Barefoot at Work

Discussion in 'Barefootedness' started by George Bucheimer, Dec 20, 2013.

  1. George Bucheimer

    George Bucheimer Barefooters
    1. Maryland

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    Hi everybody,

    I have heard about some of you folks out there who go barefoot at work. Right now I'm working for an accounting company that, as far as I know, requires business casual attire. I really don't see why anybody would have a problem with me going barefoot here, other than, of course, the "image" of being professional or whatever my employers want to preserve.

    I've actually been wearing SoftStar Moc 3s for the past two months to the office everyday. I keep trying to convince myself that minimalist shoes are better than regular, but in my experience they really haven't been. They still aggravate my hip and knee even while walking.

    Honestly, I think I noticed joint pain while walking even before I noticed it while running. Granted, this was at a time when I wasn't running (at all, really,) just walking a lot everyday to my classes while I was away at school. Then I ended up transferring to another college because I wanted to get back into running competitively (I ran track in high school), and that's when the pain really became a problem. I thought to myself "why am I, a healthy 20 year old who has always been an athletic person, unable to do the most natural thing there is, running, without having debilitating pain?"

    It literally made no sense to me.

    This was my train of thought at the time: The only two things that can be changed in this running equation are: 1. the surface I'm running on and: 2. the things that are between me and that surface.

    So, and I'm pretty proud of this, I came to the conclusion that the shoes must be the problem, on my own! No lie, I walked into my coaches office one day and I said, "Coach Ayer, I don't know what else to try, I got new shoes, I tried orthotics (I know everyone says this, but yes, I went to a podiatrist and paid "only" ~250 dollars-college discount he said, haha!- for a pair of half inch thick rock solid plastic molds for my feet,) I just don't know what else I can possibly do, I think I'm going to start running barefoot." It seemed simple enough to me. I had nothing to lose, I couldn't run at all without pain at the time. I had never even heard of the idea, or any book, or any minimalist shoes.

    And what do you know? I swear he says, "I actually have a book you might find interesting," and walks over to his bookshelf and pulls out, you guessed it, Born to Run. He said, "This guy wrote a book about...."

    So I start reading and of course I'm all pumped because it was like reading my own thoughts on a page. I swear that happened a lot during college.

    So yeah, here I am today. Sorry, for the backstory.

    Anyway, what kind of jobs do you all have (if these exist) that allow you to go barefoot daily? It has become quite a big problem for me and I really dread going to work simply because I know I am going to have to wear shoes.

    Honestly, I don't plan on working a conventional 9 to 5 office job for a very long period of time in my life. At this point though, money is pretty necessary, so I am very curious about the work life of those here at BRS.

    Also, is anybody familiar with "normal" regulations down in some of the southern states regarding footwear? I think a couple people have told me that in places like Florida, you can go into pretty much any stores barefoot and it is allowed. I am seriously considering moving some place where barefoot is normal so I don't have to deal with this kind of stuff.

    Thanks for any ideas you all have.
     
  2. Mikkel

    Mikkel Barefooters
    1. Denmark

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    I work as an engineer at a hearing aid company in Denmark, and I am going totaly barefeet all year round. This is accepted by all but I might be considered 'The weird one'.:)
     
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  3. Barefoot Ken Bob

    Barefoot Ken Bob Administrator
    1. California...

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    Okay, now my turn for a little back story.

    I work at a major university in southern California (CSULB). I started out here in 1985, like yourself, assuming that shoes were required. After working here about 10 years, and at least removing my shoes to go for walks on my breaks, I began kicking my shoes off in my office/shop.

    I'm currently a computer technician in the Computer Engineering and Computer Science department (CECS - according to my computer text reader, the "sex" department). I started in the Electrical Engineering (EE) department (both are in the "College of Engineering), as an electronics technician.

    Anyway, it was while in the EE department that I began removing my shoes in my office/shop. Being a fairly talented technician, the Dean of engineering often asked for me by name to work on his office computer. So one day, after receiving such a request, I figured, "What the hey, I'll go up there barefoot - I can always go back to my office for my shoes"

    When I entered the Dean's office, he did a perceivable double-take, but said nothing to me about being barefoot. When I left, the secretary in the outer office gave me a thumbs up.

    My immediate supervisor (EE department chair) at that time was from Japan, so we sometimes even joked that he required me to go barefoot!

