Some walked barefoot in the morning, with dewy grass blades sticking to the bottom of their feet. Others strategically hopped over mud holes created by Area-52 to keep their exposed skin clean. For those that walked without shoes in the afternoon, they felt the effects of the blazing black asphalt heated by the sun, burning their soles.

Many Cal Poly students chose to leave their shoes at home yesterday. TOMS Cal Poly Campus Club partnered with Student Community Services’ Raise the Respect to organize “One Day Without Shoes” at Cal Poly.

Social science junior and president of TOMS Cal Poly Campus Club Hannah Fischer took part in putting on the event that she has participated in for the past three years.

“The fact that we have a mass amount of people doing it, really raises awareness of the millions of children that walk over 10 miles a day without shoes,” Fischer said. “Walking a quarter mile to school is small in comparison to what these people go through.”

Fischer found herself avoiding glass in the street as she made her quarter-mile walk to school. When walking on campus, she hoped to find soft concrete, which provided a break for her bare feet to stand on.

One hundred and five students were tallied walking through the University Union (UU) shoeless from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. This does not take into account other areas of campus or time periods outside of the 3-hour period.

TOMS Cal Poly Campus Club stationed a booth at both Dexter Lawn and the UU.  They laid butcher paper on the ground where students traced their feet.

English junior Bradley Ryan was the photographer for “One Day Without Shoes” at Cal Poly. He said approximately five people during the course of the day asked him why he was not wearing shoes.

“I chose to do this to start conversations with people I didn’t know,” Ryan said. “It has been great — a little hot — but very freeing.”

Others had different reasons for leaving their-*0 shoes at home. For landscape architecture freshman Emma McHatten, it was not to make a statement.

“This helps me understand better what it’s like for others who don’t have shoes,” she said. “I did this more for myself, to try to relate.”

McHatten has participated in “One Day Without Shoes” since 2006 when TOMS created and sponsored the event, even while she was in high school at Fresno.

Some that opted to not participate regretted their decision. In retrospect, English senior Claire Alfred wished she had walked the day barefoot.

“I thought about it, but then I decided not to because I don’t like it when my feet hurt,” Alfred said. “I know that’s the point, to put yourself in the ‘shoes’ of people without shoes, but I was weak.”

She said she felt guilty when seing all the students who were not wearing shoes so she avoided them.

Raise the Respect collaborated with TOMS Cal Poly Campus Club to help advertise for the event and raise awareness.

Biological sciences and political science junior and program director of Raise the Respect Emily Hong didn’t wear her shoes all day, with the exception of during her lab. But even then, her chemistry professor expected the shoes to come off afterward, Hong said.

“People would ask why I didn’t have shoes and there was a simple answer — there are millions of kids that don’t wear shoes and are exposed to many infections and diseases that are non-existent in America,” she said. “For us to give up shoes for a day is not a big deal.”

Hong said she heard people make offhand comments like: “You’re walking barefoot? How gross,” or “Walking barefoot? Why would someone ever do that?”

“It made me realize how ignorant people are to the issues going around in the modern world we live in,” Hong said. “For being part of higher education, we should be aware to these so-called ‘little’ issues.”

Join the Conversation


  1. I’m all for going barefoot. In fact, I spent a great deal of my sophomore year barefoot. More often than not I left my shoes at home when it came time for class. However, even in those times I made sure to wear shoes on our “One Day Without Shoes.” I do this because the idea of the day is to make one aware of how terrible life would be without shoes. And for a starving person walking five miles over gravel for water in a third world country, not having shoes IS an issue. But not here. In fact, our world is so kushy and sterilized that going barefoot full-time is not a sacrifice. It’s really far more of a way to break free of one of the many arbitrary, limiting cultural taboos that serve only to limit and dull our experience. So Toms is selling the wrong message here, and don’t get me started on the genius business model that is Toms Shoes. Sure, they’re donating shoes, and that’s good and all, but remember that they’re a business first and foremost, and a charity for the publicity.

    Protest TOMS Day Without Shoes by going barefoot every day. You won’t regret it.

    1. I see your point, Austin, and I think many people hold the same opinion about TOMS (thought they don’t go barefoot on other days like you do.) However, I think it’s important to note that TOMS’s founder Blake wanted to start a business that could give something back while succeeding as a business. When people hear the idea behind TOMS, they mistake it for a charitable organization that is also making money on the side. Yes, he probably sold more shoes because of the concept, but he also donated more shoes because of this unique model than he could have with a non-profit donation-based system. Not many people are making $45 to $80 donations to charitable organizations, especially people in our age group.

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