Barefoot movement looks for toehold

Barefoot movement looks for toehold
Las Vegas-based nonprofit Barefoot is Legal sees Encinitas as fertile ground for spreading its message of barefoot acceptance. Stock photo

ENCINITAS — Jackie Bruner slides off her flip flops behind the counter at Encinitas Boxing and Fitness. Being barefoot, she said, is her preferred mode of existence.

Bruner said she prefers being without shoes when she takes strolls with her boyfriend, works out at the gym and in the comfort of her home. 

“It’s more comfortable,” she said. 

She isn’t alone. Across Encinitas — and the country — more and more people are shedding shoes on walks, shopping runs, workouts and other aspects of everyday life. 

The barefoot movement hasn’t been accepted by everyone. Restaurants and stores frequently admonish patrons that without shoes, they won’t be served. 

A Las Vegas-based organization, however, is trying to change this, and it sees Encinitas as a fertile ground for spreading the doctrine of barefoot acceptance.

Barefoot is Legal is a nonprofit organization that is trying to eradicate the stigma associated with being barefoot, and raise awareness that there are no laws against the practice, despite the common misconception of such rules. 

Proponents of being barefoot point to various health studies that tout the health benefits of the practice, including increasing antioxidants, reducing inflammation and improving sleep. 

“Americans are conditioned to believe that not wearing shoes is illegal, unhealthy and dangerous,” said Dave Kelman, founder and president of the nonprofit. “Flip flops are the world’s most worn shoe. People wear them because they want to go barefoot, but think it is illegal. There are many health benefits to ‘earthing’ — that people will not take advantage of because of being yelled at or kicked out of a store.”

Myekah Beond, the organization’s Pacific regional director, said the group’s research points to the  stigma associated with barefooted behavior starting with the anti-hippie movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. 

“We looked and before that, being barefoot was considered normal,” Beond said. “But during the end of the ‘60s and early ‘70s, store owners started putting those ‘no shirts, no shoes no service’ signs up because they did not want the hippies in their establishment. 

“What happened between then and now is that it has been perpetuated and now people believe there is some health code violation or rule against being barefoot in stores, restaurants and other places, and we’ve debunked that,” Beond said. “It’s a myth ingrained in everyone’s head.”

For instance in San Diego, the County Department of Environmental Health has no laws or regulations dealing with being barefoot in establishments, said Michael Workman, a county spokesman. 

“Since being barefoot while dining is not considered a factor in maintaining a safe food environment or food handling practices, it is not addressed under the food safety regulations,” Workman said. “Requiring patrons/customers to wear shoes or other customer practices that do not affect food safety are completely at the discretion of the food facility management.”

Beond said that half of the organization’s efforts are aimed at assisting people who run into problems at establishments who discriminate against them because they are barefoot. 

For example, Beond said that last week he dealt with a drugstore manager who told him to leave the store because he was barefoot. He ended up contacting the store’s regional manager who said apologized and said that he didn’t believe in enforcing the store policy because he knew it wasn’t backed by any laws, and told the store manager to allow him to shop. 

“You regularly run into employees who think there’s a law against it, and a higher up who knows that there isn’t and doesn’t want to kick out a paying customer, so 80 percent of the time they’ll apologize and say it shouldn’t have happened,” Beond said. 

While there aren’t any laws, some restaurant and other businesses will continue to enforce those policies — and it’s their right, a representative of the California Restaurant Association said. 

Restaurants and other establishments reserve the right to refuse service for various reasons, said Chris Duggan, the organization’s director of local government affairs. 

In the case of a barefoot patron, Duggan said, a restaurant might decline to serve them out of an abundance of caution because of liability issues. A barefoot patron’s foot could get cut on a glass shard or some other debris, he said. 

“You want to make sure you have a safe environment, so a barefoot customer could get turned away because of safety concerns,” Duggan said. “Of course, there are a lot of beach communities in San Diego, from Ocean Beach all the way up to Oceanside, so some restaurants might be more liberal in enforcing the policy.”

Beond said this was one of the reasons he moved from Valley Center to Encinitas in December. 

“When I came here, I was working at a vegan restaurant and every day I saw someone new come in who wasn’t wearing shoes,” said Beond, who shed his footwear 20 years ago after suffering from knee pain that doctors said would require surgery to fix. He’s been pain-free since losing the shoes, he said. 

“We’re looking at this area as a hotbed of awareness, so to speak,” Beond said. 

To that end, the organization is hosting a meet-up at 4 p.m. July 29 at Native Foods in Encinitas, as it looks for more people to be ambassadors of the barefoot movement. 

For people like Bruner, this is music to their ears. 