    Anyway, other than one custodian telling me I needed to wear shoes to protect my feet (and she has no authority over me, so I ignored that "order"), no one has bothered me about being barefoot. Though I do occasionally (once in a few years) slip something on my feet if I'm working out in the compound yard with old computer scraps and such, and then people DO ask me what's going on, why am I wearing shoes, etc...

    When the CECS department asked if I would work for them, being able to go barefoot (and work only 10 months of the year) were among my conditions for accepting that transfer.

    Some general comments:

    Universities often have more liberal dress codes. In fact CSULB doesn't have a general dress code, other than a requirement to cover the buttocks - genitals and breasts are covered by city codes (not literally - unless you're actually wearing a copy of the city codes over your breasts and/or genitals).

    At CSULB each department manager makes up their own dress codes (or usually they don't bother - their term is only a couple of years), and some - like construction and grounds workers, have safety requirements from the state (OSHA, or in our case; CalOSHA).

    If your work place is reasonably casual, and you're not working in a machine shop or such, let people see you barefoot when you go out for a walk on your breaks, when you arrive at work and as you leave work. You're on your time, you should have more freedom.

    Then start kicking off your shoes (it helps to wear shoes that are easy to kick off) under your desk. Note: Don't literally "kick" them off, just quietly and not obnoxiously, remove them.

    If you still haven't been given a hard time by someone with authority, then take short walks around the office barefoot and see if anyone gives you a hard time.

    I still keep an "emergency" pair of shoes, slippers, flip-flops (or whatever) in my office, just in case I do "need" them for some odd aspects of my job.

    Some warnings;

    Do NOT make a big deal out of being barefoot. Act as if it's one of the most natural things to do. It is one of the most natural things to do. But if you make a big deal, or constantly look down at your feet, especially with a look of shame on your face, when greeted by others, you will lead them to believe you are doing something "wrong", and their eyes will follow yours.

    Do NOT pay much heed to most of your co-workers. There are many people who have appointed themselves as fashion police. These people can be annoying, but they PROBABLY have no more authority to require you to wear shoes, than they have to tell you how to wear your hair.

    This advice will obviously NOT work for everyone in every work situation. But, we far too often assume we can't do stuff which we really can, even if others haven't before us. Being a bit different may also earn you some respect, as an individual, instead of a follower - at least among reasonable managers, who desire workers who able to direct themselves, rather than just doing what everyone else has always done. The aspects of my work, make such traits a bonus, and something valued by my supervisors and co-workers.

    If you're going to try any of these ideas, it's very important to carry yourself with confidence, focus on your work (not your lack of shoes), and hopefully other will too. If you focus on your work, especially on doing it well, then hopefully others will focus on your work too, rather than your lack of shoes.

    Look, I'm not all that confident by nature. That's one of the reasons I sort of eased into this. Then again, maybe that's one of the reasons I haven't been harassed about being barefoot at work.

    Okay, there was one over-enthusiastic campus cop that stopped me in the parking lot one time... but, he was new, and I had been working barefoot here for at least 5 years, and I told him so. I also pointed out that there are no state laws requiring people to wear shoes on state property (especially outside). So keep in mind that sometimes those self-appointed fashion police, actually are police. But even then, they're probably overstepping their authority.
     
  4. George Bucheimer

    George Bucheimer Barefooters
    1. Maryland

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    That is an interesting back story indeed.

    I take it that the stories I've heard about Japanese children going shoeless in school (most recently by the article that TJ posted, I believe) have some truth to them, judging by your anecdote about your department chair.

    One thing I have noticed, I think, is that people react much less when you are at least wearing socks. I guess just that fact that there is something there puts people at ease. Dress socks are probably what I would opt for in my current situation.

    That is interesting that you are an electrical engineer. I graduated in May with my B.A. in Economics (regretfully, for the most part). I am thinking about going back to school for engineering, though my end goal is to do biomechanics research, or more broadly, make a direct impact for the better concerning our outlook on the benefits of not using footwear.

    What gets me really excited about engineering is all that we have to look forward to infrastructure-wise in the future. Once the majority of people start to realize how bad shoes are for us, this type of thinking quickly leads into the notion that maybe using cars to move everywhere, and then sitting at a desk for eight hours (or sitting in chairs at all) are probably not very healthy ways to live either. I'm all for running on asphalt and concrete barefoot, as I have done much of it, but there is absolutely no comparison to a smooth, root free, dirt trail. I have gotten my breath taken away before after running for miles on an asphalt path and surprisingly coming across a smooth dirt area.

