concerns about the attractiveness of minimalist shoes.
Most people (eighty-seven percent) would go barefoot more often if they could. On the other hand, opinion on wearing minimalist shoes more often was divided evenly between "no", "yes", and no answer ("don't know" was a less common answer). Women were more likely to say they wouldn't wear minimalist shoes more often if they could.
Ninety-seven percent said they enjoy going barefoot.
Seventy-two percent said they did not enjoy wearing footwear, and twenty-six said they did. Women were more likely to say they did this year, in comparison to last year where no woman did. This is likely due to casting a wider net for subjects. Last year was mostly hard-core barefooters.
Most people were positive about going barefoot. Many said they didn't need more support to go barefoot. Just as many said they would like less discrimination (many cited stores, restaurants etc. for having rules banning bare feet) and greater acceptance and tolerance.
The most common way people described themselves was "normal" (sixty-three percent). The second most common category was "nature lover" (forty-seven percent). Women were more likely to describe themselves as artistic, eccentric and hippies, while men were more likely to describe themselves as nudists. "Geek/nerd" was a common description added under "other".
People were more likely to describe their country as barefoot friendly if they'd been going barefoot at least some of the time. The more people go barefoot, the more likely they were to describe the US and UK as barefoot friendly, but not other Northern European countries, which have higher ratings overall. The highest ratings for culturally grouped countries are for Australia/New Zealand, and Northern and Western Europe other than the UK. This is followed by Canada, the US and the UK (which were in the middle last year, too), with other countries from the Americas (combined) given the lowest rating, though there weren't many ratings for that group.
Cluster analysis indicated three main groups of questions (about going barefoot, about minimalist shoes, and about wearing conventional shoes) with many smaller groups, and subjects divided into people who go barefoot and/or wear minimalist shoes (with many subtypes) and people who only wear shoes.
The survey ran from April 15 to May 15, 2014. 389 people participated (plus two duplicate entries that I caught - there may be more that I missed), compared to 250 people the first year (2013). Subjects were initially recruited from a barefooters' forum (thebarefootersforum.com) and a paleo/primal forum (www.marksdailyapple.com), with forum members spreading the word to other barefooter and related sites. Later a barefooter blog (ahcuah.wordpress.com) posted a reminder and I posted in a comment on a feminist blog (jezebel.com) to recruit more women.
Note on results: I have written out numbers for those who like to read, as well as for those with screen readers. If you don't feel like reading a bunch of numbers, you can just skim through and look at the charts.
The overall sample was seventy-four percent male, twenty-five percent female with two people selecting "other" and one person not answering the question. Last year the sample was only sixteen percent female (also with two "other" and one not answering), and this year's survey was about the same until I posted in the comments on a feminist blog (Jezebel) to recruit more women.
Age was roughly evenly distributed among adults under 65 years old, with only five subjects under 18 and eleven age 65 or over. The most common age category was 35-44.
Women tended to be younger than men, with significantly more women than expected in the 25-34 category (χ2(6)=20.33, p<.01). This same trend occurred last year, and doesn't appear to be due to posting on a feminist blog. (Last year's trend was plotted on a percentage per sex basis, and looks similar to the second chart here.)
Fifty-one percent of subjects came from the US, followed by fourteen percent from the UK. Larger numbers also came from Canada, the Netherlands (five percent each) and Australia (three percent). To simplify analysis of interactions, countries were lumped into the US (200 subjects), Canada (20 subjects), Australia/New Zealand (15 subjects), UK (56 subjects), Other Northern Europe (Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Latvia, Norway: 22 subjects), the Netherlands (18 subjects), Other Western Europe (Germany, Belgium, France, Austria, Switzerland: 18 subjects), Other Europe (Russia, Spain, Romania, Italy, Portugal: 16 subjects), Other Americas (Mexico, Bermuda, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Venezuela, Guatemala: 11 subjects), and Other Countries (South Africa, Indonesia, Philippines, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia: 7 subjects).
There is a significant relationship between sex and country (χ2(9)=19.45, p<.05), in that there are no women from "Other Europe" countries. There is no significant interaction between country and age.
For this question, I put all sneakers (including Converse, maximalist and skate shoes)/boots/Crocs/wooden clogs in the "other" section into the "shoe" section, and I put true moccasins, huaraches, Xero shoes and Luna sandals in the "minimalist" section. I listed Teva sandals under "sandals" (though they do make one minimalist pair, the "Zilch"). The difference between minimalist and casual sandals (here, at least) is whether you can bend minimalist sandals in two and put them in your pocket. When I didn't know the style I guessed based on the general tendency for that brand. The remaining "other" choices included boiled wool socks, plasticized socks, dance slippers and bottomless shoes/sandals (where there is nothing but a strap under one toe or even no sole at all). I considered leaving bottomless shoes out completely because they could be considered decoration rather than footwear, but on the other hand some may be more like minimalist shoes or sandals when you take the strap under the foot into account.
Most subjects were barefooters to some extent (266/389, or sixty-eight percent of subjects). Minimalist shoes were the second most common footwear choice (196 people, fifty percent), followed by shoes/boots (143 people, (thirty-seven percent), flip flops (120 people, thirty-one percent) and casual sandals (78 people, twenty percent). Eight additional people (two percent) selected "other" in addition to the "other" selections that I moved to the previous categories.
Men outnumbered women as expected for all categories except casual sandals, where the ratio was much more equal (χ2(5)=14.37, p<.01). In other words, the women in this survey were disproportionately more likely to select "sandals" (forty percent of casual sandal wearers vs the more usual twenty-five percent) than the men were, though more men still selected "sandals" more than women overall.
