AskDefine | Define barefoot

Dictionary Definition

barefoot adj : without shoes; "the barefoot boy"; "shoeless Joe Jackson" [syn: barefooted, shoeless] adv : without shoes on; "he chased her barefoot across the meadow" [syn: barefooted]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. wearing nothing on the feet
    After removing their shoes, socks and sandals at the doorway, the kids were barefoot.



wearing nothing on the feet


  1. wearing nothing on the feet
    She likes to go barefoot in the summertime.


wearing nothing on the feet

Derived terms

Extensive Definition

For people with the name Barefoot, see Barefoot (surname)
Going barefoot (also barefooted) means not wearing shoes, socks, or other foot covering. It is more common to go barefoot in developing countries, but less common in industrialized countries due to greater societal taboos against going barefoot. A barefooter is someone who prefers to go barefoot in situations where folkways expect shoes to be worn. Calling oneself a barefooter implies that being barefoot is a voluntary choice (as opposed to, for example, not being able to afford shoes). Reasons for choosing to go barefoot include the sensation of one’s feet in direct contact with the ground, and perceived spiritual or health benefits.

Religious and cultural aspects

Acts of devotion

Many religious traditions consider removing shoes as a pious gesture of respect, especially appropriate when approaching holy places.
  • In Exodus, Moses had to take off his shoes before approaching the burning bush.
  • Muslims are usually unshod for prayer (commonly on a prayer mat) or to attend services in a mosque, though socks are permissible.
  • Some Christian churches practice barefoot pilgrimage traditions — an example being the ascent of Croagh Patrick in Ireland.
  • In the Hindu and Buddhist religions, shoes are removed before entering temples.
  • Among many neopagan reconstructionists, bare feet are considered an ideal way to remain in touch with the elements.
  • During her 730-day tree-sit, Julia Butterfly Hill remained barefoot - even in winter - "because she has to have the connection" with Luna, the tree in which she lived.
  • In maori culture, shoes must be taken off before entering marae as a sign of respect.
Going barefoot is also a common form of mortification, often combined with others such as pilgrimage, either as penance or asceticism. Roman Catholic religious orders that permanently restrict the ability of members to wear footwear are known as "discalced", though in reference to certain religious orders the term means wearing only sandals on the feet. Barefoot orders include the Camaldolese and the Teresian. Many Pagans, Neopagans, and Native Americans go barefoot so as to feel connected to Mother Earth. Many followers of Jainism go barefoot to avoid killing insects and small animals with shoes.

Artists renowned for performing barefoot

Some artists and entertainers such as Ottmar Liebert, Amy Grant, Cesária Évora, Kelly Clarkson, Ricky Martin, Linda Ronstadt, Joss Stone, Sandie Shaw, Lauren Harris, Sass Jordan, Cyndi Lauper, Gwen Stefani, Shakira, Mutabaruka, Henry Rollins, Saba Douglas-Hamilton, Deana Carter, Tori Amos, Xavier Rudd, Measha Brueggergosman and Michael Franti perform and/or appear in bare feet so frequently that the barefoot look has become a "signature" of sorts for them. Their lack of footwear is often cited in publicity photos, album titles, interviews and even (in the case of Genevieve Gorder or Julia Roberts) parodies. These performers often cite comfort or nervousness for their preference, go barefoot to express political statements (Michael Franti, for example), and sometimes (as with Isadora Duncan) challenge significant social obstacles in order to do so.

Characters renowned for being barefoot

Adam (Northern Exposure), Aquagirl Lorena Marquez (DC Comics), Aspen Matthews (Aspen MLT), Beast (Marvel Comics), Birk (Ronia the Robber's Daughter), Captain Caveman, Cavewoman (Basement Comics), Celcius (DC Comics), Chell (Portal), Dan Hibiki (Street Fighter), Dolphin (DC Comics), Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tivrusky IV (Cowboy Bebop), Elena (Street Fighter), The Flintstones, Garganta (AC Comics), Giganta (DC Comics), Grace (Soulfire), Gypsy (DC Comics), Queen Hadea (Defenders of the Earth), The Hobbits (Lord of the Rings), Huckleberry Finn & Tom Sawyer, Hulk (Marvel Comics), Ibuki, (Street Fighter), Ilia (The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess), InuYasha (Viz Media), Jinx (DC Comics), Joe Higashi (The King of Fighters), Kaolla Su (Love Hina), Ken Masters (Street Fighter), L (Death Note), Makoto (Street Fighter), Manitou Dawn (DC Comics), Meggan (Marvel Comics), Momoko (The King of Fighters), Maylene aka Sumomo (Pokemon Diamond & Pearl), Namor (Marvel Comics), Namora (Marvel Comics), Namorita (Marvel Comics), Napolean Bridger Leep (Hoot), Orta (Panzer Dragoon Orta), Rima, Rin (InuYasha), Ryu (Street Fighter), Shanna the She-Devil (Marvel Comics), She-Hulk (Marvel Comics), Sheena, Queen of the Jungle (Fiction House), Tahiri Veila (Star Wars Expanded Universe), Tara Fremont (AC Comics), Tarzan, Thundra (Marvel Comics), Titania (A Midsummer Night's Dream), Toph (Avatar the Last Airbender)

Barefoot on stage

In dancing, theatre, and opera performances, bare feet often express emotions, fears, vulnerability, a down-to-earth attitude, and/or familiarity. It may often alleviate a performer's sense of nervousness or anxiety in such situations, as being barefoot tends to promote physical, and by implication mental, comfort. The ceremony or ordeal of firewalking entails walking barefooted through fire, over a bed of embers, or over hot stones.

