[box]As you can see from the date below, this letter was sent as a result of an interaction July 24, 2014. I would like to make it clear that everyone was polite, just unwilling to accommodate my choice of lack of footwear. I have not heard back from them yet, and I must admit to taking a week to actually get the letter in the mail. But they should have it by now. I will keep you updated on any response I get[/box]
Nampa, Idaho 83686
July 25, 2014
Hannah Read Newbill
Director of Marketing
Idaho Shakespeare Festival
P.O. Box 9365
Boise, Idaho 83707
Dear Mrs. Newbill:
Subject: Regarding the Idaho Shakespeare Festival policy on bare feet
Four years ago, I adopted a predominantly barefoot life style when I realized the important health benefits of letting my feet function properly, and how detrimental most shoes are. Not only do I do things like my yard work and grocery shopping with bare feet, but most of the year I run with bare feet, having recently accomplished a 20 mile barefoot run as I prepare for a marathon. Throughout my day, bare feet allow me to keep my balance better, help avoid back and knee pain caused by deforming and confining shoes, and generally make locomotion easier and more pleasant.
Last night, I volunteered at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival and was told that if I did not put footwear on, I would be “replaced.” I answered all the concerns about my bare feet, from safety to professionalism. However, the Festival person training me saw fit to turn me in to a higher Festival manager, who spoke with my friend who had coordinated the volunteering. Since I was there as part of a team, to do that friend a favor, and I thought that to present my case more fully to your management at that time would have been hard on my friend, I unhappily found some sandals. And I sat at my station as a bouncer at the assisted access door near the ticket counters to watch all the horrendous footwear that people had on.
Needless to say, much of it was quite unsafe, both imminently and long term. A variety of two to three inch high heels were obviously unstable as the patrons clipped precariously by. The thick, wide “athletic” shoes limited how the foot could bend and kept people from being able to sense the ground, so they appeared to be pounding as they propelled themselves by sheer will. Flip flops and other loose sandals made wearers look like they were constantly guarding against tripping and slipping. Almost everyone looked awkward as they subconsciously fought with their foot wear in order to walk. Toes were squished inside, keeping them from splaying out effectively for shock absorption and balance. I wondered about the traction on the bottoms of many of the shoes. Picturing all of the cement steps, plus slanted, slippery lawns inside the amphitheater, I had to wonder why the Festival management was not more concerned about all of those poor people as a liability, rather than me.
I had tried to explain that, not only do I watch where I am walking with my bare feet, but that my soles are leathery. I have accidentally run through broken glass a few times without trouble. When I do get the occasional abrasion or cut, just like people do on their hands sometimes, I take care of it and continue to appreciate the overall core strength that living with bare feet has helped me develop. I am careful with extremes of hot and cold, because they are my feet. I don’t expect anyone else to be making decisions about how I take care of them.
Then I realized that many of the theater patrons go lay down and have their hands all over the grassy slopes! Where was the liability concern about this? What if they sit on or put their hands in glass? What about other issues, like making sure people had adequate cover from the sun or cold, or were protected from mosquitoes and potentially West Nile virus? Not to mention complete lack of walkways on the upper, highly sloped grass areas, making tripping a real possibility. What about helmets in case of a fall? What about some of the skimpy and nearly transparent clothing I saw, that might lead to offense or exposure. Yes, I jest. I do not want anyone else bothered with being told what to wear.
Two other aspects of bare feet that often come up, before people become aware they have been unduly affected by shoe marketing and myths about the “necessity” of shoes, are 1) cleanliness and 2) appropriateness. As for cleanliness, I can assure you that my feet are washed much more regularly than most people’s shoes. I shudder to think what is on both the inside and outside of most footwear. And my feet don’t stink from being kept in a sweat box all day. Regarding appropriateness, everyone could basically see just as much of my feet in sandals as they could bare. How much difference does a couple of straps make? Have you ever stopped to wonder why footwear is too often associated with “professionalism?” Was it just a way to keep poor people from entering certain circles? As such, it comes across as quite snobbish.
I had expected that an establishment that prides itself on expression and exploring the preconceived ideas in society would have been more open to my freedom to choose what to wear on my feet. It is a simple thing. It is a personal choice that has no impact on anyone else, other than what they choose to be offended by. I hope that my perspectives presented herein will lead to a change of policy and that I can add you to my list of places that I can tell others are barefoot friendly.
Please note that I will be publishing this letter, as well as any response I get from you, on my blog, where I write about the benefits of being barefoot and chronicle some of my encounters along the way.