UT student Heath Massery takes motto 'no shoes, no problem' seriously

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Heath Massery shows off his commitment to his barefoot lifestyle in front of the tower March 4, one of the coldest days of the semester.

Photo Credit: Amna Ijaz | Daily Texan Staff

For most, socks and shoes are essential to making an outfit pop and protecting feet from the harsh Texas elements.  

Linguistics and philosophy sophomore Heath Massery hasn’t worn shoes for two and a half years. Believing that shoes alter foot function, Massery said he prefers his feet to be one with the ground. 

“If you change the form of your foot, then you change the function of your foot,” Massery said. “That can lead to pain all the way from foot pain to lower and upper back pain.” 

Massery said the barefoot lifestyle frightens some due to liability and health code concerns. However, he says this is a double standard, because customers can track anything into a business and be unaware of it, because their feet are not in direct contact with the ground.  

Massery’s lifestyle attracted the attention of radio-television-film junior Justice Beverley, who included Massery in a documentary project. Beverly said he plans to incorporate his story into a bigger project this semester. 

“(Being barefoot is) not hurting anybody,” Beverley said. “That’s really why the documentary needs to be made. It needs to show the fact that this is not as bad as people say.” 

Although Beverley said that Massery is not harming anyone by being barefoot, Massery has actually injured himself on his campus commute. Massery exercises caution when walking outside, but in the couple of cases where he was running late to class he cut the bottom of his foot on exposed metal and lost a toenail to a bathroom door. 

“(People say) ‘You opened a door on your toe, you should have been wearing shoes,’” Massery said. “I could have. It could have happened on my way out of the front door or if I was going to the bathroom and just opened the bathroom door on my toe.”

Despite a letter from the Texas Department of State Health Services showing that it is not illegal to be barefoot in a restaurant, Massery has been kicked out of many restaurants, dining halls and libraries. He received a refund for the Dine In Dollars he did not spend due to the frequency with which he was kicked out of J2 and Kinsolving Dining.

Travis Willmann, communications officer for the University libraries, said campus buildings’ rules are often chosen by the facilities manager of the building itself.

“That’s how they come up with these rules, and they base it on any number of things.” Willmann said, “It can be social norms, it can be safety, it can be welfare, it can be another criteria, whatever they choose to base it on.”

The Perry-Casteñeda Library building use policy considers going barefoot “disruptive” and does not allow Massery in the building without shoes. Willmann said rules on wearing shoes in the library will remain in place as long as the majority of people stand unaffected by them. 

“I’m not saying it won’t ever be a policy where people are allowed in barefoot, but for the time being, a facilities manager in coordination with staff has determined that (going barefoot is) not acceptable presentation in the building right now,” Willmann said.