Going Barefoot

By Cheang Kaiwen

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A coterie of happy barefooters.

Two weeks ago, a group of us decided to go barefoot for two days around NUS. The idea had been thrown around since the start of the semester, and was finally put in place two Mondays ago, on 21st October.

For the entire day, our bare feet drew quite a bit of attention. Braver passers-by and friends would ask why we didn’t have shoes on. More often than not, we would spot a couple of puzzled eyes eyeing our feet from afar. This somehow reminded me of TOMS’ One Day Without Shoes (and I wouldn’t be surprised if this barefoot idea would evolve into something bigger in the near future). Apart from that, it was indeed refreshing to feel the grass squish beneath my feet, and wince occasionally from the searing hot pavements.

On a more personal note, a crazy idea between a friend and I back in 2012 saw a bunch of us going barefoot for the entire day – from stepping out of the house, to taking the train, to shopping along Orchard Road. Pounding pavements barefoot and having curious eyes question your sanity was not something new for me, but going for lectures and tutorials without shoes – now, that was something new.

There are many pros and cons of going barefoot, and this information is easily found on the Internet, but many who participated were simply keen on a new experience.  Here are some thoughts of those who bared it:

“I think it’s quite a cool idea. I basically felt very free and there’s this very natural feel. I felt unconstrained and it really engaged the sense of touch again. Plus, it reminds you of how this country is so developed and modernized that stepping on grass and nature is something that you don’t get so often.”

– Amos

“Going barefoot was not something entirely outside my comfort zone, so I was pretty excited about it! Normally, I never really liked wearing my shoes for long anyway, and would seize resting opportunities to slip them off. I love being able to feel the ground, especially when it’s cold; the different sensations I get when walking on different textures amuse me, haha. It’s also priceless to witness the varied looks people give when they see me barefooted.”

– Bianca

“I’m not too sure about the others, but going barefoot made me feel very self-conscious on how others would look upon me, and this was reinforced by people staring and commenting when they see my barefoot! It really made me reflect on how society views people who look and act a little different.”

– Edwin

“It felt sole good! It felt like going back to the age when we still run around barefoot in playgrounds. Walking around school was more than just getting from one place to another.”

– Si Hui

It was a wonderful experience! In a way, it’s like being able to see and ‘taste’ the ground you’re walking on. It gives you new perspectives on things you take for granted everyday (like the very ground you walk on). Like, I never knew there were so many textures to the places I walk past everyday. And now on hindsight it’s so sad that everyday, everyone is actually missing out on an experience that in a way reconnects us with our environment.”

– Ruizhi

“For my first barefoot experience, I loved the feeling of touching the concrete ground with my feet. I enjoyed the unevenness and warmth of the ground, despite the fact that it does hurt a little. I guess it goes to show how dependent we are on footwear in today’s world. However, I don’t regret trying to go barefoot for a day and would do it again in the future – on days when I don’t have lab sessions!”

– Jonathan

“It wasn’t my first time going barefoot in public, but it was still an exciting experience attending lectures and tutorials baring my feet. It certainly attracted the attention of my eagle-eyed friends who enquired further and came to learn that it was one of the many unique initiatives that USP students have come to be known for holding.”

– Willie

So if you’re game, pick a day and dare to bare!