is barefoot better?

highlights:

  • what is barefooting?
  • why students around Cal Poly don’t wear shoes
  • pros and cons of going barefoot

A select few of students around the campus of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo can be spotted walking around barefoot.  This lack of shoes is a movement called “barefooting” and is done for multiple reasons such as it being healthy for the feet and body as a whole.  However, is barefooting actually better for your feet as some people claim?

What do shoe-wearing students think?

I discovered that students are either supportive, weirded out, or neutral about the barefoot people around campus.

“The first time I saw my WOW leader barefoot around campus I was really weirded out.  But after talking to her about it I’m more supportive of the idea.  It’s a liberating feeling and increases the strength in the arches of your feet,” business sophomore Tabitha Ahern said.

However, some students are not as accepting about the shoeless lifestyle.

“I honestly don’t get why people go barefoot around campus.  I just see a hygiene problem, and scratches waiting to happen.  But if you can last all day all around campus, more power to you,” political sciences sophomore Hamzah Ramadan said.

Why do people “barefoot?”

Going barefoot is good and healthy for you, according to the Living Barefoot blog:

“Why go barefoot? Because being barefoot is healthy for you! Because being barefoot can feel great! Because being barefoot is how our bodies were designed!”

Being barefoot is natural and wearing shoes actually damages the way the foot should act naturally, Living Barefoot said.

“The more we wear shoes, the more we damage and weaken our feet.” -Living Barefoot.

The foot to the left is a mold of someone who doesn’t wear shoes. The foot to the right is a mold of someone who wears shoes on a regular basis.

If you come to think of it, there was a time when people didn’t even wear shoes on their feet.  It makes sense that shoes actually interrupt the natural shape of the foot.

One main reason students at Cal Poly go barefoot is simply for comfort, earth sciences sophomore Zoe Stephens said.

“I just really don’t like wearing shoes sometimes and I like the feel of the warm ground on my feet,” Stephens said.

Stephens walked the campus barefoot to enjoy the dry weather and warm ground on her feet.

Personally, I can understand why going barefoot can be invigorating since it is so different from the shoe-wearing society we live in today.  However, I find it hard to believe that the benefits outweigh the those of wearing shoes.  Not only are you losing an essential part of your outfit, but it just doesn’t seem all that comfortable having to worry about where to step to avoid damage to your naked feet.
Pros for barefooting according to Wikipedia:
  • stronger, flexible, and more mobile feet
  • fewer deformities
  • less likely to have flat feet
  • lower rate of osteoarthritis

Cons for barefooting according to Wikipedia:

  • cuts, bruises or puncture wounds from glass, nails, etc.
  • parasites
  • athlete’s foot
  • infection
  • laws requiring footwear in some establishments
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her dancing feet

highlights:

  • dancing used as expression and art
  • what type of shoes are worn for different types of dance and why
  • what are the effects of pointe ballet shoes on the feet
  • Cal Poly student shares about her passion for dance

There is more than just tutu’s and tights to the world of dancing for Cal Poly San Luis Obispo nutrition junior Melissa Smitheram. Somehow, 16 years of bleeding, blistered feet from pointe ballet shoes have been at outlet for expression and creativity for the passionate dancer.

Then

Smitheram has been dancing since she was three years old and took a year off during her junior year of high school to recover from being burned out.  During those 16 years, Smitheram has learned a variety of different types of dance styles.

“I was primarily trained in ballet. I have danced various styles such as modern, lyrical, and jazz. I have also taken a few hip-hop and African dance classes,” Smitheram said.

During her years before college, Smitheram competed in several dance competitions as part of a dance company in her hometown.  Smitheram also danced on stage for the Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty with Contra Costa Ballet.

Once Smitheram came to college, she hit the ground dancing by becoming involved in dance on Cal Poly’s campus, Smitheram said.

“In college I danced in the Cal Poly spring showcase my freshman year. I was also a member of Cal Poly’s Dance Company from 2011-2012,” Smitheram said.

