How do I go barefoot at work without detection?
May 15, 2016 10:41 AM   Subscribe

It doesn't break the rules in my office. I'm male. Sneakers without bottoms would be ideal if they existed. Or socks that look like real shoes, maybe?

I like to go barefoot, but don't like the attention it attracts. I want the *opposite* of vibrams: real bare feet -- no attention. "Minimal sneakers" have the right idea, but I'd like to be really barefoot. Any commercial or DIY ideas?
posted by derbyshire to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (83 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Can you clarify what about being barefoot appeals to you? Is it not wearing shoes? Like, socks that look like shoes -- are those good enough? Or do the soles of your feet need to be bare?
posted by J. Wilson at 10:44 AM on May 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

We had a guy with some non-office-norm clothing practices which occasionally included bare feet. His feet seemed non-stinky (though I didn't sit near him, maybe his neighbors felt differently) but this was a funky tech environment and he was not only brilliant but very easy to get along with and pleasant. He also would occasionally say, "honestly, if the bare feet bother you, I am happy to put shoes on."

If he wore secret sneakers with no soles...My mind would be blown and I think I would question his competence.

What kind of office environment are you in? Are people at standing desks with accompanying funky footwear? Can you have office slip-ons that you put on for office roving and keep your bare feet to your desk? Can you ensure that your feet aren't stinky?
posted by amanda at 10:52 AM on May 15, 2016 [21 favorites]

Hmmmn. I have worked next to people with abrasive personalities, people with flagrant hygiene issues, actively suicidal individuals, and many more "interesting" coworkers. My attitude is pretty firmly "do what thou wish, should it harm none". But I'd still be enormously squicked out if a coworker went barefoot, even covertly. I dunno... unless you work on a beach, it just seems upsetting to have naked feet in front of fellow employees. That may just be a personal aversion, though.
posted by julthumbscrew at 11:03 AM on May 15, 2016 [27 favorites]

something like shoes with no soles is just going to make you look more weird. i think the best you are going to be able to do is use shoes with very thin soles, like soft star.

(personally, i'd be ok if you had bare feet as long as they didn't smell, but clearly many people wouldn't).
posted by andrewcooke at 11:08 AM on May 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: I'd prefer the soles of my feet to touch the floor if possible. It's a bit more hygienic than socks.
posted by derbyshire at 11:10 AM on May 15, 2016

Probably some combination of shoeless at desk/inside own office or cubicle plus slip on shoes or even flip flops for walking around would be the best. Some guy who kicked his shoes off around the office frequently would be 100% less remarkable than a guy who wore secretly bottomless sneakers, which is something I would still be telling the nurses at my hospice about on my deathbed.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:10 AM on May 15, 2016 [104 favorites]

Shoes are a drag. I would go barefoot at the office if I could. Maybe something like these disposable pedicure slippers? They are basically foam nothingness, easy to slip off under your desk.
posted by roger ackroyd at 11:12 AM on May 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Why can't you just go completely barefoot? If you are even contemplating something as strange as a bottomless sneaker, you should just commit to doing this in the open. I guess you could wear a footless sandal, which is like a flipflop with no bottom, but if I saw someone wearing them I would wonder why they didn't just go barefoot.
posted by gatorae at 11:16 AM on May 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Flares are back! If yours are tailored correctly, nobody will be able to see your feet at all!

Downsides: looking unacceptably ridiculous, your pants being a tripping hazard.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 11:26 AM on May 15, 2016 [11 favorites]

It doesn't break the rules in my office.

I bet it will once you start doing it.

But either just go barefoot or don't. The fake shoes is creepy.

I agree that flip flops that you kick off when you're not walking around are probably your best bet. Or socks...but you want to make it look like it's a transient thing, you just took your shoes off for a minute.
posted by leahwrenn at 11:27 AM on May 15, 2016 [30 favorites]

Perhaps Xero shoes would suit? People who are into Vibrams and the like tend to recognize them for what they are, but everyone else just reads them as sandals.
posted by teremala at 11:28 AM on May 15, 2016 [4 favorites]

Yeah, I think loose moccasins or boat shoes you kick off at your desk is going to be the closest you can get without being REALLY weird.

Maybe think of it as being barefoot, but tying your own personal piece of floor to your foot? I mean, I don't get your explanation at all. Your foot would be touching the same spot over and over? That's what socks are FOR, the disposable surface. Why don't you just change your socks hourly or something if daily seems unhygienic to you?
posted by ctmf at 11:55 AM on May 15, 2016

Yeah, I'm certain that if you wore shoes with the soles cut off, that would draw more attention than just going barefoot. I work in a very casual office, and I pretty frequently walk around the interior hallways in just socks, and take off my shoes and work barefoot in my own office. I also often wear flip flops at the office. No one has ever said anything to me about it. And I don't think anything of it when I see my coworkers barefoot or wearing socks or minimal shoes. But you'd better believe I'd think it was odd, and attention worthy, if someone put together a pair of fake shoes to make it look like they're wearing shoes when the shoes are empty on the bottom. If your workplace is really okay with barefoot, like mine is, then just go barefoot. And if it's not okay with your coworkers, it won't be any more okay with them if you take steps to trick them into thinking you're wearing shoes when you're not.

(I also 100% do not understand your explanation that bare feet are more "hygienic" than socks. Socks and shoes are designed to protect your feet from the fact that floors and carpets are full of bacteria and dust mites and dirt and other grossness. Feet, socks, and shoes are all washable. So if any of the three get dirty, you clean them.)
posted by decathecting at 12:04 PM on May 15, 2016 [9 favorites]

No. This is weird. I once worked in a semi-casual office (architecture) where a couple of the younger women who regularly wore ridiculously high heels to work every day would often kick them off and walk around the back area/cubicles barefoot, and only put their shoes back on to go into the lobby/conferences/out to lunch. Nobody said anything directly, it was not "technically" against any rules, but I (and a couple other people who gossiped quietly) absolutely found it weird and gross and unprofessional. Wear flats! Wear flip-flops! Flip flops are not professional at all, but at least your sweaty feet are not all over the floor.

