"I'd go barefoot all the time if I could."

We hear that sentiment ALL the time! Really. You CAN go barefoot much more often -- even in public! This site has tons of resources to help society become more "barefoot friendly," but you must begin with your own two feet.

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An Open Letter To Fern Markgraf and the Schools of America

by L. Daniel Howell, PhD, Vice President of The Primalfoot Alliance

By all accounts, Hawaii is one of the most barefoot-friendly places in the United States. Bare feet are generally welcome in the shops, markets and eateries on this beach paradise.* Accordingly, public schools on the islands have also been traditionally accepting of barefooted children.

Until now.

Back in December of 2010 a news article emerged from Maui in which public school principal Fern Markgraf declared, “the olden days (in Hawaii) when kids all had bare feet are no longer acceptable.”  This declaration, however, begs the question: Why? What threats to bare feet exist today that did not exist in the “olden days”? Why are bare feet in Hawaiian schools – once the norm – no longer “acceptable”? Is it possible that Fern Markgraf and the rest of Hawaii is just falling prey to Western ‘civilities’?

On June 1, 2011, I mailed a letter to Mrs. Markgraf encouraging her to reconsider this position. I now make the letter available to the public as an open letter – a plea to all schools throughout America that prohibit (or even discourage) students from going barefoot on their campuses. As a professor of human anatomy, Vice President of the Primalfoot Alliance and author of The Barefoot Book, I am thoroughly convinced that requiring footwear on children damages their feet for life. If you are a school administrator, I – on behalf of the Primalfoot Alliance – urge you to reconsider bare feet in the classroom. Please contact us; we would love to talk with you further about this important health issue affecting our school children.


RE: Footwear on schoolchildren

Dear Fern Markgraf,

Thank you for your dedication to improving the lives of children through education. As an educator myself, I know it’s a tiring and often thankless profession (yet also rewarding).

I am writing because you recently cited footwear as a dire need and priority for your schoolchildren. You stated in a Maui News report that the “olden days (in Hawaii) when kids all had bare feet are no longer acceptable.” I certainly believe you are doing what you feel is best for the children in your care, but I think you are making a mistake that in the long run will harm the feet and health of the children in Hawaii.

There is a growing body of scientific evidence that prolonged shoe use damages our feet, ankles, knees, hips and spine. The use of footwear by young children is particularly problematic since a child’s foot is still developing; the shoeing of children sets them up for foot problems that last a lifetime. It is widely believed that footwear is needed “for safety reasons,” but after performing a thorough search for barefoot-related injuries I and others have found scant evidence to support this assertion. Indeed, the evidence indicates we should all go barefoot more for healthy feet and bodies.

I sincerely urge you to reconsider your requirement for footwear on your pupils. Schoolchildren have long gone barefoot in Hawaii without serious injuries. Indeed, the history of going shoeless in Hawaii is cause for celebration. As states on the mainland are realizing the harm caused by shoes and the benefits of going shoeless, Hawaii has a unique opportunity to lead the nation in promoting foot health through going barefoot. Schoolchildren in Hawaii have already demonstrated that going barefoot is safe and healthy for children. Perhaps a more sensible approach is simply to let children and parents decide for themselves whether shoes are necessary for them.

I am available if you would like further consultation. I love sharing the discovery that feet are healthiest and happiest when bare!


Dr. Daniel Howell
Vice President, The Primalfoot Alliance
Author, The Barefoot Book

(Please note: The original letter was co-signed by Michael Buttgen, founder & President of the Primalfoot Alliance and Michael Warburton, research scientist.)


Related articles by Howell:
An Issue of Safety. Really?
Shoes: A Public Health Hazard

Related resources from The Primalfoot Alliance:
Our Position on TOMS' 'One Day Without Shoes'
National-TV Stories Provide Positive Looks at Barefoot Living

Frequently Asked Questions

* Jennifer Aniston has even made waves this week walking barefoot around the islands and according to an internet poll the vast majority of people think it’s "cool."