“I think there should be more awareness of the fact that it’s not bad to be barefoot,” she said. “I think there shouldn’t be a stigma against it because it’s natural, it is the way we were made to walk.”

For more information about Barefoot is Legal, visit the group’s website www.barefootislegal.org.

25 Comments
  1. Nick Deutschmann 1 week ago

    Giving up shoes was the best thing I did for pain management! If to add one thing flip flops cause so many injures but are considered proper footwear?? Thank you to Barefoot is Legal for the knowledge they’ve given me!

  2. Michael Diaz 1 week ago

    Thank you, Thank You, Thank You!
    Everything in this article is spot on and I try to tell people this information, some don’t believe me. They think there is some kind of law or code. I am so grateful for this, I’m vindicated.

    I can’t wear shoes due to medical reasons and there is only one thing about the article I need to add.
    The part about the restaurant association. If someone like me, who has a doctors note, enters a business, they can not refuse service.

    It falls under section 51 of the California civil code and as a medical condition is protected.
    So in that instance, they can not refuse service, or they violate the civil code.

  3. Kristen 1 week ago

    That’s pretty cool! Hate shoes but do worry about the stigma people have against not wearing shoes.

  4. Leah 1 week ago

    I love that something so normal and natural is being covered! Thank you for helping spread awareness to the barefoot movement. Peace, love, and light.

  5. Nicole Cote 1 week ago

    I have been barefoot for years and was thrilled to discover the page barefoot is legal. There are so many benefits to going barefoot yet there is a stigma associated with it. People need to understand that’s it’s not dirty and it’s acceptable to walk around without restrictions and being bound up.

  6. Angie 1 week ago

    Great article! I live in the Utah mountain area and one by one my entire family hikes the trails barefoot now. We’ve found that we don’t sweat or tire as easily as with shoes on. There is a store or two who are unaccepting in our area but for the most part we go everywhere barefoot! It’s an amazing feeling & #BAREFOOTISLEGAL

  7. Glenn Anderson 1 week ago

    Great article. Thanks for publishing it. This is exactly the kind of useful information that people need to know. The myths and prejudices about bare feet are too common in this country, and positive articles like this help. I rarely comment on or share articles on social media, but this one struck me.

  8. Peter 1 week ago

    Great to see a positive article about barefooting and it’s benefits!

    The “Society for Barefoot Living” is another group (formed in 1994) that promotes the benefits of barefoot living and advocates for barefoot rights. Please check .

    This SBL website has a wealth of information, including letters from all 50 state Health Dept.s confirming that none requires shoes for customers. The site also links to many articles, blogs, videos and other authoritative and trustworthy resources that address the health and other benefits of going barefoot, while also debunking myths (a few of which were mentioned in this article).

  9. Peter 1 week ago

    Great to see a positive article about barefooting and it’s benefits!

    The “Society for Barefoot Living” is another group (formed in 1994) that promotes the benefits of barefoot living and advocates for barefoot rights. See: www. barefooters. org .

    This SBL website has a wealth of information, including letters from all 50 state Health Dept.s confirming that none requires shoes for customers. The site also links to many articles, blogs, videos and other authoritative and trustworthy resources that address the health and other benefits of going barefoot, while also debunking myths (a few of which were mentioned in this article).

  10. Xavier 1 week ago

    I’d like to add a few more points that businesses which are afraid of safety and liability issues should consider.

    First of all, the chances of getting a serious barefoot injury in a store is extremely small. When a glass object breaks, only large pieces of glass with jagged edges protruding upward or at an angle can cause serious injury, but such large glass is easily seen and avoided. When the broken glass object is cleaned up, any small glass left behind is not likely to cut, because the glass is too small and tends to lie flat. If the small glass does cut the foot, the cut would simply be too minor to be an issue. I have been going barefoot for over 20 years and have never been cut by glass in any store!

    Assuming that a customer does injure his foot in a case that could have been prevented by wearing shoes, the store would not be liable! Simply put, if a customer gets injured because he took a risk that he was well aware of (like going barefoot), under legal principle the business would not be liable for his injury. Establishments are not legally responsible for the actions of their patrons. When someone walks into a public venue, they legally assume whatever risk they bring upon themselves.

    As an example, this principle is explicitly stated in the following Georgia code:

    § 51-11-7. Effect of plaintiff’s failure to avoid consequences of defendant’s negligence.
    If the plaintiff by ordinary care could have avoided the consequences to himself caused by the defendant’s negligence, he is not entitled to recover.

    In other words, if the plaintiff could have avoided injury by wearing shoes, the business is not liable. Similar laws exist in other states to protect the business.

