What began as walking barefoot for one day to raise money for an organization evolved into senior Kelly McCormish’s decision to forgo wearing shoes for almost a year now.
While scrolling through Instagram, McCormish stumbled across a post related to the Soles4Souls’ annual Barefoot4Them day, during which participants go barefoot to raise money for children without adequate footwear. The post inspired her to abandon shoes and she has continued to walk barefoot since Oct. 10, 2014.
“When I was researching [being barefoot], it seemed like a lifestyle that a lot of people, after they started doing it, really enjoyed, so I thought that it could be something I enjoyed as well and something that could have a purpose and serve other people,” McCormish said.
After participating in the organization’s annual barefoot day, McCormish decided to ask people to sponsor her for each day she went barefoot to collect money for Soles4Souls. She raised just less than 600 dollars from October 2014 to June 2015.
Although her fundraising project has ended, McCormish continues to forsake shoes as a personal choice. She walks almost everywhere barefoot, with the exception of some restaurants and stores that require footwear. To work around this, McCormish said she keeps flip flops in her car at all times.
Despite the risk of hurting oneself while walking barefoot, McCormish stated that she has never had an infection or a severe injury due to not wearing footwear, citing only stubbed toes and one bee sting as her most significant injuries. To keep her feet clean, she washes them daily after she arrives home.
Although McCormish has encouraged her friends to participate in the Barefoot4Them day, she does not think that ditching footwear is for everyone.
“It’s a lot of work if you go to school or work full time…physically it’s not a hard thing to do, but it’s really socially unacceptable, so you have a lot of problems, for example the administration, or teachers, or if you work somewhere they probably require you to wear shoes, which they can,” McCormish said.
According to McCormish, sometimes people will whisper, stare, or point at her.
“I think a lot of people are just uncomfortable when people do things that are out of the norm, especially at high school… a lot of people think it’s dirty or gross or unhealthy,” McCormish said. “I’m not really one to care that much about what people think of me, so it doesn’t bother me all that much.”
During her junior year, McCormish’s decision to remain barefoot made it difficult to attend school and specific classes because of the District’s dress and grooming policy.
However, her teachers did not notice that she was barefoot until months after school had begun.
“[My teachers] would be like, ‘Hey, where are your shoes?’” McCormish said. “And I would be like, ‘I haven’t worn shoes in this class ever.’”
Once her teachers became aware that she was always barefoot, problems arose because students are supposed to wear shoes at all times, according to the Tamalpais Union High School District Policies and Administrative Regulations and the 2014/2015 Parent/Student Handbook.
“It was quite a battle to be able to be allowed to [be barefoot] and I had a couple of teachers who wouldn’t let me in class without shoes, so I ended up missing a lot of class,” McCormish said.
Despite missing some school due to forgoing footwear, McCormish did not have to drop any courses. Instead, she kept up with her classwork by emailing her teachers and getting help from friends.
“[My parents were] totally supportive, except when I started missing school. They wanted me to wear shoes, but they still understood why I wouldn’t and I never got in trouble for it,” McCormish said.
Looking toward the future, McCormish does not know how long she will continue to go barefoot, but says she will carry on foregoing footwear as long as it is convenient and enjoyable for her.
She plans on participating in both the Barefoot4Them day on Oct. 16 and the National Barefoot Day on June 1, 2016.
If you would like to donate money to Soles4Souls, visit https://soles4souls.org/get-involved/give-money/. Every dollar provides a pair of shoes to someone in need.