Before heading to class on a chilly October morning, some students throw on boots or tennis shoes, while others slip on their sandals, open toe and all, and their feet crunch over the drifting autumn leaves. They shiver their way to a 7:50 a.m. class with their breath forging the way.
Shoes are social standards that are enforced nowadays, but as a kid, barefoot was the way of life for many. The freedom for kids to run and play without having to wear clunky and unnecessary shoes was freeing.
Junior education and Spanish major Becca Ziems and junior elementary education and theatre major Tilly Jagelski are two people with a similar mindset. As kids, Ziems and Jagelski both agreed that shoes simply weren’t a part of their daily routines.
Shoes are a form of protection for many, and for others shoes are a form of imprisonment that suppress a childhood memory of freedom and bare-footedness. For those people like Ziems and Jagelski, shoes are suffocating and almost like imprisonment for the feet.
“Even when I was little, I always preferred running around barefoot over wearing shoes,” Ziems said. “I just like the feel of the ground on my feet. It makes me feel freer.”
The feeling of being free isn’t the only reason for wearing sandals. It is also convenient to just slip on a pair of sandals and walk out the door. Shoes and boots can take up time in the morning that students don’t have as they frantically prepare for class, whereas with sandals one strap on a shoe and the wearer is off to start the day.
“Honestly, sandals enable my laziness,” sophomore vocal music major Thomas Thvedt said. “They’re much easier to slip on than my other shoes.”
Being barefoot, however, is a bit more prominent in Jagelski’s everyday routine compared to most. The ease of sandals and their usage rings a bit different in Jagelski’s situation.
“I can kick my sandals off at any given moment, and it’s particularly satisfying to watch them soar through the air before smacking across the ground,” Jagelski said. “I also like how I can really easily hook them onto the drawstrings of my backpack when I take them off to go barefoot.”
The ease of being able to just leave their room or remove their shoes is something that Ziems, Jagelski and Thvedt can all appreciate about their sandals. Sandals are easy and are not that much of a hassle. However, when the South Dakota winter shows up, the narrative changes for the three sandal-wearers.
The first cue to stop wearing sandals for Thvedt is when the ground is blanketed with its first snowfall — usually in early to mid-autumn, which creates problems for sandal wearers as it can cause slush and puddles.
“No one wants wet feet or wet socks!” Thvedt said.
The first snow pile-up is a sign for Ziems not to wear an open-toed shoe.
“I usually don’t wear sandals if I’m about to walk through snow that will cover my feet, but there’s not much else that will stop me,” Ziems said.
There isn’t much, however, that keeps Jagelski from keeping their feet free and letting the sandals rest. Jagelski prefers to have no shoes on and walk through campus barefoot, but sometimes nature has the final say.
“Sometimes, when it’s really heavy snow and I know I’ll be running around in it for a while, I acquiesce and put on a pair of boots,” Jagelski said, “Other than that? Nothing much.”
While there are restrictions about where students must wear shoes, there isn’t a set time for when open-toed shoes should be put away for the season. However, if one chooses to continue wearing sandals over the winter, some odd looks come from passing strangers or close friends.
For Thvedt, Ziems and Jagelski, the peoples’ worries aren’t a great deal of trouble and are also a nice reminder that there are people around to say something. Sandals are just a small thing to continue to grip onto that sense of freedom that isn’t around when a shoe has to be laced up rather than just slipped on. So as students continue to walk through campus with the snow pillowing beneath their open-toed shoes and their frosty breath leading their way, sandals are a choice to enjoy the last little piece of summer freedom and childhood memories that still remain.
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