    If the store has any doubts about this, then they can simply post a sign that says something like “barefoot at own risk” or “proper footwear advised for your safety”. This would completely absolve the business from liability, while not interfering with the customer’s personal freedom.

    Finally, it should be noted that there are no insurance rules that void coverage for barefoot related injuries. The insurance will cover all expenses related to such a lawsuit, and even pay the award to the plaintiff if he wins (which is nearly impossible), without penalty to the business. For proof, go to:

    http://ahcuah.wordpress.com/2011/09/16/business-owners-and-barefoot-insurance

    But think about this: If safety and liability were such a big issue, then why are so many coastal town stores and restaurants accepting of barefoot customers? Wouldn’t they have suffered from many lawsuits already and thus stopped accepting barefoot customers?

  11. Ben 7 days ago

    This is an excellent article overall, and well states the issues that some of us who have chosen to (or need to) never wear shoes or other footwear have to deal with.

    But unfortunately, the article loses some credibility when the spokesperson for his organization touts the pseudoscience nonsense known as “earthing.” Being barefoot is a healthy and natural state, as human feet were designed to function perfectly under all conditions without “support” or coverings. Obviously people can and will believe what they choose to believe – and it is their right, as long as it’s not causing some harm to someone else by espousing those beliefs. But the theory of “earthing” or “grounding,” which relates to the body absorbing electrons, and electrons going back and forth, is neither logical nor a scientifically sound hypothesis. It is almost certainly based on people seeing what they want to see, and mistaking anecdotes for data. If this truly were based on actual unbiased scientific tests and studies, then there would be universal acceptance of it, and there isn’t.

    But the biggest problem with promoting such notions as a reason to go barefoot, is that the vast majority of not only scientists, but just people in general (if they’ve even heard of it), look at this “earthing” thing as some kind of silly new-age fringe nonsense. And if that’s being claimed as a valid reason to go barefoot, it sends the message that we’re all a bunch of kooks. The message should be that being barefoot is not only natural and healthy, but also based on provable medical and scientific facts.

    • Brent 5 days ago

      Barefootislegal.org is the best modern website for going barefoot. The SBL was great in the 1990s but has become a place where people are too timid to get their own news media. The SBL was the cassette, which had a good run. The BIL is Pandora, which is the current trend. Instead of being exclusive and make people feel as though you are in a cult, perhaps try to work on your own image. Sounds like you are hating that this website got some media attention.

  12. Kriss 7 days ago

    I agree with Peter above. The Society for Barefoot Living is the original barefoot rights support and information organization, and its website is a wealth of facts, advice, and other information covering all facets of living a barefoot lifestyle. Anyone who is interested in learning more can check them out at http://www.barefooters.org/ .

    • James Shaw 5 days ago

      No one cares about that website. The goal is to be inclusive to everyone and not just because who only believe the earth is flat.

      • Brent 5 days ago

        The BIL is today’s current standard for barefoot rights. Kriss Sands is trying to protect 1990s and keep the decade preserved. Give it up already that your website is not that popular anymore since you became an elitist cult.

        • Kriss 2 days ago

          Brent, you certainly have a right to your opinion, but I strongly disagree. The current SBL website http://www.barefooters.org/ is nothing like it used to be a few years ago, as many of its pages and information had become old and obsolete. It was totally revised and revamped a couple of years ago, and is now kept current on an ongoing basis. The BIL website has some good information as well, though, agreeing with Ben above, unfortunately their references to the pseudoscience nonsense called “earthing” or “grounding” as being a valid concept are doing the barefoot rights movement a disservice by helping to relegate barefooters to fringe cult status in the eyes of the public.

          No, the SBL is not an activist “in your face” organization and never has been. It is an organization that promotes living barefoot as a healthy lifestyle for those who choose to, and provides a wealth of information that supports barefoot rights. In fact, there is probably not a single topic or question anyone might have regarding living a successful barefoot lifestyle that is not answered or covered somewhere in the pages of the SBL site. It’s run by volunteers who freely give their time and donate their experience and knowledge based on extensive research into all aspects of living barefoot in today’s shod society. And the site will never ask anyone for money.

          • Brent 2 days ago

            I am not leaving the BIL. The BIL is way wicked awesome. I believe in health benefits and earthing so you may leave me alone and go back to your basement. The BIL has helped thousands of people and the management is super cool. When I was in the SBL all i heard was noise and people trying to be Elitist. I also like donating to the cause and looking forward to the progress we can accomplish. Quit trying to ram your website down our throats. I am quite happy with barefootislegal.org.