Smitheram, left, uses her dance skills as an art form.
Alexander K. Silva Photography

Different shoes for different types of dance

As you can guess, dance involves the feet in more ways than one.  Each style of dance requires a certain shoe to be worn for different purposes, Smitheram said.

For ballet, soft canvas slippers are required or pointe shoes, which are wooden shoes that allow you to dance on your toes, Smitheram said.

“Dancers wear these because it is the style of classical ballet and allow the dancer to look graceful as if she is floating,” Smitheram said.

Pointe ballet shoes must be replaced often if they are too worn down.

Lyrical and modern dance usually calls for dance paws or no shoes at all, Smitheram said.

“The style of lyrical and modern dance allows you to really use the floor, so it helps when you are barefoot since it is more of a natural dance whereas ballet is based on certain body placement,” Smitheram said.

For African dance, Smitheram dances barefoot, and for hip hop she wears sneakers simply because it is the style of dance.

For jazz, dancers wear jazz shoes since these shoes allow you to do a lot of turns because they are slippery. This style of dance is usually upbeat and fast paced.

Smitheram garnered many different types of dance shoes over her years of dancing, Cal Poly business senior and sister of Smitheram, Jenn Smitheram said.

Ballet’s effects on the feet

Constantly dancing on the tip toes for pointe ballet can take its toll on a dancer’s feet, Smitheram said.  For Smitheram, her toes used to bleed and would constantly get blisters from the tight, constricting pointe ballet shoes.  Not only did she face short term effects, but Smitheram also had long term effects from pointe shoes.

“I have gross looking feet now from it, but it was worth it; I love pointe!” Smitheram said.

Smitheram, left, performing during her college dance days.
Photo courtesy of Melissa Smitheram

Now

However, Smitheram’s involvement in dance teams and performances has been held off due to her busy schedule in college and focusing on school work, her sorority and other clubs, Smitheram said.

Although she’s taking a break, Smitheram still manages to fit dancing into her hectic calendar by integrating it as much as she can into her daily routine.

“I am currently enrolled in a ballroom class on campus. I also teach autistic children how to dance once a week on campus for free. I volunteer for a club called Dance Beyond the Spectrum. It is so rewarding!” Smitheram said.

Smitheram still tries to find any way to keep dancing whether it be for sorority dance competitions or just around the house, Cal Poly communications junior and Smitheram’s roommate, Kalli Ries said.

“Dance is my passion and it is where I can express myself. No matter how many times I stop dancing I will always go back. Once a dancer, always a dancer,” Smitheram said.

how do you pick your kicks

The world at our neon, active feet!

highlights:

  • fashion or comfort for athletic shoes among college students?
  • Cal Poly San Luis Obispo students reveal their favorite shoes to exercise in
  • is Nike the most popular athletic shoe for the younger consumers?

Since this is a blog about the world at our feet, I thought it is only necessary to include a post about what I’ve observed in my everyday life here in college about feet.  Big feet, small feet, girly feet and manly feet are all what I see passing by on the way to college classes, out with friends, or exercising at the gym.  Something I’ve noticed, though, is the choice of athletic footwear among college students.

“I have a pair of Nike Free’s that I wear all the time for comfort first and for looks at a close second,” Cal Poly business sophomore Nicole Egge said.

Egge enjoys wearing her Nike’s to class since they are fashionable and she can go work out afterwards.

It seems that on the campus of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, the most common type of shoes worn are Nike’s.  Personally, I own two pairs of Nike’s for reasons that are probably not the smartest.  I automatically gravitated to the bright and fun colors of the shoes, and not the comfort as much.  Don’t get me wrong, they are comfortable, but choosing athletic shoes has changed drastically over the years, in my opinion.

Have looks surpassed comfort in choosing a shoe meant for active sports?  For instance, why else would the popular Nike Free Run shoes come in a plethora of bright, neon colors?  For the college community, athletic wear, especially shoes, have become more fashionable.

Egge’s Nike’s wear a coat of dust after running on the dirt trail to Cal Poly’s architecture graveyard in Poly Canyon.

