Who Needs Shoes Anyways?

Who Needs Shoes Anyways?

Amanda Guzman

Contributing Writer



As temperatures rise, so do the amount of students choosing to forgo shoes this spring. Not only outdoors or in their dorms, but also in classes and campus buildings. As spring emerges, barefoot season is upon us.


From students to faculty, from the Kratz dorms to the Octavio Romero apartments, there is an established “free the toes” community at Goshen College and anybody can join. It begins with slipping your sandals off in class and progresses to picking up your laundry barefoot until, eventually, you too are a fully-fledged member of the “free the toes” gang.   


It is of no surprise that we at GC love our Chacos, Birks and anything that will let toes breathe. But have you ever stopped to really consider why? Does every college campus love going barefoot as much as we do? Is it a Mennonite thing?


Keith Graber Miller, professor of Bible and religion, said he has never worn shoes while teaching and never intends to. He says there are three reasons for this.


First, he says in the Bible, there are multiple instances where God’s people are told to take off their sandals because they are standing on holy ground. Graber Miller said, “I consider teaching a kind of holy practice. I always think it takes a lot of gumption for professors to teach with shoes on, when we are engaging with young people at formative stages in their lives. That has always felt like holy space to me.”


Second, Graber Miller says that when he first starting pastoring, he always kicked his shoes off under the pulpit for the same holy ground reason as well as that he felt more comfortable preaching without shoes. “Once I got into the habit, I was afraid to change that ritual, so I just kept doing it,” said Graber Miller.


Graber Miller’s third reason connects to the patterns in his home and in some international contexts he has spent time in (such as China and Cambodia) where the custom is to remove shoes when entering a home.


At Goshen College, we value worldviews that are unlike our own and we celebrate new customs. Bare feet are seen as a symbol of humility and are customary in both Eastern and Western parts of the world. Although, in the U.S., bare feet are still seen by some as a taboo. Goshen College is an exception.


From Indonesia to Tanzania, many of us get to experience an aspect of barefoot culture firsthand on SST. In the same way that students bring back stories, flavors and colors they have only recently experienced, they also bring back culture. Perhaps that is how barefoot culture began at GC: as a custom borrowed from our study-abroad countries.


Above all, there is a freeing element to being able to walk barefoot, especially this late into the semester when we are all melanin-deprived and stressed beyond our means. As soon as the weather gets warmer, students flock outside to study in hammocks, throw a Frisbee around or simply feel the sun on their skin.


“I think students like the freedom of going without shoes, which makes a lot more sense that having your feet tightly bound in shoes all the time,” said Graber Miller. “A student two decades ago took this to extremes, not wearing shoes throughout the winter, inside or out, and going entirely barefoot during his semester abroad with us in China.”


“Going barefoot connects us to the Earth,” said Heather Gabel, a sophomore sustainability major.


This connection is rooted in the values of the community at Goshen. After a cold winter, we long to feel closer to our Earth and the campus around us.


We are used to hearing “no shirt, no shoes, no service,” but does that apply at GC? Fortunately for the barefoot community, Goshen College does not have a defined dress code that requires students to wear shoes at any given time (with the exception of Westlawn Dining Hall). In fact, many community performances, such as the International Student Coffeehouse, include performers who are barefoot.


“The fact that there is an entire choir on campus who performs barefoot speaks to the flexibility and openness of our community,” said Petra Showalter, a sophomore, in reference to the Voices of the Earth choir. They perform barefoot at the majority of their concerts.  


Goshen College fosters an inclusive campus and the barefoot community is no exception to this rule. There is no doubt that this barefoot phenomenon is here to stay, and though not all of us might get it, we respect it.


Perhaps on your next walk to class, consider forgoing the shoes. Though you might get a couple of strange looks, you might be surprised at how many more bare feet you encounter. After all, why should we treat a bare foot any differently than a bare hand?


Written by Record

8 Comment responses

  1. Avatar
    September 20, 2020

    I am glad to hear that Goshen College is so open to the barefoot lifestyle. As a 54 year old man, I have been going barefoot for over 30 years. Most people don’t care which is fine by me, but there is the occasional complaint or request to put on shoes in the restaurant or store. There are also the people who give positive comments about my bare feet. The positive attitudes combined with the recognition of the spiritual connection to the earth through bare feet is nice to hear at GC. So I say lose the shoes and rock the bare feet whenever and where ever you can!

  2. Avatar
    April 08, 2019

    I appreciate and applaud your forward thinking. 👣👣Barefoot Mudslinger

  3. Avatar
    April 08, 2019

    Excellent article! I go barefoot everywhere and hate shoes. There is nothing better than feeling the various textures of the ground you walk on. It’s good for your feet, your legs, your body, your gait, healthy, legal and pleasurable. If you haven’t tried going barefoot, you don’t know what you’re missing!

  4. Avatar
    April 07, 2019

    This is a great article!

    “After all, why should we treat a bare foot any differently than a bare hand?” We shouldn’t, as there’s no logical reason to. Being barefoot is simply a personal choice of attire that’s perfectly legal, healthy, and natural. In fact, since almost all foot problems are directly caused by or exacerbated by shoe wearing, never wearing shoes will keep feet healthy and free of the many fungal and bacterial infections, as well as physiological problems and deformities, that wearing shoes over time will cause.

    One thing mentioned in the article I did find odd. Why do they require shoes in the dining hall? I mean, people don’t eat with their feet, and surely the food isn’t served on the floor, the only place bare feet would be. Requiring shoes in the dining hall and no other place on campus makes no logical sense at all.

  5. Avatar
    April 06, 2019

    “with the exception of Westlawn Dining Hall”

    What’s the deal with the Westlawn Dining Hall?

    Why would shoes be require there?

    Certainly, there is no law requiring people to wear shoes while in a restaurant or dining hall.

  6. Avatar
    April 05, 2019

    Wonderful article! Glad to hear Goshen College has such a positive and inclusive attitude toward the spiritual, physical and general benefits of going barefoot.
    Just curious, why does the dining hall have a shoe requirement? (It’s not a health code or insurance requirement and people go barefoot in their own kitchens and dining rooms all the time!)

  7. Avatar
    April 05, 2019

    Very positive article! Too bad about the dining hall, though — there’s really no reason that it should be any different from the rest of campus.

  8. Avatar
    April 05, 2019

    I love to go barefoot! If I had my way I wouldn’t even own any shoes!

    In college I went barefoot everywhere & every time I could. I attended a state university, & while I was one of relatively few barefooters I rarely encountered problems.

    You didn’t mention it in your article, but a point worth mentioning is that going barefoot is perfectly legal. There are no laws or “health codes” prohibiting barefoot customers in malls, restaurants, etc., even those serving food & beverages.

    So let those feet bare up, & let those toes wiggle happily free!