Image: Arvind Balaraman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Alliance Founder Interviewed on Denver-area Radio

Michael Buttgen, founder and chief primalfoot officer of The Primalfoot Alliance, was recently interviewed by Roger Wendell of KGNU radio in the Denver, Colorado, area. The lengthy interview covered a wide range of topics including the mission of the alliance, myths about bare feet, society's views about shoes, concerns about cleanliness while going barefoot and more.

To listen to KGNU's mp3 version of the interview, click the link below or right-click to save the file to your computer.
(NOTE: The interview begins at approximately 35 minutes into the file)

Listen to KGNU's "Morning Magazine" from Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Image: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


I Have a Dream

Below is a post that Primalfoot Alliance advisory board member Daniel Howell, PhD, recently posted to his personal blog, The Barefoot Professor, and is reposted with his permission. Dr. Howell is an Associate Professor of Biology at Liberty University and author of The Barefoot Book: 50 Great Reasons to Kick Off Your Shoes. We feel this post is a fitting expression of the "dream" this organization has as advocates for greater acceptance of people who prefer to live barefoot.

A few weeks ago we celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. day. We paused to remember the (peaceful) struggle of American blacks against an oppressive, discriminatory society. We took a day to celebrate a man who dreamed America could be different. I have tremendous respect for MLK, Jr., for his accomplishments and for his daring vision. On MLK day I gathered with my wife and three children around a computer screen to watch his “I have a dream” speech on YouTube. It is with utmost respect for the man and it’s in the spirit of his vision that I modify his words to apply them to my own dream, my own vision of an America free of oppressive discrimination.

You see, I have dream that Americans will one day be free to live barefoot. My dream may seem trivial, but it is not. It is not trivial because at its core it is a struggle against an oppressive attitude toward differences. It is a dream that we will stop shunning those who think outside the box. We say we celebrate such thinking, but we lie. In truth we actively oppress innovative thinking and it’s only through much toil and sweat on the part of such thinkers that real change ever happens among the masses.

I am white. I am educated. Indeed, I am privileged to be among the small portion (less than 1%) of the population with an esteemed doctorate degree – in biochemistry no less, one of those hard sciences that has obtained almost idolistic authority in Western thought. As ‘Dr. Howell, university professor’ I am a respected member of my community. As a barefooter, I have felt the sting of blatant and hateful discrimination: I have been called derogatory names; I have been denied a table at a restaurant; I have been forced off an airplane; I have been escorted by security to the nearest exit. Most ironically, I have been denied a seat on a bus by a black female driver. But I have a dream that one day doing something as healthy – and legal – as going barefoot will be acceptable to my fellow Americans.

I have a dream that little white children and little black children can play together barefoot in the gymnasium. I have a dream that one day employees will be recognized for the quality of their work rather than the price of their wingtips or pumps. I dream of a day when the ‘barefooter’ is applauded for making the more natural and healthier choice to shun her shoes; a choice made not only for the health of her feet but maybe because she also refuses to subvert herself to the role of temptress in high heels in order to be a corporate player.

Truly, I dream of a day when shoes (or the lack thereof) are a non-issue.

They say you can tell a lot about a man by his shoes, but I long for a day when we will be judged by our hard work, our commitment to excellence, our creativity and ingenuity… by the content of our character and not by the shoes on our feet.

Am I insulting Dr. King? Am I trivializing his dream or making a mountain out of a molehill? I don’t think so because ultimately my dream is not about feet, it’s about the end of discrimination in all its forms. It’s about acceptance. It’s about seeing the world a little more like God himself sees it, for we know that “man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7).

So yeah, I have a dream. Won’t you join me? Together we can not only free our feet but we can enlarge our hearts to embrace all people despite our differences.

What do you think? Is this "dream" far fetched? Is it disrespectful to Dr. King to include rights for barefooters in with his dream of embraced diversity? Do you think we can get to a place in society that barefoot activity is acceptable and not discriminated against? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.