On the other hand most places I've worked, the women have occasionally kicked off their shoes under their own desks; they just don't walk around the office like that.
posted by celtalitha at 12:07 PM on May 15, 2016 [11 favorites]

Oh man, if you go completely barefoot inside and outside your feet are going to be gross. Stealth shoes is clown time and open to a lot of interpretation. Your best bet, which I do, is have easy on off shoes and be strategic in you barefotedness. I walk my office desk treadmill barefoot and have foot socks for short forays to the copy room. All other times are easy on off shoes. I work in an academic environment whose office code is flatter hierarchy and frankness. Even with my nerd rep I show up to my meetings hippy sandal shod. YMMV.
posted by jadepearl at 12:07 PM on May 15, 2016 [10 favorites]

I'm trying to figure out how barefoot could be considered hygienic after you've been at the urinal.
posted by cecic at 12:12 PM on May 15, 2016 [39 favorites]

This might be my favorite metafilter thread ever.

I, too, long to be barefoot at work/basically all the time. If you go the route of boat shoes/loafers (or any other mostly-closed shoe), I urge you to be conscious of foot stink. Foot stink is a really good way to ensure that your workplace enacts more restrictive footwear policies.

If you work at a place where you are even considering this, you should probably just wear sandals in shared areas of the office and go barefoot only in your own space, or when no one is around. This is what I do. If the door is closed, I almost definitely have my shoes off. If you're wearing sandals, foot stink is/should be negligible.

You should not wear bottomless shoes, for all of the reasons people have mentioned above, but it is a gloriously weird idea and I am so happy that someone thought of it.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 12:15 PM on May 15, 2016 [17 favorites]

People at my office (including me) go barefoot all the time. I always wear socks, and most of my co-workers do too, but it's not unusual if someone is wearing slip-on shoes for them to slip them off from time to time. The key is "from time to time". If you just never wear shoes at all, it'll be weird. Take your shoes off at your desk all you want; no one will notice. But switch it up when you're away from your desk, or you'll get a reputation.
posted by kevinbelt at 12:18 PM on May 15, 2016

Bear in mind that if you are barefoot, you are still treading in the yuck that others track in. Think of the traces of substance that are on sidewalks and (god knows) bathroom floors. Your coworkers are tracking all those in and lightly coating the floors with them.

Now, personally, I am unfussy and would not care if you went barefoot as long as your feet were not distractingly gross...but I myself would keep thinking about all the yuck that accumulates on heavily trafficked floors and would wear shoes. Kick off your shoes under your desk, and make sure that your feet aren't gross - not just not smelly, but not straggly-nailed, no overgrown callouses, etc. Your feet need not be pedicure-perfect, just neat.
posted by Frowner at 12:37 PM on May 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Tip: any time you find yourself trying to "trick" or "fool" your co-workers or bosses, uh, rethink that plan. It will not go over well when they find out, and it's probably an indicator that you already know in your heart it's not a good idea in the first place, or you wouldn't be hiding it.
posted by ctmf at 12:38 PM on May 15, 2016 [14 favorites]

You might want to check out best practices for casual offices in Japan, where keeping your shoes on is the rude weird and gross action. In the places I've been like that, though, most everyone wears socks, there are a lot of those simple slide-on slippers and flip flops, and the floors are much cleaner because nobody is tracking in outside dirt.

I think you either need to just own it, and be the barefoot guy, or get a few pairs of those slippers, wearing them whenever you're out of your own space and tossing them when they get gross. There are things like foot wraps and grippy yoga socks without toes or heels, but it seems that wouldn't achieve your goals.
posted by Mizu at 12:38 PM on May 15, 2016 [5 favorites]

I used to wear shoes that slipped on easily. At my desk, I sometimes slipped my feet out of them. I worked in a cubicle, so most people likely did not notice my bare feet under my desk. I had coworkers who occasionally wandered around their team area in socks without anyone making a big deal of it, even though it was technically not okay.

If there is any kind of shoe that meets dress code that you can slip into and out of easily and if you are in a cubicle or otherwise have foot privacy at your desk, I would wear easy slip on shoes and go barefoot at the desk, then slip back into them for bathroom breaks, meetings, etc.
posted by Michele in California at 12:40 PM on May 15, 2016

At all the places i've worked, wearing shoes that are easy to slip on and off and slipping them off when at your desk would be totally unremarkable. So would walking to the printer and back in socks. Go beyond that and you're the shoeless office weirdo, though. :) Also some people like my friend Mikki REALLY hate looking at bare feet, and an office environment is somewhere she can be reasonably sure not to encounter them.
posted by MsMolly at 12:41 PM on May 15, 2016 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I used to work on the same team as an engineer who kept a pair of open backed leather slippers (almost exactly like these) in his cube.

He would take off his street shoes asap on getting into the office, and go stocking-footed all day, only putting on the slippers if he was forced to go to a meeting. Our cubicles were large enough, and his feet were clean enough to not cause a stench problem.

His pants were generally poorly hemmed enough that it was actually rare to really see a glimpse of the white-heeled ankle underneath. I betcha that you could be even more stealthy with black socks.
posted by sparklemotion at 12:45 PM on May 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

I don't want to be a part of the argument, but if you discover that you do indeed need to wear shoes, these martial arts/parkour sneakers have a very thin sole and might be useful to you.
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:58 PM on May 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm grossed out by bare feet in an office environment. Clearly, I'm not the only one.

Fake shoes? That's BEYOND strange.

We all compromise when we go out in public, remaining shod at work is one of those things.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:00 PM on May 15, 2016 [8 favorites]

To address something that people seem to be generally concerned with: Feet being confined to shoes is the factor that make feet smell bad. If you are barefoot, then your feet will not smell unless you step in something horrible, which is likely, given that there are all sorts of things to step in.