Regional traditions

In many cultures it is considered inappropriate, even rude, to wear shoes indoors. It may be acceptable to wear shoes in public places (e.g. museums or libraries), but people are usually expected to go barefoot, or wear socks, inside dwellings. This is usually true for countries where inclement weather is frequent, such as Japan, China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Vietnam, Norway, or Canada, and serves the purpose of minimizing the amount of dirt and mud brought in from the outside.

Sign of poverty or mourning

The tradition of bare feet denoting status dates to Roman times, when it was traditional for prosperous Roman citizens to wear elaborate clothing, including footwear, while slaves and lower-class citizens went barefoot. In Medieval times, leather shoes and boots were expensive, so poorer people often either went barefoot or wrapped their feet in cloth. In art and literature, bare feet often symbolize poverty. In Jewish tradition, shoes are not worn by mourners during the ritual Shiva mourning period. Just as 'sack cloth and ashes' or even full nudity, it was also a sign of mourning in Antiquity.

Symbol of innocence

Bare feet also denotes innocence in American literary tradition, commonly seen in work from the 18th and 19th centuries. Going barefoot was a standard part of childhood play, especially in rural areas. It features prominently in the novels of Mark Twain and the poetry of John Greenleaf Whittier. Barefoot children and young women are also common in the paintings and sketches of Norman Rockwell, William-Adolphe Bouguereau, and the artists affiliated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

Symbol of peace

One way to commemorate Mahatma Gandhi is to walk barefoot around his monument. Even Pope John Paul II and George W. Bush paid him this honor, as shoes are banned within Gandhi's memorial site, Raj Ghat.

Barefoot lifestyle

Of those that self-identify as barefooters, being barefoot some, or even all the time is a lifestyle choice. This choice to go barefoot in public is in direct opposition to the social folkways that exist in some industrialized nations, namely the USA. In other regions, specifically Oceania, a visible minority are seen walking barefoot. Upscale restaurants and most pubs, however, generally require shoes.
Barefooters maintain their barefoot lifestyle is a matter of personal choice that harms no one, intends no disrespect and is consistent with the tradition of individual self-expression that has historically been a cornerstone of liberty in democratic nations. Other barefooters are now promoting barefoot living as a part of a simpler, more family-oriented way of living. They believe that it is healthier to raise children in a family oriented environment where going barefoot is strongly encouraged.
Some barefooters and social historians old enough to remember American life before the 1960s have theorized that the often inaccurate but nonetheless persistent stereotypical image of the filthy, unkempt, barefoot hippie from the later part of that decade has contributed to an overall change in society's attitude toward the practice of going barefoot in public. The widespread appearance of "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service" signs can be traced to this era, and some decidedly non-hippie individuals and even families who had gone barefoot in public on a regular basis opted to begin wearing shoes, lest they be identified with opposition to the Vietnam War and other causes associated with the counterculture.


There are many myths and popular misconceptions regarding regulations against bare feet.

Driving barefoot

Regulations concerning driving barefoot vary from one jurisdiction to another:
  • In the United States, widespread belief in the existence of laws against driving automobiles barefoot has been debunked as an urban legend. However, driving a motorcycle barefoot is prohibited in Alabama.
  • In the UK, The Highway code merely states that footwear should not interfere with the operation of the controls of the vehicle. So driving barefoot is not expressly forbidden.
  • In Germany, traffic laws do not forbid driving barefoot, although causing an accident driving barefoot may bring insurance companies to deny payments.
  • In Belgium, the driving code does not explicitly ban barefoot driving, but article 8.3 requires drivers to be "constantly able to perform any maneuver". According to the federal police, this implicitly bans barefoot driving.
  • In Hong Kong, there is no law prohibiting or proscribing the type or lack of footwear while driving, though it is illegal to be dressed in a manner that interferes with an individual's ability to drive.
  • In Italy, driving barefoot is allowed.
  • In New Zealand, traffic laws do not forbid driving barefoot.
  • In Australia, there are no laws to prohibit barefoot driving.
  • In Brazil, CTB Article 252, IV prohibits, "Driving the car...using footwear that does not hold firm to the feet or that compromises the use of the pedals." Popular advice is that driving barefoot is recommended over driving with inappropriate footwear.

No shoes, no shirt, no service

Many in the United States believe that OSHA regulations prevent people from going to stores, restaurants, and the like without shoes (or a shirt). OSHA regulations refer specifically to employees, not customers. There are no state health codes that ban customers from going barefoot in establishments, as is demonstrated by a project undertaken by The Society for Barefoot Living. Individual businesses, however, are free to refuse to serve customers without the footwear they deem appropriate. Individual cities and towns may also require certain footwear in public places.

Health issues


Poisonous plants, animals or parasites can enter the body through the cuts on bare feet, and the use of shoes can be valuable in protecting them. Other hazards include sharp objects that can cut the foot and extreme temperatures. In addition, individuals with diabetes or other conditions which affect sensation within the feet are at greater risk of injury while barefoot.


A 2006 study found that shoes may increase stresses on the knee and ankle, and suggested that adults with Psoriasis may benefit from walking barefoot, though more study is required to elucidate the factors that distribute loads in with-shoe and barefoot walking. A 1992 correlational study also found that children who wore shoes were three times more likely to have flat feet than those who did not, and suggested that wearing shoes in early childhood can be detrimental to the longitudinal arch of the foot. A 1991 review article found that barefoot walking supported optimum foot development, and the best use of shoes are to protect the foot from injury rather than for correction of problems.



External links

barefoot in German: Barfüßigkeit
barefoot in French: Pieds nus
barefoot in Italian: Barefoot
barefoot in Lojban: jmalunbe
barefoot in Japanese: 裸足
barefoot in Russian: Хождение босиком
barefoot in Chinese: 赤脚
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