Monday, August 16, 2010

Dirty Soles: Badge of Barefoot Honor or Totally Irrelevant?

WARNING: Some of the content of this post may be objectionable for some readers. It contains photos of (gasp!) dirty feet. Just sayin'. You've been warned.

There's one aspect of the barefoot lifestyle that's continued to be equally intriguing and confusing to me. If you spend any time perusing the online posts of "hardcore" barefooters, you can't help but find comments about it. It's DIRTY SOLES.

For many barefooters, dirty soles are a badge of honor. People will either gloat about how "black" their soles are or ask others about it as if they are wanting to know how committed they were to the unshod lifestyle. After someone comments about going barefoot somewhere, it's very possible to receive a question like, "How black did your soles get?" or comment like, "I bet your feet got REALLY dirty doing that! Pictures?"

Oh yeah, pictures. There's a LOT of barefooters out there that LOVE to see and post pictures of dirty feet. Again, I think a lot of it is kind of a "badge of honor" thing, but I honestly think a lot of foot fetishists use them for their, um, personal enjoyment. Some of the photos are just dirty feet, like this one:

Now, while some might say, "Oooh, look how dirty his feet are! That is SO AWESOME!" I say, "Wow, he has high arches." But I digress.

Other photos have not just dirty feet in them, but the actual person attached to the dirty feet. This person is often intentionally showing their sole to the camera. An example:

As evidenced by the above picture, sometimes the person's foot isn't even that dirty! For some reason, however, there are lots of people who are into this.

Hey, man, whatever.

But guess what? I've even played along with this, too. I don't know why, but after a New Year's Day run this year, I posed for a couple of photos with Barefoot Rick, a local barefoot runner who's pretty well known throughout the community. The evidence:


I really don't get it. To me, going barefoot is really not a competition to see whose feet can get the blackest. I just like to go barefoot because I think it's better for my feet.

In fact, measuring someone's devotion to a barefoot lifestyle by how dirty their soles are is hardly an accurate indicator. This morning, for example, I went for a barefoot run in the neighborhood. I was out for approximately 25 minutes. I got blacker soles from that short time than going barefoot the entire day Saturday -- including shopping at local stores for a few hours.

For those who get some kind of sexual pleasure out of dirty bare feet: Ooookay. Not my thing. For those who see black soles as a badge of honor for going barefoot: Rethink that. It doesn't equate. For those who thing going barefoot is gross because you get dirty soles: I can understand why you think that way, but it's really quite harmless. I regularly tell people that simple baby wipes are very good at wiping off the objectionable dirtiness.

What do you think of black soles and barefooting? Is that what keeps you from trying an unshod lifestyle? Do you see dirty feet as a barefoot badge of honor? Please leave your feedback in the comments below.


  1. In some cases, it IS sexual.
    In some cases, it merely indicates the person went barefoot.
    I, too, get dirtier soles from a market than time outdoors. Something to do with floor coating.
    The Barefoot World is mighty complicated, because it's got PEOPLE in it.

  2. Also, going about barefoot is still too unusual, so those who do like to show off what they've "achieved." If it more way more common, I think that "badge of honor" would wear off 'cause EVERYBODY'S doin' it.

  3. Must be an internet thing, and/or fetish thing. When going barefoot was popular during the 1960s and 1970s, I never paid attention or noticed one way or the other, whether someone who was barefoot had clean or dirty feet.

  4. You're totally right about the lack of correlation between dirty soles and avid barefooting. Although, like mentioned above, I tend to get dirtier soles from walking around inside stores than I do from walking around outside, even on the street. This might indicate a stronger dedication, as it takes a bit more courage to go into indoor establishments, where social pressured tend to be higher. So I guess it's not completely wrong to measure, at least in that case.

  5. As a lover of the female foot myself, I have to say that has nothing to do with anything. My appreciation for the female foot is simply aesthetics. It's no different from the guys who proudly proclaim to be breast men or ass men. Why don't we call them fetishists?

    I don't measure barefooters by the color of their soles. My own soles are sometimes black as ink, other times barely brown. But I do think dirty soles serve as a good way to tell a barefooter from the shod crowd. In that sense, I think it is something of a badge of honor. But not anything to rank people by.

  6. I don't get it either. A few days ago I saw a video report on Christopher McDougall and a large group of barefoot runners in New York who ran eight miles through the city. At the end of the video they all showed their dirty soles for the camera. Why? They weren't even that dirty.

  7. Personally, I find the sight of dirty soles (especially in men) rather attractive for several reasons:
    - they look somehow more masculine to me
    - they are an irrefutable proof that the owner has spent some time (no matter how little) in his bare feet directly touching the ground
    - they outline the part of the foot that actually touches the ground (I tend to like feet with "healthy" arches)

    In the case of showing one's soles to the world I think, at least in the case of runners, the habit comes from trying to demonstrate that their soles don't get completely destroyed (as it is most people's assumption) if you walk or run barefooted on the streets.

    Of course, like anything else, the showing of dirty (or clean) soles is something subjective and each individual does it for their own personal reasons.

    Regardless of purpose, I'm glad people do this... I think it's neat!

  8. I'm not into the whole dirty soles thing myself. Even though I go barefoot 24/7 through the summer months, my soles rarely get black (though they often have a brown shade of "perma-dirt").

  9. Leaving the sexualization of feet aside [squick], I don't dig the dirty soles thing, either. After a run, I almost immediately shower and give my hooves a good scrubbing until they return to a more normal, pinkish hue. I get no pride from having filthy feet. Just a disgusted, annoyed wife wondering what I'm tracking through the house and what parasites are coursing through my body. I prefer being clean, thanks.

  10. Damn!! i love going barefoot, it's kind of like my thing. it is kind of sexual to me, and i would love to know what all those feet smell like afterward. yeah, it's kinda wierd, but some people like smelling other people's feet! like me.


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