To address the original question: If you want to be barefoot, just do that. Fake/soleless shoes are, in a word, dumb. I'm afraid that your only real option is to wear minimalist shoes. I hate shoes too. I would always prefer to be barefoot, but most people wear shoes most of the time, so...

There are all kinds of weirdo minimalist shoes now. The above suggestion for the jikatabi type boots/shoes typically used for martial arts might be good. I find them really comfortable (along with any number of others types).
posted by paco758 at 1:04 PM on May 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you go barefoot at work at all, it's important to make sure your toenails are clipped and clean. When I worked with someone who wore sandals, a few people were really skeeved out by his toenails. I would have been happier never noticing that they were long and thick. If you go barefooot outdoors frequently, your feet get pretty dirty, and you may get used to it, but others will notice.
posted by theora55 at 1:09 PM on May 15, 2016 [5 favorites]

Yeah, clipped toenails, good foot hygiene, and a nice pedicure would be good. Try getting a foot washing bowl (I have no idea what the name of it is in Chinese) and soak your feet in hot water every night. It's like a plastic bowl that is flat at the bottom and comes in bright colors, you could probably find it at an Asian grocery store? That will help take care of the hygiene and also is extremely relaxing.

I dislike wearing shoes while working, and grew up in an Asian shoes-off household, where we have a smorgasboard of rubber slippers for the outdoors, and nice, hella cute slippers for the indoors.

That said - I would just get slip-on shoes that you could kick off quietly underneath your desk, and then put them back on when you need to walk around. I would also get a clean mat underneath your desk as well, so it doesn't make contact with the floor. As long as it is not visible to others, I think that's the important part.
posted by yueliang at 1:25 PM on May 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

This thread is hilarious! (Why are bare feet on the floor considered gross? YOU're clearly not walking barefoot, so why would it bother you? Do you roll around on the floor?)

I've done the "kicking off shoes and walking to the printer barefoot" thing and was told it was against health & safety rules, which makes absolute sense. You could step in a push pin or whatnot. So I bet this "rule" will be uncovered at your office soon, too. (I still did it after the rule disclosure, I just made sure I wasn't caught. *lol* Most the time no one looks at your feet when you're just nipping to the water cooler.)

Anyway. My vote is "mostly wear some slip on shoes, kick them off when you can get away with it". Good luck!
posted by ClarissaWAM at 1:31 PM on May 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

I work in an office environment and occasionally some of our admin staff take their shoes off. I am concerned that someone will step on a staple or something and get hurt, and also find this gross from a public health standpoint. Having bare feet in your own space is one thing, but in shared spaces wearing shoes is part of most workplace dress codes - you have to wear shoes and also other clothing, and not doing this is inappropriate. Go for some of the minimalist shoes, or a shoe that you can take off at your own desk easily.
posted by bile and syntax at 1:34 PM on May 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

Bare Bottom Shoes Would some of these work for you?

I worked with someone who was shamelessly barefoot during the day, including the bathroom. We never said anything to her about it, but people all talked about it behind her back because everyone thought it was gross and we wondered what would happen if/when she stepped on a staple/tack/other office supply.
posted by ilovewinter at 1:43 PM on May 15, 2016 [9 favorites]

My compromise is keeping a pair of Birkenstocks in a drawer. Arizonas don't have a back strap so they're easy to slip on and off. Changing into them is one of the first things I do when I get into the office.
posted by kingless at 1:50 PM on May 15, 2016

So many of the answers here only demonstrate why you had to ask your question in the first place! Even if it looks at this point like there's, uh, no easy solution... But kudos for trying.
posted by Rich Smorgasbord at 1:57 PM on May 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

So many of the answers here only demonstrate why you had to ask your question in the first place! Even if it looks at this point like there's, uh, no easy solution... But kudos for trying.

Yeah, absolutely. I still would keep my shoes on in an office environment anyway, but if I really could get away with being at my desk for long stretches of time where I really won't be getting up anytime soon, I would kick off my shoes. I also tend to wear leather flats anyway, which basically are glorified enclosed slippers, but those are super easy to put back on.

I have compromised by wearing shoes with very nice cushioning (memory foam is preferable), and a good pair of socks.
posted by yueliang at 2:11 PM on May 15, 2016

If it's not going to ruffly actual policy feathers, then just go barefoot. People will comment for a week or so and then you'll just be barefoot guy. I'm barefoot guy (though not at an office), and no one cares.
posted by cmoj at 2:15 PM on May 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

I am one who is skeeved. Be it woman or man, pedicured or gnarly hoof, I don't want to see your bare foot in my office.

You might not care whether I am skeeved or not, and that is fine. But if I see ONE toe hair I'm going to HR.

posted by WesterbergHigh at 2:47 PM on May 15, 2016 [15 favorites]

Try to imagine the conversation you would have with the first co-worker that discovers you're wearing a stealth shoe with no sole. How does that play out in your mind? Are they upset? Probably, or you wouldn't be asking the question. But what level of upset? Angry? Bewildered? Squicked out? Are you going to get upset by their negative reaction?

I guarantee that just being the barefoot office guy, for all its faults, will be 10x less awkward for everyone involved than being stealth shoe guy.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:50 PM on May 15, 2016 [5 favorites]

I think the main reason you're encountering such resistance to your wish to go barefoot at work is because you're surreptitiously exposing your fellow coworkers to diseases, and possible bromodosis (stinky feet) and athlete's foot (nobody knows where your feet have been and it grosses them out to think about it).

The non-controversial way to deal with this issue is to just realize that wearing shoes at work is one of those bare minimum things one has to do to make life not horrible for others (much like wearing a bra, which I hate, or clothing over your underwear). That's the price we pay for living in modern society.

