- Jun 08, 2018 -
A quick scroll through the “Barefoot is Legal” Facebook reveals, more than anything else, a good amount of memes.
One says, “When a bank, fast food place, or hotel lobby says ‘You need shoes. There might be glass on the ground.’ Take a deep breath, look them in the eye and ask ‘Where are your goggles? A broomstick or pen could jab you in the eye!’”
Another says “Yes, I am that person that takes my shoes off everywhere I go. Work, school, restaurant — I don’t care. Don’t like it? Don’t stare at my feet then!”
Barefoot is Legal is an organization started by founder David Kelman and Prior Lake resident Nick Deutschmann. The goal of the organization is to let people know that it’s not illegal to be barefoot, even in restaurants or grocery stores.
“What we found out in the last two-and-a-half years is there are so many people that feel the same way but have been afraid and also believe the myth and hearsay that have been spread through the decade that you can’t leave home without a pair of shoes,” Deutschmann said.
Deutschmann wasn’t always a part of the movement to ditch the shoes — when he was younger, he worked a construction job that required him to wear heavy boots at all times.
It was only when he owned and operated a Taekwondo academy, where participants often practice barefoot, that he found the aches and pains in his knees and hips that were present when he wore shoes disappeared when he was barefoot.
“I did further research and found that if you make the foundation of your body strong, it carries all the way up the chain,” he said.
At first, Deutschmann said he thought he was alone. But like so many others with more niche interests, he found his tribe on the internet and joined Facebook groups dedicated to the barefoot life.
“That was kind of the big jump into spreading the word amongst society that there’s other people that do this and not to be so shy about it,” he said.
Through these groups, he became Facebook friends with Kelman. After Kelman was kicked out of a Baskin Robbins for not wearing shoes, the two decided to create another group that would spread awareness about laws requiring people to wear shoes.
Of which, there are none, Deutschmann said.
“We have checked worldwide and the only law we can find is in the state of Alabama, shoes are required to operate a motorcycle — but that’s the only one we can find,” he said.
However, just because something is illegal doesn’t mean it’s not frowned upon. Businesses often have a “no shirt, no shoes, no service” sign in the window. Deutschmann said the Barefoot is Legal page is often attacked by what he calls “internet trolls.”
“(I wish the public knew) one, that we exist and two, not to shame or bully us because we do something a little bit different,” he said. “Our business page attracts an incredible amount of cyberbullying, cyber-shaming — we’ve received death threats because of our movement.”
One such “troll” commented on one of the memes: “Imagine this being the biggest problem you have in life lol yikes.” Another commented: “I can’t believe there are people who spend time investing energy in their right to go barefoot.”
Deutschmann said he’s not entirely sure why the cause gets so much hate.
“The only thought I have to it is, how many generations have been told over and over and over again, ‘you need your shoes,’ ‘put your shoes on,’ ‘don’t take your shoes off,’” Deutschmann said. “It’s ingrained in peoples’ heads.”
Of course, businesses often have the right to refuse service. But, as several posts on the Facebook page say, that means they don’t like the money barefooters spend at their establishments.
It’s not necessary a small community — the Barefoot is Legal page has more than 72,000 “likes.” The private group for supporters has 15,000 members. And Barefoot is Legal is far from the only page for going barefoot.
While there are people who just don’t want to wear shoes, Deutschmann said some supporters advocate the health benefits of being barefoot.
“We look at a shoe as ... a cast,” he said. “It doesn’t allow your feet to move properly, the way they were designed.”
Recently, the movement has pushed the idea that driving barefoot is safer than wearing high heels or flip flops that could get stuck under the gas or brake pedal.
From June 8-10, Barefoot is Legal is asking people to participate in the #IDriveBarefootChallenge and take a selfie or video (when they’re not driving) to show that they drive barefoot.
Apart from people who are against being barefoot in public in general, those who are willing to do away with shoes might be concerned about health hazards such as stepping on a piece of glass.
“The world is apparently covered with glass everywhere,” Deutschmann said. “I’m on my eighth year of not wearing shoes. I walk everywhere ... never have I been injured outside of my home.”
Deutschmann said he views shoes as a tool to use when needed. For instance, he said he wore shoes on Super Bowl Sunday when it was below zero.
“In Minneapolis, it gets cold,” he said. “I will wear a pair of shoes when it gets cold.”