Every now and then, someone will smugly say to me:
“Barefoot Sandals is an oxymoron. If you’re barefoot, you’re not wearing sandals, and if you’re wearing sandals, you’re not barefoot!”
Yes, technically, that’s true. Barefoot is barefoot and shod is shod.
And, I’ll admit, I’m normally a stickler for grammar. I hate when people say “very unique” (something can’t be VERY one-of-a-kind), and don’t even get me started on “a whole nother” (“nother” isn’t a word! You mean “another whole”).
But for “barefoot sandals” or barefoot shoes or even bare feet shoes, I’m willing to be a bit more lax, and not just because I’m in the business of making huarache sandals.
It’s simpler than that.
In this case, there’s not really much lost when you remove the “implied word”: -style.
That is, what people would say instead of “barefoot sandals” if they were being more accurate is “barefoot-style sandals,” or “barefoot-style shoes,” the implication being that this type of footwear is similar in some way to being barefoot.
Now the key element to that sentence is “similar in some way,” and I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that many shoes that advertise themselves as barefoot running shoes are about as similar to barefoot as a pair of stilts (I should make a spoof commercial about barefoot stilts!).
Some manufacturers say that their shoes let your foot move as if you’re barefoot, or run with natural form (usually meaning forefoot or midfoot striking). Others say that you can feel the ground as if you’re barefoot.
It won’t come as any surprise that I think Xero Shoes does this better than any other product. After all, what could let your foot move more naturally than having nothing on your foot? And what could give you more ground-feel than just a bit of rubber (oh, I know, LESS rubber… but that’s a story for another post).
One of the first Xero Shoes customers said it best when he came back from his first run, all giddy, “It’s just like being barefoot… if they covered the earth in 4mm of rubber!”
So, cut some slack to those of us who use phrases like “barefoot sandals” or “barefoot shoes.” Let the implied meaning come through. But do demand that those who use the phrase can back it up with a product that lives up to the claim.