If you want to really pursue this though, you can get someone to sew you "fake" shoes to put over your feet and make it look like you're wearing real shoes. Look for people who sew in your local area and inquire. You might also be able to purchase costume boots or shoes that fit over regular shoes from a Halloween type store, but as someone pointed out above, the soles of your feet would be a dead giveaway. Perhaps you could use a spray on glove solution on the soles of your feet and custom make your fake shoes with a sole that looks real but incorporates mesh, so that you'd still get the feeling of being barefoot.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 3:09 PM on May 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Barefoot on the office sounds awfully unhygienic. I say this a mother who never had a plantar wart in her life until a Child of mine started spending tine at the home of a friend whose mother was complaining about having them. Said Child developed a whole crop of them, and I am still deal with one on occasion 20 years later. Wear some damned shoes.
posted by SLC Mom at 3:12 PM on May 15, 2016 [11 favorites]

It might help for you to think about why you like going barefoot. What, exactly, do you wish to accomplish here?

I say that because I know someone who is very devoted to going barefoot and they think it is a health thing and I read some stuff about how going barefoot on the right surfaces causes grounding. This fits with what this barefoot devotee has said, in spite of it sounding kind of woo.

Additionally, I loathe socks and have worn only sandals for years. Do to a compromised immune system, my feet rapidly start itching and smelling bad when I have to wear closed shoes for long periods. My foot health has improved tremendously with wearing the most open shoes I possibly can and foregoing socks as much as possible.

When I had a corporate job, I wore the most open shoes I could that passed dress code. This was not ideal, but it was acceptable for my purposes. However, it would not have satisfied the electrical grounding needs of the barefoot devotee mentioned above.

So, that all may sound kind of woo, but I assume people like the things they like for an actual, concrete reason. They may not be good at articulating it and may not understand it well, but there is a real reason behind it. And if you can figure out the real reason you want to go barefoot -- or, at least, the primary detail of barefootness that you value -- that would go a long ways towards helping you sort out which suggestions above fit that impetus and which do not.

I mean, there are a number of metrics here that you might consider:
Is it about airflow?
Is it about your soles touching the ground?
It is about being unencumbered and not having to deal with stuff touching your feet and rubbing on them?

posted by Michele in California at 3:22 PM on May 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

Question: if they don't wear shoes at all, do people get athletes foot?
posted by glasseyes at 3:23 PM on May 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

I believe they don't. Read that somewhere.
posted by Rich Smorgasbord at 3:28 PM on May 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

I went barefoot at my last job, and no one ever gave two shits. All the floors (except the bathroom) were carpeted. If I needed to walk on hard floors, I would put on my fuzzy slippers (walking barefoot on hard floors is just uncomfortable). I like the feeling, and my feet don't get sweaty or stuffy at the end of the day.

My current job is at an office with concrete floors, so I walk around in my slippers now, but I still go barefoot at my desk. A coworker of mine goes barefoot all the way. Fake shoes would totally be weird because dude why?

I used to have Xero shoes and loved them. Thin enough to feel the floor, and they look like sandals. This could be your backup plan.

Just go barefoot for a while. If anyone complains, you'll know. You know your office culture best.
posted by curagea at 3:32 PM on May 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'd prefer the soles of my feet to touch the floor if possible. It's a bit more hygienic than socks. ...

Question: if they don't wear shoes at all, do people get athletes foot?

I believe they don't. Read that somewhere.

So listen. This is completely false. I started working from home about a year and a half ago, so I can wear as much or as little on my feet as I want at work. When I spent last summer walking around my office in my bare feet all day in my own apartment, you know what happened? I got a huge flare-up of athlete's foot that was so bad I had an id reaction, which caused entire areas of my skin all over my body to become puffy, pink, and inflamed, with a dark-red pattern of hives. Is that what you want?

I had to take oral corticosteroids and apply topical corticosteroids over a large area of my body to control the reaction, which caused me to gain significant weight. I had to clean my entire work space and apartment with bleach and vinegar, buy sandals to wear around the house, and start wearing flip-flops in the shower to try to kill this off and avoid passing it to anyone else. I'm now on my second course of treatment for it, because it came back. It adds time to the beginning and end of my day every single day to put cream on my feet, and I continually have to think twice before doing things like changing my clothes or getting in bed so I don't accidentally spread this back to myself. I wear socks all day and night now because of this, so my bare feet don't touch things that I would then come in contact with and get a reaction from. Forget the prospect of going swimming—I would feel so guilty and embarrassed to expose other people. And I still itch a good bit, though not as bad as I did. Is that what you want?

Best-case scenario, your coworkers would be grossed out and talk about you and your workplace might need to replace the carpet after some time, if you work on carpet. The office I moved into at my former workplace had to have exactly that done, because its previous inhabitant liked to walk around in his bare feet. The woman who worked in the next office over from mine did that too, and everyone was grossed out and talked about her. I'll also never forget the time I walked into the kitchen at my old workplace and my coworker who liked to wear boat shoes all summer without socks had his off while yakking on the phone. It was unpleasant, to say the least.

Do not do this. Wear shoes and socks (or open-toed sandals with proper foot care) like a normal person.
posted by limeonaire at 3:58 PM on May 15, 2016 [11 favorites]

Without detection? Not possible. I am a person who works in an office sometimes and I promise you that I would 100% notice your shoes or lack thereof or partial lack thereof. In any group of over, say, 15 people, that meets for more than a week or so, I guarantee someone is going to be observant enough to notice this.

Also- not what you asked- but still relevant, I think- I would dislike having a barefoot colleague, and to me it would reflect very poorly on their professional competence and hygiene practices. I say this as a nonconforming person who loves being barefoot. I would not mind a colleague who kicked off their flip flops at their desk, though.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 3:58 PM on May 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

You don't.

There is going to be someone in your office who looks at your feet. I look at people's feet--not because I care so much about the dress code, but because I like shoes, and notice the type of shoes other people are wearing.