However, there seems to be a difference between why girls choose a certain athletic shoe and why guys choose a certain shoe.  Looks don’t seem to matter just as much for college guys, Cal Poly forestry and natural resources sophomore Riley Detrick said.

“I exercise in my really old Nike’s since I don’t have the money right now to buy the new Nike Air’s I want,” Detrick said.

I did manage to find a student, statistics sophomore Tony Weyand, who did not own a pair of colorful Nike’s to work out in.

“I workout in New Balance running shoe since they’re durable and really comfortable,” Weyand said.

Although some students do not wear Nike’s as their exercise shoes, I still find it astonishing how many students I see walking around outside of the gym in athletic footwear.

I feel as if running shoes such as Nike Free’s have completely turned the college footwear realm upside-down.  Personally, I would wear my Nike’s to class even if I’m not running or going to the gym.  They are simply comfortable and fashionable with the bright fuchsia trim.  With so many colors to choose from and mix and match, running shoes today have become more popular to show off and wear casually.

More fashion-forward athletic footwear:

the places your feet will take you!: Avila Valley Barn

The essence of fall at our feet

highlights:

-best pumpkin patch in San Luis Obispo County

-what’s a fun family environment to pick out the best pumpkin?

-get your shoes dirty by searching the vast fields for the best pumpkin

It’s that time of year here in San Luis Obispo, California when the leaves start changing colors and the quest for the perfect pumpkin takes place.  There’s no other place with a better pumpkin-picking atmosphere than the Avila Valley Barn.

Any small pumpkin patch open only in October in the parking lot of a shopping mall can not stand a chance against Avila Valley Barn’s variety of pumpkins and squash, fresh produce, petting zoo, gift shop, hay stack maze, ice cream shop, and many more.

Avila Valley Barn is a prime pumpkin-picking venue, but it is also open all year round for visiting, San Luis Obispo resident Hannah Lee said.

“I usually come here during the summer a lot and holidays because I love all the animals and the calm atmosphere,” Lee said.

There is a wide variety of pumpkins and squash to choose from at the Avila Valley Barn.

Although Avila Valley Barn is open all year, October is the busiest month, Avila Valley Barn employee Erik Vanhouten said.

“We’re the busiest this time of the year on the weekends, which keeps everyone on their feet all day,” Vanhouten said.

Vanhouten spends his days at the barn arranging the produce, cleaning, and answering any questions the customers may have.  Part of the warm and friendly atmosphere of the Avila Valley Barn is due to the kind and generous employees of the grounds.

“My favorite part about working here is interacting with the customers and even getting to know their stories,” Vanhouten said.

Vanhouten, left, organizes the produce in the barn store.

Personally, I got the most excited to discover the parking and admission into the farm is absolutely free.  I’ve become so accustomed to paying to go to fun places like Avila Valley Farm, I forgot it was still possible to have fun and free entertaining experiences!  The valley is so peaceful and beautiful.  The pumpkin field seemed to go on and on as I looked out at the countless orange globes resting on the dirt.  I’ve never been to any place like this back home.

For some visitors, the Avila Valley Barn reminds them of home like Cal Poly San Luis Obispo liberal arts sophomore student Annie Petersilge.

“I loved visiting because it makes me feel at home, which is Sonoma County, California where it is beautiful and scenic where I used to grow pumpkins,” Petersilge said.

Visitors can go into the pumpkin field to pick whichever one they want to take home. The pumpkins are priced based on weight.

One tip when going to the Avila Valley Barn is to wear shoes you don’t mind getting a little dirty and dusted with soil and hay.  However, I feel that’s the magic of this place.  No concrete or asphalt, just the real and rural experience of a farm to add more to the fun of picking out that winning pumpkin to display at home.  Walking through the place, I could hear the scraping of dirt and gravel beneath my feet, taking me farther away than just a mile off the freeway.  I couldn’t help but smile and want to go back for more once I dusted out the dirt off my shoes after exploring the vast field of pumpkins.