There was a significant interaction between age and footwear choices (χ2(30)=46.87, p<.05). This appears to be due to the popularity of casual sandals and flip flops in the 18-24 range.
There was no significant interaction with country.
When asked to choose their preferred footwear, seventy-six percent selected bare feet. Minimalist shoes came second at eleven percent. This is pretty much the reverse of footwear choice in the real world (in wealthy countries) where it is normal to wear shoes, and minimalist shoes are more common than bare feet. Clearly this sample is biased in favour of bare feet.
Shoes/boots came in third at four percent, followed by flip flops and "other" (three percent each) and sandals (two percent). One percent indicated no preference. I did not reassign any of the "other" answers for this question.
There was a significant interaction between sex and footwear preference (χ2(6)=23.57, p<.001). Women were far more likely to say that they preferred conventional shoes/boots than men (ten percent vs one percent: χ2(1)=15.67, p<.001). None of the other footwear categories reached significance. There was no relationship between age or country and preferred footwear.
Of the 384 people who answered this question, bare feet was the footwear worn most often (forty-four percent). I don't know whether to assume that this is logical given that the majority of respondents are barefooters, or to be surprised because so many respondents are from the US and Canada, where there's a lot of prejudice against bare feet. Not to mention that it is unusual to go to work barefoot in most wealthy countries.
Minimalist shoes were the second most common choice here (twenty-two percent), followed by regular shoes/boots (sixteen percent), flip flops (eight percent) and sandals (four percent). Five percent chose "other" while one percent chose "none".
There was no significant overall interaction between sex and footwear. However, women were significantly more likely to wear conventional shoes/boots as their most frequent footwear than men were (χ2(1)=5.49, p<.05).
There was no significant overall relationship between primary footwear and age or country.
Given that this survey is primarily of barefooters, it's not surprising that twenty-four percent of respondents said they go barefoot more than seventy-five percent of the time, and another twenty-three percent said they go barefoot between fifty and seventy-five percent of the time. Twenty-one percent said they go barefoot less than twenty-five percent of the time, while twenty percent said they go barefoot between twenty-five and fifty percent of the time. Only eight percent go barefoot all the time and only four percent said never.
Not surprisingly, the more people prefer to go barefoot, the more often they do go barefoot. Only those who preferred to go barefoot (Q2) went barefoot all the time. Interestingly, though, two people who preferred to go barefoot said they never went barefoot.
There was a significant interaction between sex and how often people go barefoot (χ2(5)=21.58, p<.001). Women were significantly more likely to say they never went barefoot (χ2(1)=15.67 p<.01) and somewhat less likely to say they go barefoot twenty-five to seventy-five percent of the time.
There was no significant relationship between age and how often people go barefoot.
There was a significant interaction with country (χ2(45)=69.23, p<.01), with people from Northern European countries (other than the UK) going barefoot less than twenty-five percent of the time more than expected.
The most frequent answer was one to three years (twenty-five percent), followed by more than twenty years (eighteen percent) and three to five years (seventeen percent). In other words, people started going barefoot in two waves, one more than twenty years ago, then again in the last few years. Of course, people in the more than twenty year category could have started over a twenty to thirty year period or longer, so that might not really be a wave. At any rate, there are more who started just in the last few years. Thirteen percent started between five and ten years ago, while nine percent have been going barefoot between ten and twenty years. Eight percent have been going barefoot for less than a year, while only six percent don't go barefoot. Four percent didn't answer.
There was a significant interaction between preferred footwear and years going barefoot (χ2(42)=171.08, p<.001). Only three people who said they preferred to go barefoot said they never went barefoot, as opposed to a majority (ten out of fourteen) of shoe/boot wearers. Sandal wearers were also significantly more likely to say they never went barefoot. People who preferred shoes/boots were also more likely to not answer the question.
There was a significant interaction between sex and years going barefoot (χ2(7)=38.89, p<.001). Even though women only made up twenty-five percent of subjects, they were more than twice as likely as men to say they never went barefoot. (This is probably because I recruited subjects from jezebel.com.) Women were also noticeably less likely than men to have gone barefoot between ten and twenty years (χ2(1)=4.66, p<.05).
Not surprisingly, older subjects tended to have gone barefoot for longer (χ2(42)=73.28, p<.01).
There was no interaction with country.
This was a new question this year.
The most common response was walking (eighty-four percent), followed by driving (sixty-seven percent) and socializing (sixty-one percent). Running (fifty-three percent), hiking (fifty-two percent) and shopping (forty-eight percent) came next. Work was a much less common response (twenty-seven percent). Sixteen percent said "other" and five percent said "none".
Common responses for "other" included outdoor sports (cycling, climbing, golf, rowing), camping, geocaching, gardening/yard work, and attending outdoor events. School and church were also mentioned by several people, as was eating out (which I would have included in socializing - but I didn't add it in in these cases). A few people also mentioned indoor activities like yoga, weightlifting and going to the gym in general. The most common response was doing housework or just hanging out around the house, which only counts as barefooting if it's normal for people in your culture to keep your shoes on for it.
There was a significant interaction between footwear preference and activities (χ2(48)=240.82, p<.001). Obviously, people who prefer going barefoot are going to engage in more activities barefoot than people who prefer shoes. At the same time, people who preferred minimalist shoes or conventional shoes were proportionately much less likely to do activities barefoot.
