Living Without Shoes
Going barefoot part of trend toward the 'pure and natural.'
March 2, 2011— -- Kyle Vaughn describes his sense of style as "ludicrous." His wardrobe includes a green sequined vest, vibrant purple slacks, a beanie with elephant ears stitched on the sides and an elf costume for the holiday season.
But when people comment on Vaughn's appearance, they rarely mention the neon colors and novelty accessories.
Strangers tend to notice the fact that he's not wearing shoes.
When Vaughn, 21, walks by, some ask where he left his shoes, others scoff in disgust and children ask their parents why he's barefoot.
"I guess you get used to people in ridiculous clothing, between gothic, punk and other eclectic fashions," he said. "But it's much rarer to see someone without shoes."
Vaughn, from Katy, Texas, is one of a growing number of individuals who prefer to live their lives without shoes.
He's lived barefoot for as long as he can remember. As an elementary school student, his teachers scolded him for kicking his shoes off under his desk. Today, while there are times when Vaughn is forced to wear shoes –- like when he's working as a food prep –- he estimates that 90 percent of his life is spent barefoot.
"It just feels better," he said. "It sounds corny, but there's something nice about feeling the earth you're walking on. You're just more connected to the world."
Those living barefoot cite health reasons, practicality and general comfort as reasons for losing their shoes.
The trend can be attributed to an increased awareness of natural living, said Michael Buttgen, founder and president of the Primal Foot Alliance, an online network of barefooters.
"As a society, we have this desire to go back to what's pure and natural," he said. "People don't want to eat processed food anymore. They don't want to release harmful toxins into the air. Going barefoot is a logical next step."
Al Gauthier, host of Living Barefoot, a bi-monthly podcast with an audience of 25,000, says the movement picks up steam as more people learn about it.