Before conducting research for this article I was completely oblivious to the controversy that surrounds a person’s decision to wear shoes or to go barefoot. I always thought that the basics were that if you were in public then wear shoes, but if you are at home or visiting someone who likes clean floors then don’t. Well it turns out that this is such a huge issue that there are multiple websites out there attempting to break the stigma around not wearing shoes. There are also a lot of websites and questions posed by travellers who are pondering why Australians choose to go barefoot.
Here is an example of my favourite question posted on Yahoo answers (it provided me with a solid 10 minutes of laughter):
“How come in Australia lots of Aussie people who live in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and so on don’t wear shoes when the go to the shops or even to the city?
I think it is gross to see someone walk in bare-foot and believe they are very poor people with no shoes on. I think that is very rude really.
I mean, I come from Europe and no one I’ve seen elsewhere, I see people wear shoes in summer and going bare-foot would indicate the person is homeless or typical drunken family brawl who doesn’t care about society.”
The great news is that wearing or not wearing shoes is completely up to you and a personal choice (unless you are visiting an establishment which requires shoes). It is, however, important that you consider your health and safety when making the decision of whether or not to go barefoot. I personally wear shoes everywhere, except for inside homes and on the beach.
Thinking of joining in the barefoot phenomenon? Below are some basic rules when it comes to not wearing shoes in Australia.
- If you a visiting a person’s house ask them if they would like you to take your shoes off. There is nothing more annoying than someone walking over your freshly mopped floors with dirty shoes.
- Enjoy the beach without shoes (some say it is the only way). Keep mindful of any debris or seashells that could cause cuts or infections and remember that sometimes the sand can be really hot!
- Go barefoot at your home and in your backyard.
- Ensure you are aware that there may be spiders in your backyard, ask your landlord if the house has been sprayed for spiders by a pest controller.
- If you have been at the beach it is generally acceptable to walk around barefoot in nearby areas.
- Always ensure that you are putting your safety first. Unfortunately people tend to litter so always keep an eye on the ground to ensure you don’t step on anything that could hurt you.
- Wear shoes in heavily populated places like the city, more people means you are more likely to have your feet stepped on or step on something.
- Accept that if you go barefoot in places where it isn’t very common people will likely stare.
- Embrace the Australian game of barefoot bowls over a couple of beers with friends.
- Assume that it is acceptable to enter shops and restaurants barefoot. It is likely that many places will refuse to serve you unless you are ‘fully dressed’.
- Go barefoot at university.
- Climb over rock pools at the beach with no shoes on (I learnt this the hard way – see photo).
- Drive barefoot (this is a controversial one, as it isn’t illegal, however, if your feet are sweaty it could cause you to slip on the pedals). Driving barefoot is always better than driving in thongs (flip-flops) though.
- Go barefoot in any professional setting, unless for some reason you are at the beach and everyone else is going barefoot.
Hopefully this has helped you to feel equipped to handle the decision of whether or not to wear shoes today and particularly over summer now that the ‘barefoot season’ has arrived.
Are there any tips or tricks for going barefoot that I have forgotten? Let us know in the comments below.
Have a fantastic Aussie summer!
(Cover photo courtesy of Katrina Young Photography)