There was also an interaction with sex (χ2(8)=33.41, p<.001). Women were significantly less likely than men to hike or drive barefoot (in proportion to the percentage of female subjects), or to engage in any barefoot activities at all.
There weren't any significant age differences in barefoot activities. Nor were there differences in different countries.
The most common principle reason to go barefoot was lifestyle (forty percent), followed closely by medical reasons (thirty-one percent). Spiritual reasons were cited for four percent and cultural for one percent. The "other" category was chosen by twenty percent. The majority of "other" responses gave comfort as the reason. Some said pleasure, feeling good, feeling free, enjoying feeling of the ground. One said shoes make their feet too hot. Some said it's fun. One said "to enjoy the outdoors". One said convenience. Two, both male, said it felt sexy. Some said for multiple reasons, or a tie between two.
Among the people who chose "other", two people said that shoes didn't fit or hurt - I moved them to "medical/health", along with one person who mentioned sensory issues and three who mentioned health. One person said it was part of being a naturist, and I moved that response to "lifestyle". One person said "I want to be near to nature" and I put that in with "religious/spiritual". One said it was just normal where they lived, and I put that in with "cultural".
I debated making "comfort" a separate category this year, since it was a common "other" choice last year, but decided I wanted people to choose between medical/health and lifestyle. Well, lots of people refused. You could argue that comfort falls under the lifestyle category, along with fun/pleasure/enjoyment, because it's only lifestyle and not medical. You could also argue that in some cases it's probably medical, but possibly not as extreme as medical medical (there are more urgent medical reasons, and less urgent medical reasons), because if shoes are uncomfortable, they're probably causing some sort of harm, even if they don't actually hurt. Shoes that hurt are a medical reason, because they're not supposed to hurt, but they're supposed to be comfortable, too.
There was a significant relationship between the main reason to go barefoot and preferred footwear (χ2(30)=59.93, p<.001). Almost everyone who had no footwear preference chose "other" as their primary reason, and most of them cited comfort. Also, not surprisingly, people who preferred conventional shoes/boots for footwear were proportionally more likely to give "none" as their reason for going barefoot, as were minimalist shoe wearers (regardless of how much they go barefoot) to a lesser extent.
There was no significant interaction between the main reason for going barefoot and sex, age or country.
The most common response was "enjoy the sensation of going barefoot" (eighty-nine percent), followed closely by "healthier feet" (eighty-three percent) and "happier feet" (eighty percent). "Improved fitness" (fifty-four percent) and "feeling closer to the Earth/to God" (forty-two percent) also got a lot of votes. Last year a few people mentioned feeling sexy. Given the opportunity, fifty-eight (fifteen percent) chose "sexy" this year.
Some of the "other" responses were fun, for example "Respecting my Goddess", "Bare feet go better with my outfits :-)" and " a tiny trickle of internet fame". On a more practical level, a few people also mentioned cooler, less sweaty or smelly feet.
Eight people gave "other" reasons that sounded like healthier to me (including medical issues and better balance) but didn't tick "healthier" so I moved them from "other" to that category, and I removed "other" for other people who listed medical issues under "other" as well as checking "healthier".
There was a significant interaction with footwear preference (χ2(48)=158.63, p<.001). People who preferred wearing conventional shoes/boots were far more likely to choose "none" for barefoot benefits, but other than that there weren't really any strong trends.
There was also an interaction with sex (χ2(8)=21.19, p<.01). Men were significantly more likely than women to list fitness as a benefit (χ2(1)=6.52, p<.05), and women were more likely than men to say "none".
There was no significant difference with age or country.
The most common response was cold weather (sixty-six percent) followed by discrimination (fifty-eight percent), ground too rough or dangerous to walk on (glass, thorns, stones etc.: forty-five percent), social norms (thirty-six percent), negative social attitudes (thirty-one percent) and hot weather (twenty-two percent). Ten percent said "other", while four percent said "what to wear" and three percent said "none". The most common responses for "other" were work requirements, and safety requirements at work. A few people mentioned medical conditions that prevented or interfered with them from going barefoot, and one person mentioned being threatened with physical violence for going barefoot.
There was a significant relationship between preferred shoe type and problems going barefoot (χ2(48)=83.00, p<.01). People who preferred conventional shoes or minimalist shoes had greater than chance problems with the ground being too rough while people who preferred bare feet were less likely than chance to find this a problem. People who preferred bare feet also had a lower than chance problems with hot weather while people who preferred minimalist shoes had more problems with it. People who preferred conventional shoes also listed "other" more often than chance, including one person who mentioned medical problems and one who was concerned with public hygiene.
There was also a significant interaction with sex (χ2(8)=25.31, p<.01). Women were significantly more likely than chance to have problems with the ground than men (χ2(1)=13.16, p<.001), and to a lesser degree with hot weather (χ2(1)=4.09, p<.05). This is in keeping with last year's findings as well as research showing greater heat, cold and pain sensitivity in women (and visible minorities) than in men (though there wasn't a significant difference for cold weather).
There was a significant interaction between problems going barefoot and age (χ2(48)=68.19, p<.05), with people under the age of 18 more likely to select "what to wear" and people 65 and over more likely to select "none".
There was also a significant interaction with country (χ2(72)=107.75, p<.01). Hot weather was more of a problem in the US, and less in Canada, while discrimination was more of a problem in the US and less in the Netherlands. "What to wear" was cited as being a bigger problem in "Other Europe" countries.
Eighty-seven percent of the total sample said "yes". Three percent said "no", five percent said "don't know" and five percent didn't answer. Of the people who did answer the question, ninety-two percent said "yes".