    Thanks for the tips.
     
  5. Barefoot Ken Bob

    Barefoot Ken Bob Administrator
    1. California...

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    Roots are natural, and trails that had no obstacles are probably fairly rare in nature. Most likely our ancestors ran on much more challenging terrain than what we have available to us now.

    Note: I am NOT an engineer. I am a technician. I work in the College of Engineering. It's a common mistake, just like people thinking I'm a teacher, because I work at a university. Anyway technicians are the people who make the engineer's designs work.
    Have fun,
    -Barefoot Ken Bob
     
  6. Barefoot TJ

    Barefoot TJ Administrator
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  7. Barefoot TJ

    Barefoot TJ Administrator
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    We need more of you!
     
  8. George Bucheimer

    George Bucheimer Barefooters
    1. Maryland

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    I think I'm going to have to disagree with you there. The only reason a trail would ever exist in the first place is because of repetitive traffic by either humans or some other kind of animal. Therefore a trail would come about because of our interaction with nature.

    I would think that open grass fields, or just areas without many trees in general would be pretty common in an "untouched by humans" world (I could be very wrong here, and it is a question that I contemplate often: Just how much land area would be without trees in a world with, say, no cars, roads, and our own tearing down of forested areas?)

    So wouldn't we tend to create our trails in areas that are less difficult and "rooty" to run on, and wouldn't these trails just be smooth dirt after the grass has worn away?

    Then again, people probably used to actually run and move around because of their needs, like eating. Now that is a lot different, so basically the whole dynamic of our interaction with nature has changed a lot, so it's pretty hard for anyone to say for sure how it would "naturally" be.

    Sorry, I'm questioning myself and trying to answer my own questions that arise, so I tend to ramble occasionally.


    .....anyway, it is incredibly enjoyable to run on smooth dirt trails. Even if they are made by us humans with the use of technology, I would still want a lot more of them in the future.
     
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  9. Barefoot Ken Bob

    Barefoot Ken Bob Administrator
    1. California...

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    I absolutely agree, not only humans, but animals make trails. Once those routes get established, most animals are going to follow the trail (path of least resistance)... However, in many areas, forests, mountains, etc., there will be quite a bit of unevenness caused by harder materials (roots, rocks, etc.) that don't pack down or wear down as quickly as the surrounding dirt.

    I'm only speaking, of course, from my own limited experience and a lot of speculation. But, I have done thousands of miles on trails, mostly in California and Michigan, but also many places in between and also a few in the northeast (Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, etc.)
     
  10. George Bucheimer

    George Bucheimer Barefooters
    1. Maryland

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    Yep, I guess I am envisioning an area much like the one I live in (Maryland) where the setup is the same (house->yard->sidewalk->street->sidewalk->yard->house and on and on...) only instead of the sidewalks you just have a sort of continuation of the yard, or I guess it would turn into some sort of worn down path.

    I am imagining just taking jackhammers to concrete sidewalks....and it is kind of hilarious.

    Obviously many people would be confused as to why I would be getting rid of the sidewalks, and my response would probably confuse them even more: "because there is perfectly good ground...under this ground....that you put on top of the ground."
     
  11. Bare Lee

    Bare Lee Chapter Presidents
    1. Minnesota
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    Just to back up a few of Ken's excellent points.

    I lived in Japan 20 years ago and ran barefoot as part of my karate training. It's true barefooting is no big deal there, and shoe removal is expected inside homes. I didn't even realize I was "barefoot running" in fact, since everything in karate is done barefoot.

    As for trails, they're for getting from one place to another in as shortest as distance possible. And most people walk on trails, often while carrying something, so roots and rocks while running aren't really a concern. I've been to 90 countries, at least half of them in the 'third world', so I have a pretty good idea of how that works. Not too much persistent hunting going on. Even so, I would imagine running while hunting would mostly be done off-trail, following the fleeing prey, so I wonder how much trail running was ever done as a habitual practice, outside of the odd warning to neighboring villages of imminent attack, or perhaps the death of a elder (funerals have to be held quickly when there's no refrigeration or winter).

    I've been a casual barefooter most of my life, and it's true, most people don't care or are too timid to say anything, but shops and places of work are often obstacles. Like Ken Bob, my feet are always bare under a desk though. I also maintain a pretty straight-out-of-the-box look, and that helps.

