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Monday, April 25, 2011


I managed to lock myself outside of my house early this morning while investigating some birds sitting in the pine tree out in front of our house. I was wearing my pajama shorts and a t-shirt with my hair all wild looking from just waking up. And, I was barefoot!! I ended up walking a mile and a half on a rough, dirt path to reach my wife's place of work to get the spare key and a ride home!!

As I was walking across the prickly path and sharp stones, I contemplated what it must be like for those who don't have shoes or socks to wear on a daily basis. I reflected upon my time living in Africa and remembered that many Africans walk barefoot everyday while carrying heavy loads of goods; usually in blazing heat.
Yet, despite all that hardship, they never complained in my presence or indulged themselves in self-pity; and often they were in good spirits.

I was so impressed by those Africans that I donated my shoes to friends there upon my departure--as well as my clothes. I literally flew home with just the clothes on my body. Anyway, as I recalled my beloved Africans this morning, I was humbled yet inspired by their examples and it helped me push through the pain. Surely, I thought, I can walk a short distance barefoot if countless people around the world have no choice but to walk everywhere without shoes.

Shoes are a luxury I too often take for granted, and once I got into the building where my wife works, I was so happy to walk on soft carpet. It was the most luxurious feeling in the world!! Yet another thing I won't take for granted today. All that walking and thinking led me toward doing something pro-active about the shortage of shoes in this world. So, I researched ways to donate shoes and found a great organization that is non-denominational and non-profit, it's called "Donate Your Old Shoes." Please, consider holding a shoe donation box at your sangha, business or other place of worship. I am hoping to set up one of their boxes at my wife's office.

~Peace to all beings~

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The Invisible Squidboy! said...

I have but one question. Who says that it is a hardship to not have shoes? Or that the people you speak of even want them? Is that attitude not just imposing our western beliefs on clothing on others?

They call him James Ure said...

Squidboy, Thanks for the comment and the visit to the blog. I'm sure that some don't see it as a hard ship but there are many who would love to have some shoes. Especially children. I have seen and heard it first hand.

I have seen kids in Africa ask for shoes for their birthday or Christmas. Not just new, fancy shoes, but shoes--period. And, when I gave my shoes away I did so because my African friend wanted shoes, so badly but couldn't afford them.

As for a Western mindset, I tried to write the post in a compassionate way, rather than out of pity. That is why I mentioned being impressed by their strength and determination to walk without the protection of shoes.

Whether or not they find shoes comfortable, they do protect your feet and that is indisputable. So, I would imagine shoes would be desired by most people in most cases. One thing I believe the world's population has in common are shoes.

When I watch t.v. of the world, most of the people I see are wearing shoes. If they aren't, it's a good chance that they'd want to if they had access to them.

A lot of Africans wear plastic shoes because that's all they can afford. If they want shoes enough to buy plastic ones then I'd bet they'd love soft, protective ones. But, I don't feel a person is to be pitied for not having shoes or wanting them. It should be their choice. All the shoe charity does is make them available to those who want them.

Confessions of a Wanna Be Yogini. said...

This was such an amazing post.. Thought provoking, and wonderful. I love walking barefoot, it reminds me what wonderful tactile pleasures there are in the world. I even took up barefoot running about a year ago. The way you write inspires me every day.. keep up the amazing writing!

Buddhist_philosopher said...

Heya James. Great post. I too experienced many, both young and old who would have loved a decent pair of shoes in my travels in India and SE Asia. Thanks for the link and don't forget about Tom's - great shoes I only just heard about this last year - (they do a 1 for 1, buy one and one is donated to a child in need).

Anonymous said...

+1 Insightful

Pixie said...

A lovely post that made me think. Thank you :-)x

Matt said...

I'm not going to say there you are a bad person for giving your shoes away, you are not. However your barefoot experience is not the same as theirs, they are used to going barefoot all the time. What you found painful they would not, their feet are used to it. The one issue I have with giving them your shoes, what happens when those shoes wear out, and they have to go bare foot again, their feet will have been softened from the shoes and that may increase their risk of being injured. I don't have an issue with people having the option to have shoes as long as they consistently have that choice, otherwise in the long run more harm than good could come of it.

Ruben Berenguel @100perZen said...

Hi James,

Maybe kids in Africa want shoes just because they don't have any? I can't answer this question: if you have been there you may know the answer or have a hint about it. I have walked barefoot a few times (I even had an intense karate training in a beach full of broken seashells in winter... hard) and have a pair of fancy "barefoot-like" shoes for running. I guess that if you always live barefoot your feet grow stronger and you may not feel it as weird, odd or hurting. But I can't really know, I have not lived this way.



vernon albert said...

The Theme of your blog which described donating shoes to African people is nice thing.

Anonymous said...

I do appreciate your kindness and compassion, and support donating shoes when needed however there are several things in your article and comments that are non-factual and are based on subjective and anecdotal experience, and partial analysis which I want to point out.

It's important what kind of shoes...growing up in India where I had to wear fully covering shoes and socks to school under 35 degree Celsius, I'd suggest that they should be banned there, especially in schools and companies (which have a dress code)

If it's slippers and flip flops you are talking about it's ok.

"Whether or not they find shoes comfortable, they do protect your feet and that is indisputable"
It is highly disputable, and depends on the circumstances like rural/urban and sanitation and besides I could put it this way: Whether or not you find barefeeting initially uncomfortable, they do have immense musculo skeletal health benefits and that is indisputable from the evolutionary history of feet. (and porbably also the fact that african have the least of musculo skeletal disorders) See this article:

and barefoot Ted:

Shoes like anything else is a status symbol in many parts of the world, and though initially worn for protection by a few can turn into just that, and an artificially generated 'want'. I don't think this is a healthy trend. to prove my point Why wouldn't you be allowed barefeet into a good restaurant (east or west or africa)?

Many parents insist that their children do certain things that simply conforms with society because they believe that's somehow good, like when my mom told me to change from flip flops to leather sandals which i hated.

And it's not true that all people have shoes in common. Think about tribal societies.

just try doing the little bit of barefeet exercise that you did everyday for several days...I did have blisters and stuff in the beginning, however I just couldn't stop doing it.

Anonymous said...

The feet shown in the photo is btw, a pair of perfectly splayed well developed feet, unlike the deformed inward toed feet of habitually shod populations which includes myself, who have worn shoes for at least the first 5 years of my life, when I was fortunate enough to free from that prison called shoes into flip flops, but only until I went to schools with mandatory shoe policy at 35 degree celcius!

Seeing the deformed feet of habitually shod people I can't believe that 'shoes protecting your feet is indisputable' is true!! One would well claim that chinese bound foot was ok.

It should not be forgotten how shoe companies made us believe that shoes protect the feet, by lobbying the US congress to make shoes compulsory in US schools, and thus taking thier junk to the rest of the world incluing developing countries prompting new 'desires' into the poplulation (i'm talking of the big shoe companies, not about the slippers and flip flops)

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