There was a significant relationship with footwear preference (χ2(18)=79.40, p<.001), with people who preferred conventional shoes and sandals much more likely to say "don't know" and people who preferred conventional shoes also more likely to say "no".
There was also a significant relationship with sex (χ2(3)=39.83, p<.001), with women far more likely to say "don't know" and men far less likely.
There was also a significant interaction with age (χ2(18)=31.63, p<.05), primarily because people age 65 and over were more likely to not answer this question.
There was no interaction with country.
This section is new this year.
The most common answer was never (thirty-six percent of participants) followed by less than twenty-five percent of the time (twenty-eight percent). Sixteen percent wear minimalist shoes between twenty-five and fifty percent of the time, while nine percent wear them between fifty and seventy-five percent of the time. Only six percent said they wear them more than seventy-five percent of the time while only four percent wear them all the time. Only one percent of people didn't answer the question. The more frequent the category, the fewer the people in it. Compare this to question three, where the frequency distribution was more spread out and the biggest categories were twenty-five to fifty percent, and fifty to seventy-five percent of the time.
There was a significant interaction between footwear preference and how often people wear minimalist shoes (χ2(36)=201.60, p<.001). Not surprisingly, people who preferred minimalist shoes wear them more often than other people.
There were no significant sex differences. There was a significant interaction with age (χ2(36)=55.14, p<.05), with people age 65 and up noticeably less likely to wear minimalist shoes, and people age 35-44 more likely to wear them more often.
There was a significant interaction with country (χ2(45)=71.82, p<.01). People in "other Northern European" countries were significantly more likely than expected to wear minimalist shoes more than seventy-five percent of the time.
Thirty-two percent said they had never worn minimalist shoes, followed by twenty-six percent who have worn them one to three years and eighteen percent who have worn them from three to five years. Seven percent had worn them between five and ten years while one percent each have worn them from ten to twenty years and more than twenty years. Less than one percent have worn them less than a year. In other words, of those who wear minimalist shoes, the vast majority (seventy-two percent) have worn them from one to five years.
Among those who wear minimalist shoes at least some of the time, there was no relationship between how long they have been wearing them and their footwear preference.
There was no relationship between how long people have worn minimalist shoes and sex or country. There was a significant interaction with age, though (χ2(42)=85.95, p<.001). Most obviously, people age 65 and up were significantly less likely to answer this question.
For some reason the most common response to this question was "shopping", which forty-four percent of subjects selected. This was not what I expected, given the emphasis on running these days. Running came fourth (thirty-four percent) after walking (forty-one percent) and socializing (thirty-seven percent). After running came work (thirty-three percent), driving (twenty-nine percent), and hiking (twenty-seven percent). Among the "other" responses were other sports like dodgeball, golf, gym, climbing, church and cycling. People also mentioned dangerous work, extreme cold (two people said this), climbing on rough or sharp rocks and when a foot is injured. Three people said "everything" and three mentioned going to school. I think, since the majority of the sample is people who prefer to go barefoot, that minimalist shoes are most often used when bare feet are not allowed or where they might attract negative attention (e.g. shopping) rather than primarily for exercise, and some of the "other" comments indicated this as well.
I moved one reason from "other" to "shopping" and one to "socializing".
There was a significant relationship between shoe preference and activities performed while wearing minimalist shoes (χ2(48)=267.74, p<.001). Not surprisingly, people who preferred to go barefoot were much less likely to wear minimalist shoes for activities while people who preferred minimalist shoes were much more likely to wear them. People who preferred conventional shoes were much more likely to say "none" and less likely to say "work" (none of them did).
There were no significant sex or country differences, but there was an interaction with age, as people in the 35-44 year old range were more likely to wear minimalist shoes for a variety of activities and people older than 55 were less likely to (χ2(48)=84.54, p<.001).
Many people said "none" (twenty-two percent) or didn't answer the question (fifteen percent). Of those who gave another answer, the most popular was medical/health (twenty percent), followed by "other" (seventeen percent), lifestyle (sixteen percent) and cultural (ten percent). Only one person said "spiritual/religious".
Unfortunately, I made an error in the coding and only got the first ten characters of people's answers for the "other" details, so can't break this category down. People did mention work, safety and weather conditions, though.
People who preferred minimalist shoes were more likely to choose "medical/health" and "lifestyle" as their biggest reason for wearing minimalist shoes, and the people who chose those categories were disproportionately people who preferred minimalist shoes. Most of the people who chose "cultural" were people who prefer to go barefoot, and they were probably wearing minimalist shoes because of social requirements (χ2(36)=111.45, p<.001).
There were no sex differences, but there was a significant relationship between why people wear minimalist shoes and age (χ2(36)=62.01, p<.01). People aged 25-44 were more likely and people 45-64 were less likely to say "lifestyle". Also, people 65 and up were more likely to not answer the question.
There was no interaction with country.
The most common response was "healthier feet" (forty-two percent of the total sample), then "happier feet" (thirty-six percent), followed by "improved fitness" (twenty-eight percent), and "enjoy the sensation of minimalist shoes" and "none" (tied for twenty-seven percent). "Impressing other people" was chosen by five percent while sixteen percent chose "other". I added three to the "fitness" category based on the comments.
