Going Barefoot At Work Cuts Stress And Feels Great. Going Barefoot At Work Is Gross. Discuss

Wherein we unlace the case for freeing your feet at the office.

Going Barefoot At Work Cuts Stress And Feels Great. Going Barefoot At Work Is Gross. Discuss

British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg admitted to “padding around” his office without his shoes recently–to the outcry of the sartorial press.


And as summer makes the downward arch into its dog days, we have to ask ourselves if we have the flexibility to free our feetsies.

Bare foot-ery: an office effrontery?

According to an Adecco survey, more than 40 percent of people feel offended when colleagues take their shoes off at work. Fast Company‘s previously gone on record against flip-flops, with the argument that if we can see your toes, that’s not good.

But barefoot goes a step further, doesn’t it?

“I think it’s incredibly poor etiquette,” Esquire associate editor Teo van den Broeke tells the BCC of Clegg’s free-footed behavior. Why? The barefoot manager is “too lax” and disrespectful. “There are so many elements that could be offensive, be that cultural or simply that your feet smell.”


But going barefoot also has its backers. The Guardian talked to avant-posh West London architect Amanda Levete, who has sneakers, high heels, and loafers piled up in front of her door. Here the open sole is encouraged.

“Well, it keeps the carpet clean,” Levete tells the Guardian. “Also (being barefoot is) a great leveler, and it’s relaxing: You can put your feet on the sofas.”


And if you’re one for integrated ergonomics, going barefoot may be another way to ease your at-work stress, says Dieter Breithecker, head of Germany’s Federal Institute for Posture and Mobilization.

“Putting the soles of your feet in contact with all the normal sensations helps to relieve internal tension and reduce stress,” Breithecker says. “Shoes, on the other hand, prevent direct contact with the ground and so adversely affect the health of our feet, balance, and posture.”

Can a compromise be reached?

If you’re part of the 40% of people who find bare feet offensive–or you suspect that your desk mates may be–then the best move might be to lighten your five-toed load.

“Wear thinner soles and shoes that are more breathable,” says van den Broeke, the Esquire editor. But avoid the flip-flops.

If you have a solution for fleeter feet, let us know in the comments.

Hat tip: Quartz


[Image: Flickr user Michael]


About the author

Drake Baer was a contributing writer at Fast Company, where he covered work culture. He's the co-author of Everything Connects, a book about how intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organizational psychology shape innovation.