    For casual minimalist shoes that are easy to slip on and off, I love my Vivobarefoot Jays.
     
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  12. George Bucheimer

    George Bucheimer Barefooters
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    Just to clarify, when I said "people probably used to actually run and move around because of their needs, like eating," I wasn't referring to persistence hunting. I have no idea how common that was or if it was ever really used at all. I was mainly just saying that people probably never went out for a 5 mile jog for exercise, they did plenty of natural "moving around" just doing normal "human things," whatever they may have been-I was just using eating as an example.
     
  13. mokaman

    mokaman Chapter Presidents
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    Believe it there was persistence hunting...we know because it is still going on within our lifetimes. I don't think our long ago relatives did any exercise just to exercise. They ate anything and everything they could kill...as they spread around the earth....and barefoot when it wasn't too cold.
     
  14. Barefoot TJ

    Barefoot TJ Administrator
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    Humans were always moving though, always. We didn't set sedentary until we started settling: learned to plant and rely on crops, mostly through rotation, insect control, etc.; removed tribes (sadly) we deemed dangerous to us; learned to build stronger structures that could withstand the forces of nature, etc. Take migration, for example, we migrated for various reasons: seasons changing which effected hunting (follow the herd sort of thing); effected gathering (some plants don't grow in the colder seasons or climates), etc.

    Anywho, around here, in Georgia, USA, there is a lot of granite, and I mean a lot. Look at Mokie's avatar above this post. He's running on granite. In fact, you can't go far enough in any direction from Stone Mountain (the largest exposed piece of granite in the world) without running into more and more granite...it reaches into our border states and beyond. If you aren't stubbing your toes (shod or bare) on tree roots, then you are stubbing them on slabs of granite poking through the ground.

    Miss our runs, Mokie!

    MokieGraniteRun.jpg
     
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  15. Barefoot Ken Bob

    Barefoot Ken Bob Administrator
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    Except the sidewalks are nice for wheelchairs. And not really that much different than some mountain trails I've run on, where water had worn the granite smooth over millions of years.
     
  16. mokaman

    mokaman Chapter Presidents
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    I run on the local granite here and there, its such a tease...its really smooth but very wavy... my brain and eyes work together to stop me from running fast speed on it. There is some kind of mental illusion of danger that I find very hard to over come...its like I can't run fast on it no matter how hard I try so I'm forced to slow down in those sections.

    TJ...Yup...your going to run again barefoot with me...count on it.
     
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  17. Bare Lee

    Bare Lee Chapter Presidents
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    Right George, I wasn't arguing against you or anyone, just adding the little I know about this stuff to the thread. My main point was that I haven't seen anyone running on trails among peasant or hunter-gatherer populations. They're usually walking while carrying something. Even with persistent hunting, trails were probably only used when making a bee-line back home, after the kill, while carrying the flesh and so walking. During the hunt, or while tracking, they're going wherever the prey takes them, and I would imagine any sensible prey whose
    'ancestors' survived long enough to pass on their dna would seek cover away from well-trod trails, once they became aware that they were being hunted/pursued. I know the few wild animals we have around here certainly tend to scatter whenever I approach them while running; they don't run straight ahead of me on my path/sidewalk.
     
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  18. Barefoot Ken Bob

    Barefoot Ken Bob Administrator
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    Keep in mind that persistence hunter's diets consisted mostly of vegetable matter (fruits, nuts, tubers, and mushrooms), so these food sources and watering holes would likely be connected by a network of trails made by both animals and humans.

    Look at the street signs, especially in rural areas, for example; "Maple Trail", "Deer Trail", "Apple Blossom Trail", etc.. Many roads were made along existing trails. As cities grew many "trails" were renamed from to "road" or "street" or "avenue", etc.
     
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  19. Sid

    Sid Barefooters

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    When I come across deer on my local trail, they certainly scatter into the brush. Perhaps, they can use "trails" that are difficult for people to access, given their ability to leap. It certanly prevents me from going after them, even if only out of curiosity.
     
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  20. Barefoot Ken Bob

    Barefoot Ken Bob Administrator
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    Yes, but our "prey" have lives of their own, and when not being pursued, would tend to take the route of least resistance. Just because we focus on animals as food, doesn't mean that is all their lives are about.
     
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