The most common comments for "other" were protection and avoiding discrimination (thirteen each). People also said that it's as close as they can get to being barefoot (two) and that minimalist shoes are better/less terrible than regular shoes (two). Other comments included "feeling free", "to be AWESOME!", "they're sexy!', and "they are great for when I don't want to pay attention to where I am walking, but also don't want to carry around a "brick" on my foot. I feel nimble in them." One person said "I wouldn't have to touch the disgusting ground with my bare feet". No one else seemed to be disgusted by the ground, though some said they found it a bit rough underfoot.
There was a significant interaction with footwear preference (χ2(36)=115.44, p<.001). Not surprisingly, people who preferred minimalist shoes were more likely to choose "healthier feet", "happier feet", "improved fitness" and "enjoy the sensation of minimalist shoes" while the opposite was true of people who preferred bare feet. Minimalist shoe preferrers were also less likely to choose "none".
There were no sex differences. There was, however, a significant interaction with age (χ2(36)=71.19, p<.001), with people in the 35-44 age group disproportionately likely to select "healthier feet", "happier feet", "improved fitness" and "enjoy the sensation of minimalist shoes" and people age 55 and up disproportionately less likely to select these. People 65 and older were also more likely to select "none".
There was no interaction with country.
The most common response was "none" at (selected by thirty-seven percent of the entire sample of 389). The next most common responses were "fit or comfort" (seventeen percent), cost (fifteen percent), wet and cold weather (twelve percent each) and "other" (eleven percent). Social norms was selected by eight percent, while "what to wear" and "ground too rough or dangerous to walk on" tied for six percent. Social attitudes was selected by five percent, while hot weather and discrimination were selected by four percent.
The most common response under "other" was that the person preferred to go barefoot (nine people). Other common responses included not liking the shoes' appearance (eight people), lack of selection (two people), lack of availability (three people), not enough protection for some activities (three people), increased risk of injuries (three people), the smell (only two people, surprisingly, given how common a comment it is on the internet), and they wear out more quickly (one person). Two people mentioned work but didn't say whether it was a dress code (social norms) or a safety issue. I moved one "other" into "social norms" and one into "fit or comfort" and added one "none" based on the comments
There was a significant interaction with shoe preference (χ2(66)=189.81, p<.001). People who preferred shoes were more likely to have problems with cold weather, wet weather, rough ground and discrimination, while people with no footwear preference were more likely to have problems with social attitudes.
There was also a significant interaction with sex (χ2(7)=24.42, p<.05). Women were more likely to select "other" than men (χ2(1)=8.02, p<.01), with all but one of the comments on shoe appearance/style coming from women.
There was no significant interaction with age or country.
The most common response was "no" (twenty-nine percent), followed by "yes" and "no answer" (both twenty-eight percent). Fifteen percent said they didn't know.
There was a significant interaction with footwear preference (χ2(18)=55.24, p<.001), with people who prefer minimalist footwear more likely and barefooters less likely to say "yes".
There was a significant interaction with sex (χ2(3)=9.36, p<.05) with women more likely than expected to say "no".
There was also a significant interaction with age (χ2(18)=31.68, p<.05). People between 55 and 64 were less likely to say "yes" or "don't know" and more likely to say "no" or not answer, while people between 25 and 34 were more likely to say "yes" and less likely to not answer.
There was no interaction with country.
This question is new.
Almost everyone (ninety-seven percent) said "yes". Two percent said "no" and one percent did not answer.
There was a significant interaction with preferred footwear (χ2(12)=41.87, p<.001), with people who prefer conventional shoes more likely to say "no" and people who preferred "other" footwear more likely to say "no" or not answer.
There was also a significant interaction with sex (χ2(2)=13.97, p<.001), with women more likely than men to say "no".
There was no interaction with age or country.
A majority (seventy-two percent) said "no", while twenty-six percent said "yes" and two percent did not answer.
Not surprisingly, there was a significant interaction with shoe preference (χ2(12)=93.76, p<.001), with barefooters more likely to say "no" and less likely to say "yes", and people who preferred minimalist shoes, flip flops and conventional shoes/boots (but not sandals) more likely to say "yes" and less likely to say "no".
There was also a significant interaction with sex (χ2(2)=12.68, p<.01), with women disproportionately more likely to say "yes". Last year, not one woman said "yes". The difference between years is that last year's sample was primarily barefooters, while this year some subjects were recruited from non barefooting environments.
There was no interaction with age or country.
This was a very barefoot-friendly sample, with most comments being positive or neutral towards going barefoot. Common comments included bare feet being superior, liking going barefoot, going barefoot being good for you, and going barefoot being natural. Some said that people should be allowed to do what they want when it comes to going barefoot or wearing shoes, while others said people should go barefoot more. Some compared wearing shoes to wearing gloves - something to be reserved for when it's necessary. Some said it should be more acceptable. A few people mentioned running barefoot being good for their running. A couple of people mentioned the benefits of minimalist shoes. The most common negative response was that going barefoot can be dangerous or impractical in some environments. One mentioned that it's not that fashionable, and another that it doesn't fit their lifestyle, while some mentioned that it's not acceptable in some locations. A couple of people thought it was gross or unacceptable to be barefoot in public around other people e.g. in restaurants. A couple of people didn't see the point of going barefoot - they didn't see any possible benefits to it.
A lot of people said they were fine and didn't need any support.
A lot of other people talked about discrimination, and wanting to go barefoot but being barred from stores, restaurants, trains, gyms etc. in ignorance. A few people mentioned wanting to go barefoot at work. A lot talked about acceptance, tolerance, and being left alone to make their own decisions. A few mentioned legal issues, including the possibility of having an organization to take legal action, and getting businesses and services to accept waivers.
