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Published:November 26th, 2009 08:20 EST
The Right to Bear Arms? How about the Right to Bare Feet!

The Right to Bear Arms? How about the Right to Bare Feet!

By Geoff Dean

 In a recent contribution, I discussed the much overlooked right to hang laundry (it`s in the Bill of Rights, right after "the right to pick your friends but not your nose"). Now that I have given the "laundry peggers" (as they call themselves) their due, we need to look into another much overlooked right. The right to go barefoot.

 Go barefoot, you ask? Yes, go barefoot, I answer. (I like the conversational approach.) But can`t we already go barefoot when we want? In Japan, where I reside, I spend a lot of time barefoot since I can`t wear shoes in the house or workplace in accordance with Japanese custom (sometimes I do wear slippers and in the winter, I go for socks). Who`s going to stop me being barefoot whenever I want?

 No, dear readers, we are not talking about taking off your shoes in the privacy of your own home, two consenting adults, all that. The Society for Barefoot Living encourages people to go barefoot everywhere. At home. At work. In the car. On the hiking trail. In the restaurant. At the ice rink (OK, they didn`t say that last one.)

 You see, according to the SBL and similar enthusiasts, nature never designed humans to wear shoes and they are a recent development. In much of the developing world, shoes are still rare. Shoes weaken the feet by overprotecting them, not allowing them to develop as "designed" (whether intelligently or not). Or, at least, so goes the SBL`s logic.

 You may or may not subscribe to their point of view, although we share the same biology, regardless of ideology. (Sorry, Sting.) Nonetheless, they claim that the law is on their side.

 For instance, in response to letters sent to the Justice Departments of the fifty states (by some extremely underworked SBL members), only Kentucky declared that it was illegal to drive barefoot (many states discourage the practice but have no law on the books). If you are driving barefoot in Lousiville, just make a break for the Ohio River. Some might counter that it is not illegal in these other states, not because it is accepted but because nobody seriously considered the prospect (except in Kentucky where perhaps shoelessness is more common). Be that as it may, you cannot be arrested for driving unshod.

 Furthermore, restaurants that display the "No shirt, No shoes, No service" sign are in fact acting without legal basis. A restaurant has no legal right, says the SBL, to deny service based on shoelessness. (I wonder if there is a "shirtless lobby", too) Similarly, with a few exceptions for safety reasons, workplaces cannot legally require shoedness. Going barefoot in the office may not improve your chances of getting a promotion, however.

 There are even barefoot hiking groups that enjoy the feel of the earth beneath their feet, like Paul Simon`s "El Condor Pasa", in all seasons and conditions. Sound uncomfortable to walk on rocks and frozen ground and pine needles? Sound dangerous? Not so, claim the SBL cadres. It toughens your feet, actually making you healthier and safer. And the pain wears off with time and changes to enhanced sensory experiences. Their website provides medical reports and evidence to support their claim and I would list some of the evidence here but I`m getting sleepy so nuts to that!

 So, is there a "right" to go barefoot anywhere, anytime I want? It`s not illegal, apparently, at least. And as long as it doesn`t harm me, I can`t see why I should be opposed to people hiking or filing a report or eating out or watching a movie or whatever without the benefit of being shod. If I could make one proposal, it would be that in order for the SBL to advance their cause, they should tie up with the "peggers". What could be freer that hanging out the laundry, barefoot?