‘I've been barefoot for a decade': The real dangers and benefits of ditching shoes

Robin Greenfield decided to go barefoot full-time in 2011. (SWNS)
Robin Greenfield decided to go barefoot full-time in 2011. (SWNS) (Courtesy of Robin Greenfield / S)

A man has said that he has stopped wearing shoes for good - and doesn’t even own a pair - after going barefoot for over a decade.

Robin Greenfield, 37, says he was inspired to forgo wearing footwear after he joined a university trip to New Zealand in 2008 and noticed one of his course leaders was walking around barefoot.

"I started walking barefoot and I loved it," he explains. "It felt excellent - it was a very natural draw.

"I don't recall a time having a particular reason except that it felt right. I wanted to go barefoot, and I did it. By being barefoot in public spaces, I am often the only one.

"I went to a festival last weekend where there were 5,000 people. I didn't see a single other person that was barefoot, and I had hundreds of people looking at my feet."

It wasn’t until 2011 that Greenfield, who is from the US, went barefoot full-time, where he would stroll around the supermarket, high street, and even walk on mountain trails without shoes on.

Greenfield goes barefoot everywhere he goes. (SWNS)
Greenfield goes barefoot everywhere he goes. (SWNS) (Courtesy of Robin Greenfield / S)

"It took me years to overcome social norms or stigma - still today I receive some," he says.

"People look down on me a lot, people often assume I am homeless. Their perception is I am down and out, and I have no other choices. But the benefit of that is it keeps me humble. I got rid of my last business clothes around eight years ago because I don't want to impress people with my clothes. I want to be humble, and it is a practice of humility to be barefoot."

Greenfield, an environmental activist, adds that the only time he puts on shoes is when it's snowing or a freezing temperature, and that he often has to bandage up his feet after standing on glass.

He admits that he does carry a pair of shoes around with him in case he goes anywhere that requires footwear, and that the worst places to walk barefoot are alleyways in a city.

"For me, being barefoot is an opportunity to reach people at any moment, with every step that I take to break outside societal norm," he explains.

"Normal is destroying normality and by continuing the status quo we are leading to the demise of humanity. I love for people to ask me why I am barefoot. I love for people to look at me as it gives me the opportunity to reach people."

Greenfield says cuts are just part of the barefoot process. (SWNS)
Greenfield says cuts are just part of the barefoot process. (SWNS) (Courtesy of Robin Greenfield / S)

While the NHS warns that walking barefoot is "hazardous", there are some benefits to ditching the shoes and letting your toes roam free.

According to the Centre for Complementary Health, walking barefoot can be beneficial for the muscles and ligaments in our feet as it can "restore our natural walking patterns and improve foot biomechanics, leading to improved hip, knee, and core mechanics".

"Being barefoot also improves the proprioceptive neural input (the sensation and feedback coming from your feet touching the ground) to the brain, which leads to greater awareness of the body’s position within space. This in turn can also help with pain relief," a recent blog post adds.

Some other benefits of walking barefoot include:

  • Relief from shoes that don’t fit properly

  • Maintaining range or motion and stability in your foot and ankle joints

  • Promotes lower spine health

  • Better control of foot position when it hits the ground

However, it also warns that there are dangerous risks to walking barefoot outside your house including risk of injury from sharp objects or a wet, slippery surface, sore heels, potential exposure to harmful bacteria and high levels of risk for people with diabetes.

It adds to always consult with your GP before deciding on a lifestyle change such as ditching shoes.

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