Some people said it would be nice if more people went barefoot, and a couple would like more barefoot people to do things with. Some mentioned needing support from their families and friends. A few mentioned liking positive comments.
Some mentioned that they'd like society to recognize how safe and healthy it is to go barefoot, and that in general it's not a health and safety issue. Some mentioned that cities can be hard to walk in barefoot in places because of lack of thought, pollution, etc., and having cleaner cities with more barefoot-friendly surfaces would be nice.
A few mentioned the stigma of bare feet, including fear of women having large feet, the stereotype of the dirty hippie, and a need for more positive images in the media.
Some people mentioned that they'd like more choices of minimalist shoes, including better fit and more attractive styles for more formal occasions. One person mentioned that bare feet won't be accepted until rich people start to find it fashionable. (I would like to point out that that may be happening right now with the barefoot running movement!) One person said it would be nice if people could see beyond the bare feet.
Sixty-three percent of the sample described themselves as a "normal person". The next most common category was "nature lover" (forty-seven percent), then "athletic" (thirty-six percent), then a tie between "eccentric" and "artistic type" (thirty-two and thirty-one percent respectively). Seventeen percent of the sample selected "hippie", followed by "paleo/primal" (fourteen percent), "rural" (thirteen percent), and "nudist" (eleven percent). Eleven percent checked "other".
Common "other" responses included "geek/nerd" (nine), healthy (three), pagan/Wiccan (two), Christian (two), autistic (two), academic (two), spiritual (two), engineer (two), scientist (two) and pragmatic (two). Some fun responses included "Real Life Superhero" (this is apparently someone who actually dresses up as a superhero in public), "chubby urban smartass", "bad ass", "cowboy" and "classy".
There was a significant interaction with sex (χ2(9)=29.38, p<.001). Women were significantly more likely to describe themselves as artistic, eccentric and hippies, as well as significantly less likely to describe themselves as nudists (nudism in general appears to be predominantly male, at least in Canada and the US).
There was no interaction with footwear preference, age or country.
Ratings were rated from one (lowest) to five (highest).
|Country||Number of Ratings||Average rating / 5|
When grouped by larger region, Canada, the US and the UK ranked in the middle, with Australia/New Zealand, Other Northern Europe and Western Europe ranking higher, and Other Europe and Other Americas ranking lower. The remaining countries as a group ranked the highest, but there are so few ratings for this group the number is less reliable. Also, these countries aren't all from the same part of the world, and don't really represent a particular cultural group.
|Country||Number of ratings||Average rating / 5|
|Other Northern Europe||22||3.64|
|Other Western Europe||22||3.27|
Last year's survey found that Northern and Western European countries (other than the UK) were ranked very barefoot friendly, and this survey reinforces that.
People who prefer going barefoot rated their countries highest in terms of barefoot-friendliness (3.04), followed by those who prefer minimalist shoes (2.86), then sandals (2.44), then flip flops (2.18). People who preferred conventional shoes rated their countries the least barefoot-friendly (1.93): only sixty-three percent as friendly as barefooters. There was no significant relationship between shoe preference and country, so this suggests that people who prefer shoes perceive their countries as being less barefoot-friendly than those who prefer to go barefoot. This could be practical experience or cognitive bias. This relationship is significant (F(6,382)=3.474, p=.0024).
The more often people go barefoot, the more likely they are to rate their country's barefoot friendliness higher. This is significant (F(5,384)=13.29, p<.0001).
This is also true for individual countries (US, UK) that have enough data in each category for an anova, but not necessarily for the smaller country data sets. (US: F(5,197)=7.773, p<.0001; UK: F(5,56)=7.276, p<.0001).
This chart does not include values where N=1, or values for "Other countries" because of lack of geographic integrity in that group.
Interestingly, the "Other Northern Europe" countries have enough data in four "how often" groups for an anova, but the rating trend is level for these countries (F(3,21)=0.06331, p=.98). They have one of the highest overall ratings, and they did last year too.
When you look at it from the other direction, looking at differences between countries at any given frequency of barefooting, there are only significant differences across countries for people who go barefoot less than twenty-five percent of the time (F(6,78)=7.857, p<.0001). (There really aren't enough ratings in the "never" category to be sure if there's a significant difference there, but for the three countries that have enough data, there isn't.)
|How often barefoot?||US||Canada||Australia/NZ||UK||Other N Europe||Netherlands||Other W Europe||Other Europe||Other Americas|
|all the time||3.56||3.33||3.50||3.50||4.50|
***=significant at p<.0001
Again, like the previous chart, this table doesn't include ratings where there is only one rater in that category.
At the same time, there is an interaction between how long people have gone barefoot and how barefoot-friendly they rate their country (F(6,370)=7.051, p<.0001), though it looks like the only real significance here is that people who do not go barefoot at all rate their country much less barefoot-friendly than anyone who goes barefoot at all for any length of time.
Women rated their countries as less barefoot-friendly than men did (2.67 vs 3.01, t(381)=2.3839, p=.0176). This could be due to practical experience (different social expectations for the two sexes) or due to sex role expectations. In other words, it could be a real difference or a perceived/expected one. Since women in this sample were significantly less likely to go barefoot at all, and people who do not go barefoot at all give their country lower barefoot-friendly ratings than people who go barefoot at least some of the time, that might be all the explanation required.
Like last year, older subjects tended to rate their countries as being more barefoot friendly than younger subjects. However, like last year, this did not reach statistical significance (F(6,381)=1.648, p=.13).
