Why Society Needs Shoes

I have mentioned before that I am slowly (very slowly) working on getting a second degree in photography. The class that I am in this semester is all about studio lighting. As the end of the semester approaches we are beginning to work on our final projects. I decided that I wanted to do something for Unshoes… I wanted to photograph something to illustrate the concept of minimal footwear. As it turns out, it is much easier said than done! I have been thinking quite a bit about society and how/why we all got conditioned to think that we need over protective footwear. I have come to the conclusion that although our feet don’t really need shoes, our minds do.

Keep in mind that when I say “our minds” I am referring to society as a whole. So how does wearing shoes affect the psychological state of our minds? (I should write a disclaimer here that I do not profess to have any authority on psychological matters… what I write here is my own opinion which has been derived from my own experience and thoughts.) I recently read a comment thread about barefoot running where a debate ensued about evolution vs. creation. The person arguing for a barefoot running was saying that evolution has given our feet the capability to run and that is what they are built to do. The person arguing against barefoot running professed that he/she does not believe in evolution and thus could not be convinced. I don’t understand what difference it makes if you believe in evolution or creation or both! Either way it makes sense that our feet are built to walk and run. That is their purpose. No matter how complicated people try to make things, it really is as simple as that.

Foot anatomy by Leonardo da Vinci

Despite the logic that feet are for walking, people still feel like they are helpless and weak. That, I believe, is where the root of the problem is. When it all boils down, we as a society do not have confidence in our own physical bodies. We perceive our feet as being weak and helpless unless covered, padded and protected with layers and layers of rigid material. This is where the need comes in. If someone who is used to shoes removes them, they are forced to come face-to-face with the fact that they think they are weak. Nobody wants to admit that they think they are weak. So in order to avoid thinking about it, we just keep on wearing shoes. The easy solution is just to keep the problem buried and continue to buy into the idea that the more technology we throw at our bodies the better we are.

Here are some more examples: The tendency to go straight to drugs to mask our pain rather than trying to address the actual problem. What about fad diets? People are trying to lose weight and get “in shape” without really having to do real exercise and without eating a balanced, nutritious diet. Mothers are convinced that it is impossible to give birth without an epidural. I’ll bet you can think of more.

Of course there are times when we need protection and help. I don’t want to condemn anyone who really needs drugs, shoes or a special diet… every situation is different. My intention is NOT to convince everyone that all modern conveniences are bad but rather to encourage people to think critically about what we really need. I want people to realize that they are stronger than they might think they are. The human body is one of the greatest pieces of engineering. I think that Leonardo Da Vinci summed it up when he wrote, “Human subtlety…will never devise an invention more beautiful, more simple or more direct than does nature, because in her inventions nothing is lacking, and nothing is superfluous.”

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About unshoes

Creator and designer of Unshoes minimal footwear.
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6 Responses to Why Society Needs Shoes

  1. Bev Morris says:

    “Mothers are convinced that it is impossible to give birth without an epidural.”

    I’m sorry, but this comment was obviously written by someone who has never experienced childbirth. As someone who has, I disagree. It is not impossible to give birth without an epidural, just as it is not impossible to have your appendix removed without anesthesia. One is obviously a more optimal situation than the other, though.

    With my first daughter, I tried to go through labor with no epidural. The pain was so intense, I couldn’t take it and was begging for an epi as I entered heavy labor. Think Sigourney Weaver in “Alien”.

    • unshoes says:

      Although I have not given birth, I speak from my recent experience preparing with and coaching my wife through a natural labor. Her strength and courage was awe inspiring to me and since she was prepared she was able to do what she needed to do. We felt that it was the best choice for us. I understand that each situation is different. My comment comes from a belief that women are strong and that their bodies are designed with the ability to give birth. I often feel that as a society we just assume that we can’t only because of social pressures and norms.

    • Mary says:

      Hi! This is Mrs. Unshoes. :) Just thought I’d put my two bits in since I have experienced childbirth.

      It may seem a little out of place to compare childbirth and going barefoot (especially coming from a man who will obviously never personally experience one of those), but in recent months my husband and I have noticed some parallels in the way people think about these two subjects. We have had friends tell us “I think I would die without an epidural,” or “I just don’t think I could do it without pain medication.” We have had other friends say something to the effect of, “My doctor said I needed a special insert; I just can’t go without arch support.”

      My experience with giving birth was that it did get intense, but it was totally do-able without intervention. And it was so worth it. Many people would say something similar about breaking out of conventional shoes: it was difficult (at least at first), but very worth it.

      I think the point of the above post is that often in our society we assume that if there is some sort of technology (or intervention) available, it must be an improvement over the natural state of things. Why on earth would anyone choose to experience the pain of childbirth when they don’t have to? And yet people do it. Going barefoot or minimal is uncomfortable and awkward, right? And yet people do it.

      If we dig a little deeper than the surface, we often find that there are huge benefits to letting our bodies do what they were meant to. This is our belief about the human body in general, but of course it doesn’t mean all people should always abstain from pain meds and shoes or other “modern advances”. (See the last paragraph of this post.) We hope that by sharing this view, others will discover for themselves what their bodies are capable of and the benefits of allowing natural abilities to work.

  2. Doug says:

    I love this post. The one thing I have noticed by converting to a barefoot lifestyle is that I feel stronger. Not only that my feet are stronger and I no longer have foot pains, but that I feel mentally stronger.
    Before last year, I never went barefoot, with the exception of swimming in a pool or taking a shower, but I always put shoes back on. I even wore shoes in my house, because I thought that my feet couldn’t take being on their own with no support.
    If I can convince my wife to let me go to church barefoot, I’ll be all set.

  3. Lyle Lange says:

    Totally agree that the real issue is our fear of really fixing our problems. The list we can make of where we as a society do this is innumerable. This is why I have changed my mentality from “it’s that person’s fault they don’t fix themselves” to “it’s our collective culture’s fault for making this cocoon the normal way to live”.

    Also, when I talk with religious folk about why barefoot is better, I say “God got feet right the first time”.

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