Joseph DeRuvo Jr., from Norwalk, Connecticut, gave up on footwear over two decades ago, after getting painful bunions on his feet, and he has been walking around barefoot ever since.
59-year-old Joseph DeRuvo Jr. doesn’t remember the exact day he decided to shun footwear for good, but he recalls that it was about five years before the first Apple iPhone came out (2002). He had developed bunions on both feet, which hurt when he went jogging in tight running shoes. A doctor recommended surgery to relieve the pain, but before being scheduled for the procedure, the former photographer decided to go barefoot because the pain in his feet was so intense. As he considered the surgery, DeRuvo Jr. learned that the screws that were to be inserted into his feet contained a metal he was allergic to, and he also realized that he was feeling much better. In the end, he passed on the surgery and decided to adopt a barefoot lifestyle.
“The tactile feedback just kind of makes everything else going on feel a little bit smoother,” Joseph recently told The New York Times.
But simply shunning footwear for good isn’t as simple as it sounds. We may be born barefoot, but as a respectable adult living in the United States, you are kind of expected to wear shoes when going out. Which is why Joseph DeRuvo Jr. and his wife Lini Ecker “get thrown out of a lot of places”. People apparently don’t feel comfortable around someone who is barefoot, even if they are otherwise acting completely normal, and they will complain to the management of whatever establishment they are in.
Because certain situations require him to have shoes on, such as going out with friends at restaurants that he knows he can’t go into barefoot, Joseph jas a pair of loose sandals in his car, but he only puts them on when he absolutely has to. Otherwise, he prefers to go barefoot, even in the extreme heat of summer, or on freezing winter days. He claims that nothing is as painful as walking on chemically treated, ice-melting salt in winter, adding that the experience has given him a lot of sympathy for dogs.
DeRuvo often gets asked about the danger of getting sharp objects stuck in his callused soles, but he says that the benefits far outweigh the risks, and that walking barefoot simply means that he has to be more careful when he’s out and about.
It’s disciplined movement,” he told CBC’s Asi It Happens. “I mean, it doesn’t allow you to be absent-minded when you’re walking around. You have to be conscious where you’re stepping and where you’re placing your foot and how you’re rolling off your foot.”
Apart from his medical reasons for going barefoot, Joseph DeRuvo Jr. claims that he has gotten so used to walking barefoot that whenever he doesn’t feel the ground beneath his feet he always gets a little edgier than normal. When his feet make direct contact with the ground, he always feels literally more grounded.
DeRuvo, who describes himself as a religious man, also cites the Bible as an inspiration for his unusual lifestyle choice, particularly the Old Testament story of God speaking to Moses from the bush, where he says ‘Take off your sandals, this ground is holy’. He tries to take that as far as he can…
Joseph certainly isn’t the only person to adopt a barefoot lifestyle, but he has been doing it for a lot longer than most.