Barefoot Sandals in Everyday Life

In principle I should have always been fond of standard barefoot sandals, given my generally barefoot lifestyle.

Traditionally they look a bit like flip-flops or thongs, usually with a bit of ‘bling’ or fancy designs. However, importantly, they have no sole, hence the name; in a sense they’re more akin to foot jewellery/decoration than proper sandals. This also affects how they’re worn: with normal sandals/flip-flops, there’s a strap going over the foot, between the toes, that connects to the sole. With ‘barefoot’ sandals, the ‘strap’ (usually a long piece of cord or thick string) loops around a toe, and then ties around the leg just above the ankle.

Traditional barefoot sandals being worn. Two feet, otherwise bare, lie in the grass. The sandals are made up of a length of white string tied round the ankle and looped around the toe next to the big toe. As they trail along the the top of the foot, there are three 'daisies' woven into them.
Traditional ‘barefoot sandals’, definitely very ‘bare’ and more akin to foot decoration.

This particular design also appealed to me because I have this thing for daisies. I always have, not quite sure why, but it might be something to do with the fact they’re one of the few things I can draw/doodle. Plus of course I’m basically a wannabe hippie.

The reasoning behind why I’d wear them is twofold. First they make my feet look more aesthetically attractive. In the same way as I always have bright and sparkly toenail varnish, I figure if I’m going to have my feet on display a lot, I should make them look pretty. The other reason is I feel they given the impression I’m not barefoot at all, but rather just wearing some thin sandals.

However, on the few occasions I’ve worn these particular ones, I’ve not really been that ‘taken’ with them. Since the ‘strap’ was quite a thin piece of string, no matter how tight I tied them, the knot slowly worked its way down to the ankle. This means I kept losing tension in the over-foot bit, so they continually felt ‘loose’ and like they were about to fall off. As they’re crocheted, they got dirty rather too quickly – this shouldn’t be so much of a problem but as they were quite thin and fragile, they were quite difficult to clean. Finally, the trouble with most barefoot sandals to be fair, and these in particular, is that it was blindingly obvious they’re just a piece of fabric, and I am really barefoot – they wouldn’t fool anyone who takes more than a passing glance. While they look great for barefoot beach weddings or hippie festivals, wearing them around town … looks a bit silly.

Searching online, via Pinterest, didn’t bring anything up I liked, as they all seemed to be based around the same style. Then I had a chat with a friend who said that one of her friends (Mrs Blake’s Makes) might like the challenge, as long as I didn’t mind crochet again. After a few e-mails, and a tracing of my feet onto squared paper, she said she’d completed them.

New barefoot sandals. White string/cord attached around my big toes and the toe next to the little toe, and tied around my ankles. Between them are 10 daisies, decorated in white and yellow crochet thread.
Close-up of the new daisy barefoot sandals.

This was the end result. The strapping is made with a thicker cord than the sandals I previously had, and they have a little more weight behind them, which means they stay on my feet pretty well. The first time I wore them was at a friend’s wedding; I had them on over the whole of the wedding weekend, and never had any problems with them.

The Barefoot Backpacker in the wild. A funky purple-blue short-sleeved buttoned shirt, capri-length jeans, and the daisy barefoot sandals, standing in the grass in a park on a sunny summer's day. He is holding a bottle of beer in his left hand, obviously.
At the wedding reception in the country park – here seen with the long shorts rather than the full-length jeans.

The daisies over the forefoot are unusual, and meant there needed to be two toe loops rather than one to ensure that they keep their shape when I walk. The two toe loops also mean they stay on my feet better in general; it’s a design feature you almost never see on most other designs of barefoot sandals. That there were so many daisies crocheted meant that a few people at the wedding were fooled – I was complemented with “nice flip flops”; when I showed them they had no soul they were impressed and would never have guessed. (I was wearing jeans for much of the day – it’s more obvious when wearing shorter trousers, when they look a little like old gladiator-like sandals). They’re very comfortable, are easy to slide on and off, and fit perfectly. They even felt like I was wearing proper sandals. The only slightly amusing factor was that people at first thought the design looked more like fried eggs.