It looks as though more experienced barefooters rate their countries more barefoot friendly in the US and UK, but not the rest of Northern Europe, and that people who go barefoot less often find the biggest differences in barefoot-friendliness between countries. Is this because people who go barefoot more often are more realistic about how barefoot-friendly their area is, or because people can go barefoot as much as they like in more barefoot-friendly areas? I don't think it's possible to determine from the data, but I expect it's both, since people who never go barefoot give the lowest ratings.
There were a wide variety of comments, with no common theme, so I don't really know what to tell you. You can read them here: www.anemonecerridwen.net/bfsurvey2014data.php.
One person asked about how representative this survey would be. Obviously it is highly biased in favour of people who go barefoot, since that's where it was advertised, and that's who cares about the issue. I do think the sample of barefooters is probably representative of barefooters in the US and UK, and maybe also some other countries. I'm guessing that the majority of barefooters who hang out online in barefooting communities probably participated.
Last year it was fairly obvious there were two main groups of people who participated in the survey: people who went barefoot more than twenty-five percent of the time who didn't like shoes, and people who went barefoot less than twenty-five percent of the time and who did like shoes. This year's sample was a lot more complex than that, because of all the questions about other footwear types, so I did a simple cluster analysis of the data. I removed comment fields and "other" fields (without reassigning any "other" data as I did for some questions above), and made everything except the country rating a binary variable (yes/no). Then I calculated correlation coefficients for all variables, and clustered them using a simple arithmetic mean. For both question clusters and subject clusters, I used p<.05 as the cutoff for correlations, which meant that I included almost every question in a cluster, and was left with only two subject groups.
For the questions, there were twenty-nine clusters and eight items not clustered at the end. Correlations ranged from 0.91 to my cutoff of 0.099. Not surprisingly, the three largest clusters were of barefooter items, minimalist shoe items, and shoe items. Some people scored high in one cluster and not the others, while many people scored high in more than one cluster. It makes sense to see the clusters of question items as a menu rather than a strict typology.
For the subjects, correlations ranged from 0.90 to my cutoff of 0.168. There were two groups: eighteen shoe people, and everyone else. "Everyone else" divides into people who go barefoot and don't care one way or the other about minimalist shoes, people who go barefoot and are negative about minimalist shoes, people who go barefoot and also wear minimalist shoes, and people who wear minimalist shoes but aren't really barefooters at all. There are numerous subdivisions. Flip flop and sandal preferrers didn't come out as separate groups, probably because I only asked three questions each for these categories, as opposed to ten each for barefooting and minimalist shoe wearing.
You can see the actual clusters at www.anemonecerridwen.net/bfsurvey2014array.php. Smaller question clusters in the array are in order of statistical significance, while I list them here thematically.
Q1. Go barefoot
Q2. Prefer to go barefoot
Q3. Most often barefoot
Q6. Barefoot activities: shopping, socializing, walking, driving, hiking
Q8. Benefits of going barefoot: enjoy the sensation of going barefoot, healthier feet, happier feet, improved fitness
Q10. Would go barefoot more often if problems going barefoot were resolved
Q18. Enjoy going barefoot
Q19. Do not enjoy shoes
Comment: I think the relative abundance of male barefooters is real, not a sampling artifact, at least for Canada and the US. Certainly, participation in the online barefooting community is mostly male. And barefoot runners in the US appear to be mostly men*.
*Goss, Donald L., and Michael T. Gross. 2012. Relationships Among Self-reported Shoe Type, Footstrike Pattern, and Injury Incidence. The United States Army Medical Journal October-December 2012:26-30. [http://www .cs.amedd.army .mil/amedd_journal.aspx]
Q1. Wear shoes
Q2. Prefer shoes
Q3. Most often wearing shoes
Q4. Go barefoot less than 25% of the time or never
Q5. How long going barefoot: Never
Q6. Barefoot activities: None
Q7. Biggest reason to go barefoot: None
Q8. Benefits of going barefoot: None
Q10. Don't know if would go barefoot more often if problems with going barefoot were resolved
Q16. Problems with minimalist shoes: ground too rough
Q18. Do not enjoy going barefoot
Q19. Enjoy wearing shoes
Comment: I think women do like shoes more than men do (because fashion!), but it's also possible that there are more women than men in this group because I recruited subjects from jezebel.com, a fashion/feminism blog. Last year none of the women who participated said they liked shoes, but they were barefooters.
Q1. Wear minimalist footwear
Q2. Prefer minimalist footwear
Q3. Most often wearing minimalist footwear
Q4. Go barefoot 25-50% of the time
Q5. Have been going barefoot 1-3 years
Q11. Wear minimalist footwear more than 75% of the time
Q12. Have been wearing minimalist footwear 1-3 years
Q13. Minimalist shoe activities: Shopping, socializing, walking, driving, work, running, hiking
Q14. Biggest reason to wear minimalist shoes: Lifestyle reasons
Q15. Benefits to wearing minimalist shoes: Healthier feet, happier feet, improved fitness, enjoy the sensation of minimalist shoes
Q17. Would wear minimalist shoes more often if problems with minimalist shoes were resolved
Then there were small clusters of other footwear preferences:
Q1. Wear flip flops
Q2. Prefer flip flops
Q3. Most often wearing flip flops
Q1. Wear sandals
Q2. Prefer sandals
Q3. Most often wearing sandals
Q2. Footwear preference: None
Q3. Most frequent footwear: None
Q11. Don't wear minimalist shoes
Q12. Don't wear minimalist shoes
Q13. Minimalist shoe activities: None
Q14. Biggest reason to wear minimalist shoes: None
Q15. Benefits to wearing minimalist shoes: None
Q16. Problems wearing minimalist shoes: None
Q17. Would not wear minimalist shoes more often if problems with them were resolved
Q5. Have been going barefoot 3-5 years
Q6. Barefoot activities: Running
Q11. Wear minimalist shoes 50-75% of the time
Q12. Have been wearing minimalist shoes 3-5 years
Q16. Problems with minimalist shoes: Hot weather
Q22. Describe themselves as: Athlete
Q4. Go barefoot all the time
Q6. Barefoot activities: Work
Q9. Problems going barefoot: None
Q26. Rated their countries more barefoot-friendly than others.
