July 20, 2010
Barefooter (n.) – A person who prefers being barefoot in most situations and regularly acts on that preference, even in settings where most other people are wearing shoes whether they want to or not.
Colton Harris-Moore, the six-foot-five teenage criminal who eluded authorities in several states before his capture and arrest earlier this month in the Bahamas, might not be a household name today but for one thing: Harris-Moore allegedly committed at least some of his break-ins and robberies sans shoes, earning him the alliteratively alluring moniker “The Barefoot Bandit.”
Banditry in all its forms, whether perpetrated by the shod or shoeless, is nothing to be celebrated. Barefootedness, however, is another matter. Long before the lanky young Barefoot Bandit was in the news, people from many walks of life – let’s just call them barefooters – managed to go barefoot without resorting to a life of crime in the process.
The list below is nowhere close to being a complete one; given the hundreds of millions or even billions of people who prefer walking barefoot to walking in shoes, that wouldn’t even be possible. So please remember: Don’t jump to shoddy conclusions the next time you see someone walking barefoot – most acts of banditry are committed by people wearing shoes!
15 Barefooters Who Weren’t/Aren’t Bandits
1. a historian for Logan County, Ohio, had this to say of the wealthy but humble Swedenborgian Christian: “It appears to have been almost a matter of principle with him not to wear shoes, as he was seldom without money to dispense in charitable ways.”– John Chapman, also known as Johnny Appleseed, is a legendary American figure – so much so that some people are surprised to learn he actually existed, but exist he did. Writing about Chapman’s life in 1880,
2. William Purnell Lambertson – The Republican congressman from Kansas played golf barefoot on a regular basis and believed it helped keep him healthy. “If some of these birds in Congress would get up at 5:30 and play a round of golf barefoot like I do, we could fire the House physician,” Lambertson told the Associated Press in a 1935 article. Lambertson’s barefoot ways did not deter voters – he served from 1929 to 1945 in Kansas’ First Congressional District. He died at age 77 in 1957, having been born in 1880 when the average life expectancy for white males in the United States was somewhere in the range of 43 years.
3. Betty Skelton – Described as “probably the nation’s only barefoot stunt pilot and speed-car driver” in a 1954 Associated Press article that appeared in the St. Petersburg Times, she told the reporter: “I flew a plane before I settled down to shoes....I can sense the accelerator or rudder better.”
4. Lois Roberts – Remember the movie “A League of Their Own” with headline in the Chicago Tribune sports pages of Aug. 3, 1950, after getting three hits in a losing effort., Rosie O’Donnell, MaDonna and Geena Davis? Had the filmmakers wanted to, they would have had historical precedent for including a shoeless player. Lois Roberts played in the National Girls League in 1950 (and perhaps other seasons; League records are hard to come by). The barefoot baseball player nabbed a
5. Bernarr Macfadden – The “Father of Physical Culture” walked barefoot as a means of promoting health, including on 18-mile journeys to New York City from his home in Nyack, N.Y. He lived to be 87, engaging in “barefoot jumping” exercises well into his final years. In 1999, The New York Daily News looked back on Macfadden's life and noted this passage from his 1955 obituary: "(he) deserves a large part of the credit for the fact that so many present-day Americans know the value of good health and how to keep it."
6. Henry McDonald – From flying bombers in World War II to dining at fine restaurants later in life, Henry “Barefoot Stew” McDonald had little use for shoes. During his time in the U.S. military, a general told him he had to wear shoes. The ever-industrious McDonald worked out a compromise: He would don footwear to walk into the office, but ditch them once he got inside. Eventually, according to his 2008 St. Petersburg Times obituary, the general saw the wisdom of McDonald’s ways and began removing his shoes, too.
7. Lilly Pulitzer – Now in her late 70s, the fashion designer from the famous family still goes barefoot much of the time, according to a 2003 Vanity Fair profile. Judging from a 2008 publicity photo, that’s still the case.
8. Rick Roeber – Even before the 2009 surprise best-seller “Born to Run” reintroduced readers and runners to the idea of barefoot running, Roeber had already logged dozens of marathons sans shoes. He calls himself an “ambassador for mobility,” and that is reflected in his Free Wheelchair Mission. Roeber uses the attention his barefoot running receives to help raise donations to buy wheelchairs for those in developing nations who need them but cannot afford them.
9. Amma – “The Hugging Saint” likes her soles to be in contact with the ground. When some of her devotees offered her shoes during a 2008 talk at an ashram in Toronto, she said, “I am a village girl, I grew up without sandals and shoes. So it is alright, I am comfortable without them," according to the blog "Ashram Diary."
10. Nosimo Balindlela – When she was elected the first female premier of the Eastern Cape in South Africa in 2004, Balindlela had this to say in a local newspaper article to those who wondered if her style of dress would change: "The manner in which I dress is a part of my culture, a culture which has given me immense strength in my life and protected me from being vulnerable. So when I walk around barefoot, it is to portray my true self…Even when I become premier, I am not going to change - this is to celebrate my womanhood."
11. Jeanie Peterson – Fearlessly patrolling her Tacoma, Wash., neighborhood to deter “knuckleheads,” she has been credited with helping to turn around the crime and violence in her Hilltop neighborhood and has even addressed the Police Department while wearing her preferred footwear – none. Learn more about her crime-fighting efforts in this Tacoma News Tribune article.
12. Diana Carr – This New Haven, Conn., woman was stopped and questioned by a police officer simply because she was walking barefoot – in the same neighborhood where she has walked san shoes for more than two decades. The New Haven register recently published an article about her.
13. M.F. Hussain – This 94-year-old iconic Indian painter has been called “the Picasso of India,” and his preference for walking barefoot is widely known throughout India and the art world.
14. Michael Franti – The Spearhead lead singer and peace activist initially ditched his shoes in 2000 for three days; he has remained mostly barefoot out of personal preference since then. Franti is an avid yoga practitioner and natural health advocate, and has enriched countless lives by sharing his music and healthy passions so joyfully.
15. Daniel Howell – The Liberty University anatomy professor is currently on a 15-city book tour in support of “The Barefoot Book: 50 Great Reasons to Kick Off Your Shoes,” published July 1 by Hunter House Publishing. As Howell told a Little Rock, Ark., television station in a recent interview: “Shoes are a major cause of our foot problems. In fact, most of the foot problems we have in this country can be traced back to the shoe.” To read a review of “The Barefoot Book,” please click here.
Barefootin' - The New Yorker, July 10, 2006
Doctor says going barefoot physically, mentally healthy - Associated Press, Oct. 12, 1976
Ken Bob Saxton's Barefoot Running site - The original barefoot running website (since 1997)
Whether you prefer walking barefoot or in shoes, foot reflexology and massage therapy can help you feel better from toe to head. To learn more or schedule a session in Berkeley, Calif., please visit the Golden State Touch Web site at www.gstouch.com – and may your footsteps always be happy ones!