I also like going barefoot as much as possible, though. It would not be weird to me if you had (a) minimal shoes like the ones linked above, or (b) walked around with socks on. Completely bare feet wouldn't bother me either, but I know other people would be bothered, and it's kind of a soft social norm in the USA not to walk around with completely bare feet in most workplaces.

It would be REALLY REALLY weird if you tried to "stealth" bare feet. I would definitely notice. And while I would probably never say anything to another person about your bare feet, I would be so weirded out by idea that you were trying to hide it. I would wonder what kind of bizarre shoes you were wearing, and would pay attention until I figured it out.

I think the hang-up about seeing other people's bare feet is a little weird, personally. I mean, in the summer I see people's feet in strappy sandals all the time, and I also do work in a region where bare feet indoors is normal (it's rude to wear shoes indoors and most people don't wear socks, since it's tropical). But then, we're also really weird about seeing breasts or even bra-less women in public, so...

Wear socks?

(I'm going to check out some of the minimal shoes linked in this thread, though. They look pretty neat!)
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 4:04 PM on May 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Just wear flipflops or some other minimal non-shoe. I mean... think of the shard of broken glass from the bottle someone broke 6 months ago that has somehow managed to evade the cleaners and has been steadily accruing creepy-crawlies ever since. This possibility alone is enough for me to never ever EVER walk around my workplace barefoot, let alone all the hideousness with warts and athlete's foot and all the other awfulness already spoken of.
posted by snap, crackle and pop at 4:31 PM on May 15, 2016

I kind of admire your idea. It's definitely weird, though. I myself also prefer not wearing shoes, but, some things to think about:

Here is a research-backed panic about wearing shoes in the house. Bits from there

"39% of shoes [looked at in some study] contained bacteria C. diff "

"In another study done by the University of Arizona 9 different forms of bacteria were found on the bottom of shoes. Good Morning America did a test and found that the bottom of shoes were dirtier than toilet seats also. Furthermore, Dr. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist and professor at the University of Arizona did a test with a brand new pair of shoes and found that within just two weeks of wearing a new shoe 440,000 units of bacteria were found on the shoe. An astonishing 27% of that total bacteria were deadly E Coli. Klebsiella pneumonia was also found, which can lead to and cause pneumonia and wound and bloodstream infections and another type of infection called Serratia ficaria, which can lead to infection of the respiratory tract."

"Let’s recap, what’s on the bottom of your shoes? Fecal matter, multiple forms of bacteria causing fecal matter as well as infections and inflammation of the colon, germs, chemicals, petroleum and so much more! Where are you going to leave your shoes from now on? and maybe you’ll rethink that 5-second rule (or 5 BECOMING a 10-second rule) of dropping food on the floor and picking it up to eat it next time."

If you believe all that, your actual feet will be picking up the things found under those shoes

Depending on your geographic particulars, hookworm could potentially be an issue. CW: image of hookworm in a foot

You can't just wear Crocs if you need ventilation?

edit: also enjoying the straightforward attempts to answer this question
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:32 PM on May 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Start with Birks, see if anyone cares if you kick them off.

I've worked in places where "SHOES ARE MANDATORY ALSO EMPLOYEES MUST SHOWER AT LEAST TWICE PER WEEK" was in the manual because of some stunk-ass, and I've worked in places where not wearing shoes was not at all a big deal — for a story, I went barefoot for a week once when I was working at a magazine. I got a few chuckles, most people were concerned about glass, my feet got calloused, and I started wearing shoes again because I was playing pickup soccer games and was getting shin-splints.
posted by klangklangston at 5:05 PM on May 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In office environments that were not related to any industry with construction, warehousing, food prep, or customer facing contact, shoes weren't regulated.

There are 20 of us in a space about the size of 4 mobile homes. I sweat like crazy and sit near a hot window. I cope by wearing dressy openish shoes (female) and my cube mate (male) wears Birkenstocks or Tevyas. When it's dickens hot, my shoes go in my drawer in a tied grocery sack and I wear a pair of slip on shoes walking around or terry cloth slippers. I also have a super quiet fan to blow cool air at my feet.

I never wear "outside" or "sleep in the drawer at night" shoes two days in a row.

Most of my co workers are the same though they swap 5 inch heels for Uggs ( they sit in the cold part of the office ). We forget from time to time and pad around in bare feet on the carpet but not much.

If I were you I'd ditch the kicks while under your desk and stay neat and clean.
posted by tilde at 5:25 PM on May 15, 2016

I don't understand the hygiene issue for those wearing shoes. If you're wearing shoes, whether the barefoot person's feet are hygienic doesn't affect you. I think this is an aesthetics issue disguised as a health issue, as is the idea of it being dangerous. I go barefoot at home all the time. I think I stepped on a thumbtack once about thirty years ago. I doubt very many people would suffer immensely from a loose staple injury. Also, feet stink because they're trapped inside shoes and socks. People wear sandals in all sorts of public places and sandals show almost the entire foot, so I don't understand why feet are suddenly too horrible to look at because you're in an office.

There is some evidence that shoes aren't really good for your feet. You can read about that in various barefoot running blogs. (Yes, people safely run outside on all kinds of surfaces.) Here's a piece on going barefoot at work.

At work, I wear sandals that easily slip off. I usually keep them on walking around the office, but at my desk, I kick them off. My office is very informal, and we don't meet with the public - people wear shorts in the summer. Obviously, different offices are going to have different standards of formality. I do think stealth barefoot is a bad idea if you care at all about what people think because you will eventually get caught.
posted by FencingGal at 5:38 PM on May 15, 2016 [9 favorites]

I think everyone has covered the gross factor already so I'm just going to answer the question. This is really obvious, so excuse me if it's already been covered. Just...cut the soles off. Seriously. Find a pair of sneakers you like where the rubber sole doesn't creep up the side much/at all and just cut it off. if at doesn't work for you, I bet you could find someone who makes custom sneakers on Etsy and get them to make you some where the cloth extends all the way to the bottom and they don't have a sole.
posted by Jubey at 5:51 PM on May 15, 2016

Can you get a brutally honest pal (actually a sibling would be perfect for this) to tell you whether you have Distractingly Gross Feet? Because it's a body part professional men usually cover, a bare foot in the office will noticeably violate some norms in many (most?) offices. And if they're Distractingly Gross (hairy, knobby, dirty, ashy heels, discolored nails, etc.) then that's pretty rude. I agree you need a pair of "house shoes" like an indoor slipper or sandal to put on when you go to the printer or the bathroom or the manager's office and to see if you can get away with slipping them off when you're on your own.

