Class is dismissed.
Backpacks shuffle, and then the sound of shoes scuffing the sidewalk joins with the murmur of the crowd outside.
Boots, sandals, flip-flops and tennis shoes all march toward a destination, but one thing goes unheard: the touch of bare skin against the hot paved path.
“I love feeling the different textures of the ground against my skin,” sophomore Anna Park said.
Park, otherwise known as the “barefoot wonder,” is just one of a number of students who have recently decided to trek through Belmont’s campus sans shoes.
Her choice to go without shoes hasn’t gone unnoticed. Reactions range from grossed out to curiosity and even appreciation.
But Park doesn’t just walk around barefoot for the heck of it.
She grew up on the east coast of Virginia, where she said going barefoot is popular. And when she came to Nashville, she continued the practice out of habit.
Moreover, going barefoot, as she has learned, is healthier.
With only 20 percent of the world actually wearing shoes, as reported by the Huffington Post, choosing to go without shoes can provide real health benefits, like reducing depression and anxiety by 62 percent.
And the health benefits extend into spirituality, according to sites like MindBodyGreen.com.
Reflexologist and writer for the wellness site Stephanie Slon wrote in a post that going barefoot allows you “to connect with ‘Mother Nature’ all around.”
Park also feels that going barefoot helps her cope with life and develop her spirituality, an idea that originated with the 19th century Romantics who worshiped nature.
“I don’t do it necessarily because I like it, but because I find it rejuvenating to connect with nature,” Park said.
Park is not the only Belmont student walking around campus barefoot. Grace Mason and Austin Griffin also participate in this growing trend.
While they all go barefoot, their reasons vary.
“I consider myself a hippie. I don’t walk around barefoot for any other reason than a personal one,” Mason said. “I like to feel the ground beneath me.”
“For the fun of it,” said Griffin.
But choosing to go barefoot takes a bit more zeal during the colder months.
Although some decide to wear shoes in the winter, Park remains shoeless.
“It helps with your circulation, so you don’t get too hot or too cold,” Park said.
But frosty weather is not the only obstacle those going barefoot face.
Some facilities like libraries and restaurants refuse barefoot patrons from entering.
Dylan Oman, another Belmont barefooter, took it upon himself to find out if going sans shoes violated any state laws.
He called the governor’s office in all 50 states and was informed that while there is no law against being barefoot, it’s considered a liability.
When going to restaurants or supermarkets and other private facilities, Park carries shoes to wear.
Belmont has also added new barefoot restrictions on campus.
Shoes must be worn in campus stores, food facilities, classrooms, the Beaman Student Life Center and and the Curb Event Center.
While Park, Griffin and Oman find the restrictions cumbersome, they understand the concern.
“It’s a safety issue,” Park said.
Even though she has to deal with some restrictions against being barefoot, Park doesn’t let it discourage her from keeping up the trend.
“I think there will always be people in Belmont who go barefoot … I plan to do it for the rest of my life,” Park said.
– Lydia Yousief