National Barefoot Week – is it, really?

June 1-7 has been, once again, declared “National Barefoot Week” by Soles4Souls, a Nashville-based charity that collects new and used shoes to be donated to people in need around the world. The week-long event is a yearly highlight the charity uses to encourage people to get involved in donating any type of footwear to be re-distributed in the US and other places where people might need it.

As part of the drive, Soles4Souls encourages people to take off their shoes and spend some time barefoot in order to personally experience what would it be like to have no shoes to put on their feet.

While I recognize this organization might be well-intentioned in its efforts, I must also pinpoint that it is actually helping further perpetuate wrong assumptions and stereotypes about living one’s life without shoes such as: shoes are indispensable to function in modern society, and bare feet are the ultimate sign of poverty and disgrace.

Having grown up (until I was 21) in El Salvador, one of the smallest and poorest nations in Latin America, I had the chance to observe and interact closely with a lot of these “poor” people who can’t afford a pair of shoes and, as far as I can remember, the biggest hardship that these people confront from not having shoes is discrimination and embarrassment due to social pre-conceptions — very similar to the ones we all barefooters confront on a daily basis up here in North America – whether we go barefoot because we’re destitute or because we simply feel it’s a better option to footwear.

What organizations like Soles4Souls, seem to miss is that this kind of charity is a perfect example of a “bandaid-type solution” since it doesn’t tackle the root of the problem but it gives a “pretty” solution to a problem that should not exist in the first place.

While it is very true that people in less fortunate areas need help, the last thing they probably need is a pair of shoes that will only last a few months, at best. Instead, How about using all the resources provided by donations and corporate sponsorship towards long-term solutions like literacy and education, health-care, community and infrastructure re-building, etc., etc.

It is also unfortunate, and borderline sad, to see that many fellow barefooters, and even a number of barefoot-advocating groups, are now buying into this “Barefoot Day/Week” craze by encouraging people to go barefoot in celebration of this “holiday” due to its misguiding name and not even knowing what they are supporting and promoting.

Let it be clear that I am not against charity or the efforts of Soles4Souls and any other organizations that donate shoes to people in need. I just find it a bit disturbing how these organizations are twisting their messages in order to gain support from unaware members of the general public.

4 Responses to “National Barefoot Week – is it, really?”

  • Moe, I couldn’t agree with you more. A “national week” for going barefoot, for proclaiming the joy, the comfort, the rational saneness and benefits of going barefoot – only to provide shoes to “poor” nations and people? To take the natural feet of the unshod and hide them in old/used shoes… shoes that are already broken down from their use… and make it worse all in the name of misplaced concern and aesthetics?
    You’re right in that it is more a cultural and societal observation than one of actually helping someone. Unless those shoes are specifically for someone in need of foot protection because of job safety, it is a disservice to the souls they are trying to help.
    Unfortunately, even by telling others who see our bare feet, “Hey, it’s National Barefoot Week!” I fear we will continue to be seen as someone just outside the norm who is just looking to create discomfort for others or trying to be be “seen” as different, not someone who is perfectly happy to have retired their footwear.
    ~ Chuck Pruitt

  • Gary:

    Good points Moe. We are very easily swayed. Thanks for the insight.

  • I’m working on launching a company built around a product called “paper-feet” @paperfeet or http://www.paper-feet.com | These super-thin sandals fit like a second skin and are made with durable repurposed billboard advertisement vinyl. They fold flat or roll, pocket ready for any adventure.
    For people that need minimalist protection for their transition to full barefooting, paper-feet are ideal. Sure recycling waste that otherwise gets tossed (14×48 foot ads weigh 80 pounds each) is noble, but my question to barefooters everywhere is, together, how can we rally behind this idea, a company with a vision creating footprints for social change? | Save the world, Save your sole. Cheers, Jimmy

  • Adam:

    Then it is up to us to dispel these misconceptions and get the truth out. silence = bad. If I get confronted about this charity thing ,I’ll tell people or the charity it self that bare feet are better, and that we should be campaigning for food and medicines for the souls, not used shoes that disbenifits our feet.
    There are children in Africa crawling on the ground looking for bugs to eat just to stay alive RIGHT NOW, as I type this, the LAST thing they need is a pair of used worn out shoes. They seem to be getting along just fine with out shoes, but they seem to be dyeing of HUNGER and lack of MEDICINES, NOT a lack of foot wear.

Leave a Reply

Key Articles

Care to lend me a hand?
Any donation will be greatly appreciated and all the proceeds will go towards the upkeep of this and my other websites


All donations are securely handled by PayPal.
Eternally grateful, Barefoot Moe