I really wonder about the hygiene thing-- are you particularly susceptible to something you haven't mentioned? Putting a clean foot in a clean breathable sock or a natural material sandal is really worse for you than exposing your bare skin to the surface people in outdoor shoes walk on all day?

Ask the nearest woman how much uncomfortable stuff she has to do to be "presentable" at work and thank your stars you don't have to wear pantyhose.
posted by kapers at 6:11 PM on May 15, 2016 [9 favorites]

I think a sole-less shoe might need a strap or something to keep it in place.
posted by cotton dress sock at 6:38 PM on May 15, 2016

Best answer: It doesn't break the rules in my office.

This has been bothering me since earlier today, so I'll just say now what I wanted to say then. I just plain don't believe that. If you need to do this "without detection", then you know damn well it's expected that you wear shoes. The fake shoe route would just piss me off that it's not just an innocent misunderstanding, you actually know but think I'm stupid.

Not all rules are written down in the handbook. There are also norms and expectations, and those are just as much "rules" as the official ones. Don't be the rules lawyer that makes me, the manager, write down something that should be common sense for a reasonable person and something everyone else seems to not be confused about. You might have given me a hesitation there when I was new, but now I would totally have the confidence to provide you the written instruction if you made me. But not in the handbook, in a letter for your file.

/ ok, I feel better now. Maybe your manager is not as grumpy as me.
posted by ctmf at 6:41 PM on May 15, 2016 [24 favorites]

I like being barefoot (though not at the office, due to thumbtacks and other hidden nasties in the carpet), and I wouldn't be grossed out by a quirky coworker who wanted to be barefoot all the time.

But wearing fake, sole-less shoes would be weird. It's like those scenes in movies where someone is on a video conference call, wearing a suit and tie, and then they stand up to reveal that the whole time they weren't wearing pants. It's a great comedy scene but not really something you want in the office.

And at a purely practical level, I don't see how a sole-less shoe would work in terms of staying put as you walked.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:41 PM on May 15, 2016 [5 favorites]

Look, I feel you. I wear minimal or no footwear pretty much everywhere that I possibly can (I'm working on a wicked Chaco tan right now) but I wear ten-inch-tall leather work boots with hard toes all day long at work, whether I'm in the field or at the office (because even when I'm at the office I could end up having to go to a jobsite at any time, and they take a while to get on and off, and my feet get stanky once they've been in my boots for a while). I don't like it, but I deal with it.

For me it's a safety issue whereas for you it's a social acceptability issue, but my point is that either way bare feet would be inappropriate at our workplaces, and we need to deal. If I, someone with very sensitive feet and a mild sensory-processing disorder, can manage in my protective foot-prisons all day then you too can find a way to make it work. What you need to do is identify the least amount of shoe you can get away with without attracting undue attention (hint: look around at what other people are wearing and copy them) and then buy the most comfortable version of that type of shoe you can possibly find.

You say that minimal sneakers "have the right idea." Are sneakers acceptable in your office? Do lots of people wear sneakers and nobody is commenting negatively about it? Then go find a pair of minimal sneakers that you like (I like New Balance's "Minimus" line) and just accept that that is the compromise you are going to have to make. If you can get away with sandals or flip-flops, even better. (Note that in some places flip-flops will be seen as too casual while more structured sandals may be OK.) If you need something dressier, there are loads of slip-on dressy shoes that are made with comfort in mind—moccasins, with their soft, flexible soles, will probably best aproximate the barefoot experience.

Save the bare-footedness for before and after work. You don't want this to be the reason why you stand out in your workplace. Unless you have the kind of clout that allows you to just absolutely not give a fuck what anyone else at work thinks, you don't want your unusual lack of footwear to be what people first think of when they think of you. Keep your clothing choices within office norms, and let the excellent quality of your work be the thing that defines you—not your bare feet.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:13 PM on May 15, 2016 [10 favorites]

Well, people have told you that the dl on the shoes are not going to work and how seeing feet may squick people out. But I am here to tell you that no matter what you do, you need hella pretty feet. People take less offense at the aesthetically pleasing. You got to show that you are COMMITTED to your feet in all their glory.
  • Get a manicure/pedicure kit like Sephora's
  • Got calluses and that primitive callus file and pumice stone seem kind of stone age? Well the epi-pedi will do and is gentle enough for diabetic feet
  • You want to seriously exfoliate as in willing to be snake people for a bit (2 weeks on average)? The Babyfoot mask peel is putting out its lavender-scented call
  • after you are snake people with your shedding skin bits then it is all about washing and moisturization. Lush, damn them, got rid of their pied de pepper cream which moisturized and napalmed the aroma of closed shoed feet in a cloud of cinnamon and lemon, so you may want to get some advice on the optimal moisturizer.
Now, you can go down the full regimen of foot care that includes hot water soaks, essences like Mizon snail cream or combinations like glycerin and lemon juice or even whitening your toes with hydrogen peroxide. Whatever you decide to do, make your feet pretty.
posted by jadepearl at 7:24 PM on May 15, 2016 [4 favorites]

This makes me think of the big, presumably hygienic Fortune 500 company I worked for that had rats living in the ceilings. The office was on a frequent and rigorous cleaning schedule, but still, rats in the ceiling. Which meant at night when everyone went home, rats on the floors. What I'm saying is, you think where you work is clean enough to go barefoot. It's probably not.
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 7:46 PM on May 15, 2016 [11 favorites]

Stealth shoes is clown time

Looks like the title for next month's podcast is sorted!

