One year barefoot feat

Barefoot Bea Marshall
Barefoot Bea Marshall
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IT was 12 months ago Bea Marshall made a decision which strangers still stop and ask her about every day.

IT was 12 months ago Bea Marshall made a decision which strangers still stop and ask her about every day.

After deciding her trainers were to blame for a series of niggling knee and hip injuries, she kicked them off – and has not wore shoes since.

For one year now, this 33-year-old web designer has lived without footwear. Wherever she goes, her toes go naked.

In snow, in sun, in rain; popping to the shops, going for a night out, travelling on holiday; she has been bare of foot, and happy of spirit.

“It just feels so... invigorating,” she says when we meet, her feet dirty but healthy looking. “Everywhere you go, you’re getting these intense sensations.

“People do look at me strangely sometimes but it’s a real conversation starter. I get asked about it all the time.

“I was on the London Underground the other day, and someone came over and said ‘I have to ask, why aren’t you wearing shoes?’

“People don’t normally even look at each other on there. I just explained it’s a lifestyle choice.”

That choice, then, came about on May 1, 2010 – like a smoker who can remember the exact date they quit, so too can Bea.

The mother-of-two, of Freedom Road, Walkley, Sheffield, had been struggling with a series of joint injuries caused by her favourite hobby, running.

Doing on-line research, she came across advocates of bare foot athletics – the idea being the runner is lighter on their feet which eases pressures on the joints and reduces injuries.

So Bea decided to give it a go, but, to get used to running that way, she also chose to live barefoot for two weeks.

“Now I never want to go back,” she concludes.

“I love how different surfaces feel different on my soles. It’s stimulating.”

There are the odd perils too, of course.

When it snowed in January she had to wear feet protectors, not because it was too cold, but because not being able to see where your feet go presents dangers.

But once the snow had become ice, she went back to bare.

She’s has also stepped in dog dirt (“it’s easier to clean off your toes than your shoes,” she shrugs), and been barred from one city centre pub.

“They said it was on health and safety grounds but it’s safer than getting drunk in huge heels,” says Bea.

“I think they were worried I’d step on glass but I’ve done that anyway. It was painful and it bled. But the skin on your feet is incredibly tough. It’s designed to be walked on. It heals fast.”

Her two children – Robin, six, and Jos, five – both go barefoot in summer too.

“Not in winter at the moment, though,” says Bea who runs her own web design business, Moogaloo, with husband Andy. “It’s too cold. There is a danger your toes can go numb and cause real injury.

“I am quite a non-conventional person and this is quite a unique lifestyle choice but it’s one I would encourage anyone to look into.”