Feet in the daisy barefoot sandals, in a woodland. All ten daisy motifs can be clearly seen, wrapping around the top of the feet. The toenails are bright blue. Next to the feet is a Bradt Guide to Albania.
Barefoot in the woodlands, wearing the sandals, plotting an adventure to Albania.

I wore these daisy barefoot sandals quite a lot over the next couple of years, including pretty much constantly on a two week backpacking trip around North Macedonia / Albania / Kosovo. However, as my only pair they eventually got a bit worn out and faded. In addition, I felt their nature was still a bit too ‘obvious’; I wanted an additional pair that felt and looked even more like ordinary sandals.

Cue my friend again, who was more than happy to oblige.

The new barefoot sandals. Three thick brown crocheted straps across the width of the top of each foot, from the toes to the ankle. Loops of thread go round both the big toes and the little toes. Toenails are green and sparkly, the feet are resting on a glass table, and to the right of the right foot is a can of beer called 'Beerfoot'.
The second pair of crocheted barefoot sandals – much more sandal-ly.

Although plainer, and I’ve lost the daisy motif, the crochet on them is much thicker. This means they’re less prone to wearing through, plus with long enough trousers, make it even less obvious I’m barefoot, though if you stare enough you can still tell.

The first time I wore these was on a two-week trip around Netherlands and Belgium, including a few days at the Traverse travel blogger conference in Rotterdam. I wore them for the entirety of the event, in fact even from the moment I left my house on the way to catch a Eurostar. And again, no-one really cared, or even noticed, that I was technically barefoot, which I think surprised me.

They have since become my standard footwear; they’re what I wear when I’m going shopping (either in city centres or at the supermarket), or when I’m going to pubs etc. The only places where people have picked me up on it and advised strongly I wear proper footwear with soles is, bizarrely, Australia, when it happened a couple of times.

Standing in a field in Queensland, Australia (Henley Brook). The man wears a blue short-sleeved buttoned shirt and light brown trousers, He is wearing the crochet barefoot sandals. The field is scrubland. Behind him is a road bathed in sunshine, and behind that a bright yellow 'hedge' of corn, set against a bright pale blue sky.
In a field in Queensland, Australia, for a wedding. They almost look like proper sandals. Almost.

One of the weirdest feelings when wearing them is they do feel like proper sandals; or rather, when I take them off after getting back home, I can definitely feel the difference, almost similar to that of taking off a pair of socks.

Having both pairs of barefoot sandals have been really good for my self-confidence; they’ve allowed me to feel comfortable exploring my barefoot lifestyle preferences whilst not putting myself into a position where I’m challenging people over it. They have allowed me to get into museums, restaurants, etc without anyone batting an eyelid, and walking down the street is a breeze; no-one pays me a second glance anyway. People have loved the style of them and been genuinely surprised when I reveal their lack of sole. Only if you’re paying close attention, or looking at me from behind, does the truth become obvious – the lack of a strap behind the Achilles means my bare heel is clear to see.

Walking down a street in Jaffna, Sri Lanka. Wearing a blue shirt, brown trousers, and the brown crochet barefoot sandals. However from this angle, it's clear, with the left foot up, on the toes, that the sole of the foot is bare and the sandals only cover the top. The road is dry tarmac, slightly dusty at the right edge, while the left side, behind the man, is lined with trees and wooden fences.
Walking down a road in Jaffna, Sri Lanka. From this angle you can very much tell I’m genuinely barefoot, and the sandals are just for show.

Obviously I’d rather be completely barefoot – and indeed I am when I’m both running (I don’t like anything on my feet at all when I run) and hiking (because being crochet, they don’t react well to mud and damp conditions) – but for everyday life, they’re fantastic for me. They allowed me to spend over six months continuously barefoot in 2020, which is quite impressive for the UK.

So, if you see me, and wonder why The Barefoot Backpacker is wearing sandals, the chances are … I’m probably not!

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