Most visitors wear closed-toe shoes in preparation for walking the dirt and gravel-filled grounds

The overall experience of the Avila Valley Barn makes it the best of the best in comparison to other tourist farms, Vanhouten said.

“The Avila Valley Barn is thought of as the Disneyland of apple farms of the central coast,” Vanhouten said.

Things I liked about Avila Valley Barn:

  • lots and lots of food
  • delicious roasted corn
  • the ice cream parlor
  • the animals
  • fun haystack maze
  • safe area for kids to run around
  • variety of pumpkins and squash to choose from
  • cute and quaint gift shop
  • many places for photo opportunities

step and shuffle

The world at our feet in line dancing

The line dancing world of stomping, sliding, and kicking cowboy boots creates a lively and popular escape for Cal Poly San Luis Obispo students.

With an agriculture-based environment consisting of endless fields and the aroma of manure, it’s no question that line dancing and country music has a strong fan base on the campus of Cal Poly.

“Line dancing gives me an outlet from school having done theater since I was seven and it gives me an excuse to dance and get creative,” sophomore electrical engineer Kaylynn Rothleder said.

Students can get their line dancing fix every Thursday at country night at The Graduate and twice a quarter at the Barn Dance held on the Cal Poly campus in the University Union Chumash Auditorium.

Dancers line up at Cal Poly’s Barn Dance held in the University Union waiting for the first line dance to start

As an avid attendee for one year to line dances at both venues, sophomore aerospace engineer Wes Zimmerman prefers dancing at The Graduate for multiple reasons.

“There’s no beating the atmosphere at The Grad.  I will say I learn more at the barn dances though because there is more room off to the side to practice,” Zimmerman said.

Walking into The Graduate is overwhelmingly warm–and not because of how stuffy and humid it is inside from all of the hard-dancing people.  It’s warm in a sense that everyone has common interests in line dancing, whether if you’ve been doing it for years or learning your first steps.  It’s loud with buzz of dancers and country music.  The light is dark enough not to show the beads of sweat building on your forehead from constant moving, stepping and sliding.

“I love learning new moves and teaching people new moves, and the harder looking the move, the more motivated I am to learn it,” Zimmerman said.

The fun part about line dancing  is dancing all night and showing off learned moves, Rothleder said.

“I get to express my country side and I love getting dressed up and rocking out to country music,” Rothleder said.

Line dancers at both The Graduate and the Barn Dance range from beginners to experienced

The moving and sliding on the dance floor is filled with mostly feet in cowboy boots.  Cowboy boots go hand-in-hand with line dancing more so than any other type of shoe worn to line dancing.

“Cowboy boots have an advantage since they don’t slip on the dance floor, and when there’s line dances with stomping, you can stomp super loud and obnoxiously,” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman chose not to wear his cowboy boots to the Barn Dance because he didn’t want to wear his boots two nights in a row after wearing them at The Graduate the previous night

However, not all dancers wear cowboy boots, so they’re not absolutely necessary, but definitely add more to the whole line dancing experience, sophomore statistics major Martha Mejia said.

“I don’t own cowboy boots, but I wish I did because line dancing just doesn’t look as cool without cowboy boots,” Mejia said.

Line dancing is a great way to meet new people, become part of a new and fun activity, and learn new dance moves, Zimmerman said.

“I love going line dancing and seeing all the same people I’ve come to know every week,” Zimmerman said.

Although it looks hard at first and intimidating, line dancing should be on the list of to-do’s if you live in the San Luis Obispo area.

“Some moves take learned coordination, but after practicing, most moves are easy to pick up,” Mejia said.

Girls excitedly waiting in their seasoned cowboy boots for line dancing

Top 10 Country Line Dance Songs According to Taste of Country:

  1. “Good Time”
  2. “Boot Scootin’ Boogie”
  3. “Watermelon Crawl”
  4. “Dizzy”
  5. “Get Into Reggae Cowboy”
  6. “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)”
  7. “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk”
  8. “Country Girl (Shake It for Me)”
  9. “Baby Likes to Rock It”
  10. “Footloose”