          • Kriss 22 hours ago

            Brent, nobody mentioned or even implied that you or anyone else should be “leaving the BIL.” I’m not sure why you wrote that. And I’m just curious – you’ve mentioned several times about the SBL trying to “Elitist”? What do you mean by that? Can you give us some specific examples of what you’re talking about, because I certainly don’t see that at all. So I’m really curious about how you’re getting that impression. Please enlighten us.

            BTW, I hope you’re not talking about the “SBL” facebook group, because that’s not the real SBL. They’re a group that stole the SBL name a few years ago, and have no affiliation whatsoever with the real SBL, as represented by the website http://www.barefooters.org/

            And as to “ram your website down our throats,” sounds like you really feel threatened. Honestly, you don’t need to feel threatened by a mention of the SBL. It’s there to help barefooters and potential barefooters and would never criticize or put down other sites that have the same basic purpose.

      • Ben 3 days ago

        Not only flat earth, James, but bizarre right wing conspiracy theories and pseudoscience mark the dictatorial leadership principles of the BIL. And that’s really unfortunate as so many people think barefooters are weirdos anyway, and that site – at least the leadership anyway – just helps confirm that in the eyes of the public.

    • Reagan 3 days ago

      Kriss and Ben, way to hijack an article and use it for nefarious reasons. When McDonalds has a new hamburger, Burger King does not scour the internet and post about their Whoppers and how much McDonalds sucks. Why not get your own articles? You did not invent going barefoot. Let it be and if you want to promote your website, get your own media instead of waiting for a much bigger website than you to get something going?

      • Ben 3 days ago

        Reagan, this article was included in a public newspaper. The newspaper has also provided this space for comments from the *public*, not just the fans of your website. If you have a problem with disagreement or criticism from readers, may I suggest never allowing a reporter to publish an article about something so dear to your heart in the future. I and others will continue to post our opinions, even if those opinions bother you as much as my last post did.

        • James Shaw 2 days ago

          Dave is the most naive manager in the history of all business. He has poor ideas and does not run things like other barefoot groups. He spends too much time with new people wanting to ask shitty newbie questions.He needs to focus on hardcore barefooters like us. Instead he spends too much time looking for new people. Because of this he has way too many members and too many people following his words. Nick and Mikah are his little lapdogs that are too afraid to ban him from the group and let big boys like us run the show. They get traffic but they are not smart enough to know what to do with it. I am in every other barefoot group except his. Please join my Facebook group Bare Feet Are Legal.

  13. Adrian 7 days ago

    The human foot contains over 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments. Just as the muscles, tendons and ligaments in other parts of the human body need exercise, it’s a healthy practice to exercise the muscles, tendons and ligaments in our feet. Very positive article! Thank you!

  14. Pat Holland 7 days ago

    Copy 5 Copy 4 Copy 3 Teeny Tiny Man Made Stuff ☹ Keep it From My Tootsies and the Rest of Me and Mine

    July 17, 2017
    Copyright Pat Holland 2016
    All Rights Reserved
    You may copy this only in its entirety, so people get the big picture.
    858 455 1033

    I stopped wearing sandals most of the time to discover foot numbness lessening greatly. Could it be that the nano materials going into so many sandals’ foot beds (and tops from anti smell wrappings in new shoe boxes, has been a cause of numbness?) For decades there has been scientific research showing health harm from many nano materials. Nano materials are now found in many sun screens, cosmetics, lotions, even furniture polish and other “cleaning products” , malls, stores, gas stations, amusemeant parks, a hospital chain, clothes, shoes, new cars, fragrances- they can migrate anywhere in the body, even cross the blood brain barrier!

    Some, in fragrances have been advertised as capable of altering emotions and behavior. They have been repeatedly observed to cause real physical addiction, irrational fear and anger, and even acquiescence. They have been observed to cause coughing, runny noses, red & teary eyes, physical exhaustion, even death.

    Breath and skin absorb them into your bloodstream and whole body. There is scientific evidence of health harm to humans, animals, even to the soils ability to produce plants.

    As second hand cigarette smoke can harm you, so can second hand man made nano materials.

    They poison, our air, water, food and bodies.

    I don’t want to get athletes’ foot, nor cuts on my feet. I do want my feet and rest of me protected from the nano materials that are flooding the environment . Must I live in a bubble? Why aren’t the nano poisons banned? Maybe together we can get that ban in every city, state, nation.

  15. Jono Santxo 4 days ago

    The feet are pathways of pleasure for the brain, where a sense of freedom, titillation, and comfort are all that’s needed. I’ve been barefooting for 4 years now, and it’s becoming an inconsiderate problem to even question whether I should ever wear shoes again.

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