[Update, June 22: I'm pleased to report that I've received a bare foot pardon from the Courthouse Athletic Club. The River Road location, at least. Gary, the manager, says that it is OK to be shoeless in the corner of the weight room where I like to do my Tai Chi and Yoga thing. Thanks, Gary.
I ordered some lightweight kung fu shoes before I got the news, though, and may end up wearing them at the club. Regardless, it's nice to have the bare feet option. I appreciate the support I received via comments from the bare foot community, all two or three of you. With every shoeless step, we move together toward open air freedom.]
This is a mug shot, so to speak, of the culprits. They’re what led a Courthouse Athletic Club employee to take me aside this afternoon and say, “Bare feet on the weight room wood floor aren’t permitted. If you want to do Tai Chi on a hard surface you’ll have to go upstairs.”
Busted! Where is the justice? The constitution gives us the right to bear arms; it seems like I should be able to bare feet. I doubt that the NRA is going to take up my cause. Maybe the Society for Barefoot Living will lend me support.
What surprised me is that I’ve been Tai Chi’ing and Yoga’ing along in bare feet for at least six months in a corner of the machine weight room. This area has mats and exercise balls and obviously is designed for stretching and such.
Granted, my barefoot “and such” has been unique. But countless athletic club employees have walked by while I’ve been doing my Tai Chi and Yoga thing, smiled, and never said a word about my lack of shoes.
Methinks I was turned in today by one of those fastidious women who wipe down every machine with disinfectant before they use it. I can picture one of them going up to the front desk and complaining: “There’s a man exercising in bare feet. Do something!”
I’m a victim of cultural bias. My comrades at the Society for Barefoot Living speak the truth when they say “the USA is one of the most anti-barefoot countries.” In Japan it is highly discourteous to wear shoes in a home, inn, temple, and many other places. In India I’ve seen thousands of people checking their shoes at a spiritual gathering and walking around barefoot or in socks to their seating places on mats.
We’re strangely bare feet-phobic in this country. Seemingly someone was disturbed about my clean dry feet stepping on a wood floor which they walked across on shoes. But they entered the athletic club after grabbing a door handle with their bare hand, which other bare hands had grasped after touching who knows what.
I can tell you: I’ve never covered my nose with a foot after I’ve sneezed. Nor have I used my foot to perform any toilet functions.
I was going to let this affront against bare feet slide and meekly either use Tai Chi slippers in the weight room or go upstairs to a proffered alternative hard floor. But I’m leaning toward taking a stand. Shoeless, of course.
My wife tells me that 80% of the people in her Courthouse Athletic Club Pilates class are barefoot. On a hardwood floor. Likewise, for nine years I took karate classes at the athletic club. We all were barefooted. On a hardwood floor. During warm ups we’d do push-ups and sit-ups on the floor that bare feet had walked on.
This article, “Why Bare Feet?”, explains why the martial arts traditionally are practiced in bare feet. One reason is cleanliness. Shoes are a lot filthier than feet. Yet many people at my athletic club enter already dressed in their workout clothes. Their shoes may have walked across a gasoline and oil-soaked parking lot, or a pesticide-strewn lawn.
Those same shoes then walk across the hardwood floor that I’m lying on, doing my Yoga routine. Yuk! Shoes suck! Bare feet are neat!
I’m always searching for a cause that will give meaning to my life, yet not take up too much time or energy. Advocating for bare feet might be my thing, and Oregon the place to do it.
In this regard, the Society for Barefoot Living conducted a state-by-state survey of Health Department rules concerning shoeless feet. The Oregon response was positive. There is no statute or administrative rule that requires shoes to be worn in restaurants. A restaurant may require this on its own, but it isn’t a Health Department edict.
Oregonians, stand up for your right to be free. All we have to lose are our shoes.
Here is our manifesto.