Americans are chronic shoe-wearers. We buy shoes for infants who can’t yet walk. We wear shoes almost constantly, certainly in public spaces, and often within the comfortable walls of our own homes. If we’d like, we can purchase shoes for just about any occasion or purpose imaginable, in a vast array of styles, colors, materials, and prices. Well, of course. We need shoes. We need them for warmth and for protection. We wear shoes to be fashionable and because it’s expected. It’s just what we do. And what’s wrong with that? The Barefoot Book explores this question and provides a surprising answer. What’s wrong is that chronic shoe wearing is negatively affecting our health and especially the health of our feet. Most of us have experienced pain and blisters caused by wearing an ill-fitting shoe. In some cases, it’s only a matter of minutes before we realize the damage our shoes are causing to our feet. The long-term consequences of chronic shoe wearing are more difficult to connect but are abundant nonetheless. According to author L. Daniel Howell, the warm, moist environment of a shoe-clad foot makes a perfect condition for fungus and bacteria to grow. Poorly fitting shoes cause or exacerbate a host of foot issues from hammer-toes, bunions, and ingrown toenails to fallen arches and Hallux valgus. And high heeled shoes are the worst culprits of all with chronic use damaging the knees, spine, and posture. In fact, continuous wearing of shoes – any shoes – is a problem. Howell explains how shoes redistribute weight, alter joints, weaken foot muscles, decrease foot flexibility, and eliminate sensory feedback from the sole and shock absorption of the arch. This leaves feet weak, fragile, and even more dependent on shoes. Although shoes are meant to protect our feet, they can sometimes cause more problems than they prevent. This is especially true for women, who tend to wear the most unnatural types of shoes, such as high heels. In fact, high heels are likely to blame for the fact that women outnumber men in rates of foot problems by four to one. If shoes are causing such problems, the solution is obvious: take them off. (Or at least, take them off more often.) Ease out of shoes while sitting at the desk at work. Take the dog on a barefoot walk. Declare the house a barefoot-only zone. Spend an entire weekend without shoes. If we dare, commit to a fully barefoot lifestyle. Simply let our feet breathe. A startling idea at first glance, the barefoot lifestyle is one that increasingly makes sense in the context of foot health and culture. Americans might love their shoes, but the citizens of many other countries successfully and comfortably go barefoot. In fact, significant differences arise between the typical American foot, which is constantly shod, and that of the typical barefooter. Hint: barefooters are the ones reaping the benefits. In The Barefoot Book, Howell describes the best and healthiest kinds of shoes to wear for the times we must wear shoes. For the rest of the time, he suggests we go barefoot, and gives tips for getting started on a more barefoot lifestyle. He suggests ways to ease into going barefoot more often, defines the best conditions and situations for going barefoot, identifies the risks, and provides ways to explain to people why you’re going barefoot – particularly if you venture into public areas where shoes are expected. To help readers on the journey to a more barefoot lifestyle, Howell dispels some of the myths about going barefoot. Thus, readers can rest assured that the health department does not require shoes in public places, it’s not illegal to drive barefoot, and in most circumstances, going barefoot is not dangerous. Howell admits it isn’t practical for all of us to embrace a barefoot lifestyle all of the time; that isn’t the goal of The Barefoot Book. What he would like to see is more people going barefoot in more places, more often. He’d like us to experience healthier feet and fewer trips to the podiatrist’s office, to develop feet that are strong, flexible, and comfortable. After learning about the dangers of chronic shoe wearing and the health benefits of going barefoot (or after a long day in uncomfortable shoes), readers will likely agree.