Look, wearing "pretend" shoes suggests you have something to hide. People will think you're nuts.

Kicking off your shoes at your desk is normal and unremarkable. This is probably the best choice

There is also a possible third way. I have sore feet and sometimes wear a pair of tan/khaki Crocs to work in our business casual office. Not only does no one care, they don't even notice.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:53 PM on May 15, 2016

I think it's a bit silly that so many people find feet gross, but then, I'm the kind of hippie that walks around barefoot anywhere I think I can get away with it. I wanted to be barefoot at my own wedding, but my husband intervened and said he'd be worrying about stepping on my feet all day so I had to wear SOMETHING, and I chose ballet slippers.

That said, just wearing something that is easily removed when no one happens to be looking at your feet, and then putting them on when people are looking (you're walking around, etc.) is probably your best bet. Especially if your office is pretty casual, this is probably more common than you even realize already.
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 8:49 PM on May 15, 2016

Steve Jobs would sometimes go barefoot to the office. People there would just think that he was an idiot, and he failed at work, and the company eventually went bankrupt. Steve Jobs started wearing shoes and started another company.
posted by ovvl at 9:25 PM on May 15, 2016 [5 favorites]

While your employer may not have any policies requiring you to cover your feet at work, keep in mind that your national or local occupational health service may mandate that shoes (especially closed-toe shoes) be worn in your working environment. Just something to be aware of.
posted by i feel possessed at 11:21 PM on May 15, 2016

I don't find feet gross! Well, I mean, they can be, but not universally. I love being barefoot. My house is a no-shoes zone. I just don't think it's appropriate in an office. Unless everyone else in your office is doing it, you're gonna be the weirdo who stands out. That's all I'm saying.
posted by celtalitha at 12:42 AM on May 16, 2016

I work in a open plan office and am sensitive to noise. If you're in an open plan office or regularly walk through such, please, please don't wear flip flops. Schloop, schloop, schloop every day will have people like me wanting to take those flip flops and beat you with them.

(See also people who can't walk without whistling. what the hell is wrong with you, are your legs attached to your lips?)
posted by Ness at 1:33 AM on May 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

As someone who wore shoes/sandals about 7 times through a mostly 4 year stretch, don't try to do this full time barefoot, unless you go direct to HR and your boss and get approval to be 100% barefoot.

Apparently some people are *really* involved with shoes and feet; it will be immediately obvious if you're doing something silly; like wearing shoes with the bottoms cut out, or wrapping a strap around your feet so it approximates sandal straps. Seriously, the people who are so into feet that they notice something like this, will also be the sort of people who immediately run to HR.

And yes, you say that there isn't something about barefeet in the handbook? Guess again; it will immediately become a "safety" thing. There could be staples in the carpet (gasp). Or there will immediately be a new printing of the handbook specifying no barefeet. The only reason it's not listed is they assume it doesn't need to be listed in the same way they don't list, "No coming to work fully naked or spitting into your co-workers' coffees."

What I've found most palatable, is wearing flip flops (or loafers if you need something less open-toe), and immediately taking them off when I get to my desk. I put them on when I walk around the office, but for 96% of the time I'm in this building I'm in my seat and barefoot.

As it's a fairly common thing for people to kick their shoes off at their desk (I'd estimate 5-10% do it) this shouldn't garner specific attention.
posted by nobeagle at 6:06 AM on May 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

I came here to suggest leather moccasins. My father wore them exclusively in the house growing up. They are thin enough to feel the floor and ground beneath you, provide little support but protect your feet from dirt and legos. If you have sweaty feet, they are cooler than slipper
posted by Gor-ella at 9:28 AM on May 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

I will toss out a thought as to why so many people are objecting to this: the way to make something sexy or intimate is to cover it and keep it covered. Although most people do not think of feet as sexy, some people fetishize them and, regardless, having NAKED feet in a professional setting is going to feel just all kinds of wrong to some folks. It also runs some small risk that someone will actually dig your naked feet and that could go weird places.

This is part of why I suggested you should confine your naked feet to the privacy of your cubicle (or whatever). It is fine if you like having naked feet. It is a little more problematic to share their nakedness publicly at work where that is likely to feel overly familiar. A lot of people will simply not be comfortable with it. They may not analyze why too closely. But unasked for intimacy or unwelcome intimacy gets interpreted as "dirty," so this may be why people are going "Ew -- that is unclean!" even though the actual threat to hygiene is only a threat to your hygiene. If everyone else wears shoes, your foot health shouldn't really matter.

If it really does not matter what you wear on your feet at this job, then wear flip flops (or similar) and kick them off at your desk. Your feet will be mostly naked, but people will be less likely to have some strong visceral reaction of "Nope. Nope. That is so wrong."
posted by Michele in California at 11:18 AM on May 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

I know a barefoot marathoner who often volunteered, shoe-less, at a community bike shop. It was a hazard-rich environment for feet, but his soles were practically leather. I myself have gone barefoot at work in a bike shop - but then, it was a small shop and a very relaxed culture. I also worked on a small farm in the tropics where the manager and various seasonal employees often went barefoot.

In all cases, there were occasional "woah, you're barefoot" moments. Answering "yes" as if it's perfectly normal and unremarkable was usually sufficient to end the conversation.

Ultimately, this seems like a cultural thing. You know better than we do whether your office culture will tolerate it. Don't bother with the fake shoes, though - if going barefoot is acceptable, you'll get a few comments and then people will get used to it. If it's not acceptable, based on this thread you'll probably hear about it. Checking in with co-workers before you start going barefoot would probably be a good idea. Also consider easing in - minimal shoes/sandals, then shoes off sometimes, then shoes off most of the time.
posted by sibilatorix at 12:04 PM on May 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

I, for one, would lose my mind if I had to see someone's bare feet at work. I feel legitimately queasy even contemplating this question.

