Bare feet at work: Is this OK in a business-casual office?

ssorich@ledger-enquirer.comApril 18, 2013 

The onset of warm weather generates debates about a controversial topic: feet. Specifically, when -- if ever -- is it OK to go barefoot in public? I want your opinion.

To clarify, I'm not talking about trips to the beach or your local swimming pool. I think we can all agree that bare feet are acceptable during those excursions.

I'm focusing on venues where traditionally, shoes are the norm.

Exhibit A: One of my Facebook friends recently posted a photo of someone flaunting bare feet inside what was apparently a fast-food restaurant. I have a hard time defending the person in the photo, since bare feet and food preparation make for a seemingly unsanitary equation.

But what about going barefoot at work? I'm talking about people who work standard office jobs where business-casual attire is expected.

Recently, I was in one of those offices and noticed a female employee walking around barefoot. Sure, she wasn't dealing with clients. But it struck me as a little odd. I brought it up to someone born and raised in this portion of the country.

The response: "That's a Southern thing."

Really?

Sure, I understand heels can get uncomfortable. I'm hardly riding a high horse in this debate. If my shoes are painful, I'll sometimes remove them while I'm sitting at my desk. That's as far as it goes.

When I checked Google, it didn't take me long to find opponents of the "barefoot at work" phenomenon. This blogger writes, "For one thing, it’s highly unprofessional and tacky. For another, it’s rather rude. And lastly, it’s kind of disgusting. I really don’t need to see my coworkers’ toes."

Let's not forget there are also safety concerns that come with being barefoot in your office. I'm guessing most HR folks aren't thrilled about the idea.

Then again, maybe it's time to back off our shoe obsession.

Perhaps the recent barefoot running trend indicates a growing acceptance of bare feet in other avenues of life. After all, the Society for Barefoot Living says the U.S. "is one of the most anti-barefoot countries."

What do you think? Are critics of bare feet too uptight, or do they have a point?

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