Have you noticed that a lot of people are going barefoot in public these days?
Even on American Idol recently, Brooke White became quite popular as one who performs without shoes. In her final performance on American Idol, you can see her playing guitar and singing "Teach Your Children Well" with Graham Nash.
If you are an American Idol fan, you probably also noticed that whenever she played piano, she had one or both shoes off.
Some artists and entertainers such as Ottmar Liebert, Amy Grant, Cesária Évora, Kelly Clarkson, Ricky Martin, Linda Ronstadt, Joss Stone, Sandie Shaw, Lauren Harris, Sass Jordan, Cyndi Lauper, Gwen Stefani, Shakira, Mutabaruka, Henry Rollins, Saba Douglas-Hamilton, Deana Carter, Xavier Rudd, Measha Brueggergosman and Michael Franti perform and/or appear in bare feet so frequently that the barefoot look has become a "signature" of sorts for them. Their lack of footwear is often cited in publicity photos, album titles, interviews and even (in the case of Genevieve Gorder or Julia Roberts) parodies. These performers often cite comfort or nervousness for their preference, go barefoot to express political statements (Michael Franti, for example), and sometimes (as with Isadora Duncan) challenge significant social obstacles in order to do so. Source
But what about everyday non-celebrity people, like you and me? When is it okay to go barefoot in public? Better yet… is it even good etiquette to go shoeless, or to wear shoes that show your entire foot?
When It’s Okay To Go Barefoot…
With the exception of the state of Alabama, you can drive barefoot.
See the regulations for driving barefoot in other countries here.
You can go barefoot in any establishment that does not have a sign prohibiting it — like restaurants, grocery stores, and many clothing stores. Contrary to popular belief, bare feet are not prohibited by U.S. law in business establishments. The law actually refers to employees and not patrons. The Society for Barefoot Living proves this fact in a compilation of responses from states based on a mass inquiry about barefoot laws.
You can go barefoot in people’s homes (unless they happen to have a problem with bare feet). Many people I know, actually prefer that you remove your shoes in their home. Walking into a home and surveying whether or not there are shoes on the floor should tell you if the homeowners prefer guests to be barefoot or not.
Is Going Barefoot Good For You?
There are many reports that going barefoot may actually be healthier than wearing shoes. SixWise.com shares:
When It’s Not OK To Go Barefoot
Of course, there are also times when you wouldn’t want to go barefoot. They include:
Dirty places such as public restrooms and city streets
Business environments, because business dress includes wearing business shoes
Formal occasions, even though many women remove their shoes by the end of the night — especially if they are dancing
The White House and similar honored events. (You might recall the huge issue over the Northwestern University champion women’s lacrosse team visiting the White House in flip flops. If flip-flops aren’t allowed, bare feet will certainly be a problem.)
My $.02 On Bare Feet
Personally, I don’t mind seeing bare feet, but seeing them in unexpected places can be a bit distracting — such as on the stage of American Idol, or in the grocery store. I may or may not wear my feet bare, depending on my mood and the temperature of the ground or floor.
As a mother, I worry about foot injuries such as the pencil lead my daughter recently got in the bottom of her foot, and my son’s habit of stubbing his toes. However, I would rather them be barefoot than to see them ruining socks and stockings.
As for public places, I make my kids wear shoes whenever we visit a business or go in a store, a restaurant, or any other place that might have a “no shoes, no service sign”. And I tend to keep a pair of flip-flops in the car for my daughter. (She has a habit of getting into the car barefoot without thinking ahead.)
The only time bare feet would ever really bother me in public is when they are excessively dirty — such as the pair I encountered at the Social Security office this morning. The person in question was wearing flip flops, but when she picked up her feet, they were black as if she had been walking in tar. It rather freaked me out.