In the abstract, it sounds fine, and in the early internet-days I remember reading about a woman who did something like the bottomless-shoes, and I was fully down with the concept. She was otherwise completely barefoot, but when she went into the city, she had these boat shoes whose soles had basically disintegrated. They enabled her to avoid everyone's questions and opinions. My feeling was: hey, go for it!

But in your case there is a huge distinction: you would be forcing people into that kind of situation, when everyone is trapped at work. Completely inconsiderate. But if you are fine with a significant number of people physically recoiling from you and avoiding you (regardless of views about the baselessness of lame socially-formed visceral responses), then go for it. But there are many great reasons for the social avoidance of bare feet, including disease, safety, aesthetics, etc.

Just to share a data point: personally I would vastly prefer fake bottomless shoes to having to see a bare foot in sandals in my workplace. But I think I am probably in the minority on that one. (I am recoiling so hard right now I think I might sprain something.)
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 12:38 PM on May 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

I like minimalist shoes, I spend a good chunk of my day standing at my desk, I'm on a carpeted surface. But I wouldn't go barefoot. I get enough flak from my coworkers for wearing FiveFingers now and then (good natured ribbing, but hey, I expect that). Barefoot seems just way too casual and unprofessional for work.

The next best thing I can think of - get some Injinji socks - plus a pair of slip-on shoes. Take the shoes off, you're "barefoot" (but not really - you have socks on) - and because you have socks on, it isn't quite as off-putting for folks that would be squicked out by bare feet.

I wear those socks quite a bit. (If I wear FiveFingers to work, I wear these socks too - they keep my "work" FiveFingers from smelling like sweaty feet, whereas the ones I wear solely to run in? Socks, or no, depending on how warm it is and how far I plan to run). They give me the feeling of bare feet without being barefoot.
posted by caution live frogs at 1:57 PM on May 16, 2016

There are countless things that are not technically against the rules of your office but nonetheless would be considered unprofessional and would garner unwanted negative attention. Your office probably does not have a specific rule against nose-picking either.
posted by desuetude at 4:53 PM on May 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Based on the advice and declarations of nausea, here's my plan:
1. Sneakers and shoes go in this bag in a drawer when I get to work.
2. I stand around in these super thin socks at my desk. (Forgot to mention standing desk...)
3. Put these pretend shoes on when going to the printer.

Nauseous people: May I wear the slippers to the bathroom?
posted by derbyshire at 7:40 PM on May 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

It sounds like some carefully-adapted spats might serve your needs.
posted by bendy at 8:07 PM on May 16, 2016

Those slippers would give me no deal breaker concerns. Pretty nice looking, actually.

That said, I'd still be torn on that one, but for a much more subjective reason possibly unique to my own work place. I'd be concerned about you reinforcing the perceived division between the "lazy cushy office princesses in their bedroom slippers" and the "people doing the real work"* which is a thing that comes and goes, and can occasionally get bad enough to create some quite real resentments over things that start silly.

* can also be presented as "people doing the higher level important stuff" vs. "knuckle dragging grunts"

I'm just sayin', your manager might still veto the slippers idea for that or any other reason that doesn't necessarily have to do strictly with hygiene or safety. But I don't think those would make anyone mad, like the bottomless sneaker idea would have. More like a mmm, yeah, hey about that... conversation, no harm done.
posted by ctmf at 8:10 PM on May 16, 2016

I work in an office where we don't wear shoes. Many people wear socks, some wear slippers, and some--including me--go barefoot unless it's really really cold. It is glorious. So it's a longshot, but if all else fails, apply for a job somewhere this is a thing.
posted by rhiannonstone at 11:51 PM on May 16, 2016

Those slippers are lovely and totally office-appropriate in my opinion.
posted by MsMolly at 1:07 PM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

On December 31st of last year, one of my sandals broke. Lots of stuff was not open or closing early and walking long distances with a broken sandal is torture. So I bought a pair of black cloth house shoes at the closest store I could get to that had something like that (because they had house shoes but did not have sandals in stock -- it is a place I sometimes buy sandals, but no dice that day).

I ended up wearing them for several days, maybe even a couple of weeks, in part because stuff was closed on January 1st, in part for other reasons. During the time that I schlepped around all over the place in black house shoes, not one person stopped and went "Woah, what is up with you wearing house shoes in public???"

Based on that experience, I bet a lot of folks will have no idea your leather slippers are not "real shoes" if you do not point it out. Especially if you also have on black socks and wear long, dark pants, many people will just not notice.
posted by Michele in California at 1:22 PM on May 17, 2016

Have you looked at Tom's or similar Espadrilles? You can get them in all black or dark grey and are incredibly comfortable.
posted by stackhaus23 at 3:51 PM on May 18, 2016

Thank you for being considerate of other people's potential nausea! I am one of those nauseated-by-bare-feet folks. I am not germophobic or body-phobic - one of my favorite hobbies is visiting the Korean spa, where communal nudity is required! - but there's something about a work environment that makes things totally different. Your plan sounds great and does not sound any warning klaxons in my head.
posted by julthumbscrew at 1:33 PM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Those slippers are I guess acceptable (personally I'd still wish you'd wear shoes but I guess we just won't agree). It would be better if the interior was black- that camel-coloured inner sole will show when you walk and the flash of light will draw the eye.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 5:29 PM on May 23, 2016

I'd go with other's suggestion to just wear shoes into work, then kick off your shoes under your desk, and go either barefoot or sockfoot in the office.

But, I just saw these socks-that-look-like-footwear 1, 2 (on PeeWee Herman's Facebook page, no less), and remembered your post. If you wear black converse sneakers into work, then walk around in these socks, a lot of people likely wouldn't notice, but if they did, it wouldn't freak people out like if you had bottomless shoes.
posted by ethical_caligula at 8:20 PM on May 29, 2016

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