Cities appear to be unfriendly towards bare feet. Chances are you’ve never seen anyone going about their daily business without shoes. However, it is possible to do pretty much everything barefoot, and although I’ve been stared at or had to face a few comments (sometimes negative, often out of “concern”, usually positive!), I’ve never been kicked out of any establishment. I thought I would list some of the places I’ve been to barefoot.
At home! This should be obvious but many people wear slippers at home. When I’m invited by friends or family some of them are concerned to see me barefoot and try to convince me to wear a pair. Thanks, but no thanks.
On the streets just about anywhere in the city. I walk many kilometres every day as I move across town a lot. There are fewer hazards than one would think but I occasionally come across something scary. Recently, a triple fish hook smack in the middle of the pavement. That’s a rare occurrence.
In the car. I’m not the driver but if I were to do it again I would definitely go bare. It is not forbidden by the law (unless your discarded footwear gets stuck under a pedal and causes an accident) and makes you more attuned to sensations.
In public transports such as the tram, the bus, or the train. People look at me but no one really cares. The weirdest time to do this is during the morning rush hour, all dressed up for work.
In a café. At the cafeteria. At take-away restaurants. I haven’t tried a more formal type of restaurant yet but have been fine everywhere else.
At the post office. The pharmacy. The supermarket. These were a little challenging at first. I thought pharmacists would be health freaks or that angry customers would complain to staff at the supermarket. The first couple of times I was convinced the police were coming at me everytime there was an announcement. I was invariably disappointed.
At the hairdresser’s. They were a little startled to see that I didn’t have any footwear, but they took it in stride. My hairdresser asked my to be careful because freshly cut hair can lodge themselves in your sole like thorns. At first I thought she was joking, but she said that it was a problem for them in the summer when they wore sandals. I walked across the floor several times without a problem. My skin is tough enough to handle sharp rocks, so it probably wouldn’t let hair in. Or else I was lucky.
Smaller shops and businesses. At my local health store, no one’s even batted an eyelid. I’ve gathered admirative comments at the farmer’s market, especially when the weather’s cold. After a while I started missing the old adrenaline rush, so I headed for a pretty posh stationary shop. With a beating heart, I strode through the main entrance and across the ground floor to take the stairs down to the basement. It is the most laid-back section, where I was able to calm down a bit. But when I asked staff, they told me the brown ink cartridges I was looking for were situated on the top floor – “the attic”. This meant crossing the ground floor again and making my way to the poshest section of the shop. I climbed back up, tried to walk with confidence among other customers, said a bright hello to a clerk, and took the carpeted stairs up to the attic where Mont Blanc pens and the like are displayed in shiny glass cases. Thankfully, the clerk couldn’t see my feet from behind the counter. The transaction went well and I was just about to make my escape when she handed me the bill. I let it slip out of my hand and, like an autumn leaf, or a feather, it fell down slowly and landed right next to my foot. Of course, she stepped out in front of the till, bent down to retrieve it… and handed it back to me with a smile.
On hikes in the countryside.
On a meditation retreat.
At taiji practice. My opinion is that every taiji practitioner should go barefoot, but in my club this isn’t the case. Still, it’s one of the few places where I’m not the only barefooter in sight, at least until the class ends and everyone suddenly realises that I haven’t brought any shoes. I have a friend from taiji who spends his entire summers barefoot. He’s the only person who’s ever gone bare alongside me on the street. Other than that, it’s just me and Frankenstein’s Monster.