The shoeless support our pioneering barefoot campaign!

‘Lifestyle barefooters’ and barefoot runners have pledged their support to The Leprosy Mission’s pioneering Feet First appeal.

Kit Mullan, Andy Ford and James Graham in Central London.

People who haven’t worn shoes for as long as nine years gathered in central London at the weekend in solidarity with people affected by leprosy, some of the world’s poorest and most marginalised people.

The international development charity is encouraging people to do the ‘Barefoot Challenge’ for just one day to raise money to benefit 25,000 ultra-poor people in Mozambique. And as The Leprosy Mission has won UK Aid Match funding for Feet First, every £1 donated before 31 August 2015 will be doubled by the UK government.

Going barefoot in all weathers and seasons is a growing phenomenon with the Society for Barefoot Living’s Facebook page now having 5,000 members and the Barefoot and Minimalist Runners page having more than 3,000 members.

Some ‘lifestyle barefooters’ have even taken it on themselves to openly support The Leprosy Mission’s Barefoot Challenge by meeting together in London and giving tips to first-time barefooters on how far to walk and what to expect from their barefoot charity day.

Money raised from the Barefoot Challenge will provide foot care groups and, ironically, protective sandals to leprosy-affected people in the Cabo Delgado province of Mozambique. Leprosy causes nerve damage which can lead to terrible deformities and even amputation as people affected by leprosy often cannot feel if they’ve cut their foot and it becomes infected.

By providing protective sandals, leprosy-affected people will be spared the wounds and ulcers that can lead to permanent disability. This means that people affected by leprosy can remain mobile and independent – able to look after themselves and not reduced to a life of begging. 

Leprosy Mission supporter Andy Ford, 47, of Surrey hasn’t worn shoes for seven years and has a great empathy with people affected by leprosy.  He said:  “We like to feel our surroundings so it must be very tough for people affected by leprosy who cannot feel the ground under their feet or whether they’ve hurt themselves.

“It is no problem walking around central London barefoot and your feet do toughen up a little. I would not recommend walking more than three to four miles on your first barefoot day though.

“I look after computer systems for a job and so occasionally have to bring shoes in a bag when I meet with clients in banks and put them on 100 yards up the road.  I like enjoying my environment and often walk barefoot from Waterloo to the city of London.

“If you go barefoot too often it becomes addictive and you don’t want to put shoes on again.”
Kit Mullan, 32, of Coventry has not worn shoes for nine years with the exception of around the workplace, a grocery store which has a ‘shoes policy’.

He said:  “I think going barefoot broadens your horizons. You feel invigorated by going barefoot and I think I’ve only cut myself on two occasions.  I believe it is much healthier than wearing shoes and I enjoy cycling to work barefoot.”

Engineer James Graham, 47, of Bexhill also has to wear shoes at work because of health and safety but even runs barefoot half marathons in his spare time. He has applied for London Marathon 2016 which he will run barefoot should he win a place.

“I really feel for people affected by leprosy as when you’re walking around barefoot, pain is the feedback you want your body to give you,” he said.

“People tend to be quite interested in barefoot living whereas others are quite worried about your feet. I remember being in the Tate Gallery and a member of staff warning me to look after my feet on the escalators. They were just looking out for me which is kind.

“But I’ve even done archery barefoot. Afterall, most shoes will take an arrow through them.
“Going barefoot is good fun and I would encourage everyone to try it at least once.”

Find out more about the Barefoot Challenge and sign up to get involved
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