Comment: Blessed are those who can go barefoot at work. They seem to have it the easiest.
Q22. Describe themselves as:
Q8. Benefits of going barefoot: Feeling closer to the Earth/to God
Q22. Describe themselves as:
Q5. Have been going barefoot 10-20 years
Q22. Describe themselves as: Nudist
Q8. Benefits of going barefoot: Feeling sexy; impressing other people
Q15. Benefits of wearing minimalist shoes: Impressing other people
Country: "Other Europe" (Russia, Spain, Romania, Italy, Portugal)
Q9. Problems going barefoot: Discrimination
Comment: This makes sense as it seems as though the US is the country most opposed to going barefoot, at least among western countries. Older barefooters tell us hostility to bare feet came about as a way of getting at Vietnam war protestors without directly challenging their political views. Naturally this would have been centered in the US. Also, this is the country with the largest number of people who took the survey.
Q14. Biggest reason to wear minimalist shoes: Spiritual reasons
Q16. Problems wearing minimalist shoes: Discrimination
Country: "Other Americas" countries (Mexico, Bermuda, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Venezuela, Guatemala).
Country: "Other Northern European Countries" (Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Latvia).
Q16. Problems with minimalist shoes: What to wear
Country: "Other Western Europe" (Germany, Belgium, France, Austria, Switzerland)
Q10. Would not go barefoot more often if problems going barefoot were resolved.
Q9. Problems with going barefoot: Negative social attitudes, social norms, what to wear
Q16. Problems with wearing minimalist shoes: Negative social attitudes, social norms
Age: Less than 18 years old
Q4. Go barefoot more than 75% of the time
Q11. Wear minimalist shoes less than 25% of the time
Q5. Have been going barefoot less than 1 year
Q12. Have been wearing minimalist shoes less than 1 year
Q5. Have been going barefoot more than 20 years
Q12. Have been wearing minimalist shoes more than 20 years
Q7. Biggest reason to go barefoot: Medical reasons
Q14. Biggest reason to wear minimalist shoes: Medical reasons
Q11. Wear minimalist shoes all the time
Q9. Problems with going barefoot: Hot weather, rough ground, cold weather
Q16. Problems with wearing minimalist shoes: Fit/comfort, cost, cold weather, wet weather
Q7. Biggest reason to go barefoot: Spiritual reasons
Q12. Have been wearing minimalist shoes 10-20 years
Q4. Go barefoot 50-75% of the time
Q11. Wear minimalist shoes 25-50% of the time
Q5. Have been going barefoot 5-10 years
Q12. Have been wearing minimalist shoes 5-10 years
Q7. Biggest reason to go barefoot: Cultural reasons
Q14. Biggest reason to wear minimalist shoes: Cultural reasons
The following items do not correlate significantly with each other or with the other clusters.
Q7. Biggest reason to go barefoot: Lifestyle reasons
Q17. Don't know if would wear minimalist shoes more often if problems with them were resolved
Q22. Describe themselves as normal
Sex: "Other" or no answer
Country: Australia/New Zealand
Country: Other country
Last year I found that there were far more men than women who go barefoot, and this year confirmed that. I don't know if this is representative of all people who go barefoot in all countries, or even all wealthy countries, but it appears to be representative of people who participate in barefooting communities online in English. Also, this year's results confirmed that women have a harder time with rough ground and temperature (something that fits with the research on pain sensitivity, as I discussed last year (pdf)).
Last year I also found that Northern and Western European countries (apart from the UK) appeared to be more barefoot friendly than English-speaking countries, and this year confirmed that they are more barefoot-friendly than the United States, Canada, and the UK, in the opinion of people who go barefoot in those countries.
I think the most interesting thing I found this year was that people are more likely to rate their country barefoot-friendly if they go barefoot at all, with higher ratings in the US and UK correlating with how much a person goes barefoot. It's not clear whether people perceive their area as being barefoot-friendly because they go barefoot and can see how easy it is, or whether people go barefoot more because their area is more barefoot friendly (in larger countries there is a wide range of how barefoot-friendly a particular region can be).
I am not planning on doing another survey next year, since I didn't really find a lot I want to follow up on, but I may do one again in five years to see how much things have changed. If I do I will drop some questions and combine others based on the results here. Some questions really don't need to be repeated every year (e.g. "how would you describe yourself?"). Suggestions are always welcome.
This analysis of the data was limited both by the software I had handy and knew how to use, and by my own statistical limitations. Most of these calculations were done in an Excel spreadsheet, including the chi-square tests and correlations/clusters. Clustering was done using unweighted arithmetic means, primarily because it's the easiest way to do it in a spreadsheet. I would probably have used weighted means had I not had to calculate each mean individually. The Anovas and t-test were done using online calculators. There were 389 subjects, but not all subjects answered all questions. However, numbers for each question tended to be more than 380 for almost all questions.