The Ballad of Barefoot Mick: Lamp Lake resident champions footwear-free lifestyle

Matt
Matt Gardner
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A resident of Lamp Lake near La Ronge is at the forefront of a campaign to raise awareness of the benefits associated with walking barefoot.

Micheal Lessard, a former corrections officer better known as Barefoot Mick, has been enjoying footwear-free jaunts around the lake since 1978.

He argues that barefoot walking offers all the positive health effects of walking -- such as helping lower cholesterol and blood pressure, contributing to weight loss and improving sleep -- while also providing more intangible benefits.

“Because you’re stimulated with the ground and connecting with the ground, you’re feeling more spiritually connected to your nature and the environment around you,” Lessard explained.

The self-described “barefoot evangelist” is currently attempting to organize a province-wide association known as Saskatchewan Barefoot Hikers, modeled after similar groups in Pennsylvania and Arizona, to bring together like-minded individuals.

Nature may offer the best settings for barefoot walking, but Lessard is equally comfortable traversing urban areas without the protection of shoes.

Despite common concerns about walking over needles, broken glass and the like, Lessard argued that such risks are greatly overstated and that he is barefoot, not blind.

“It’s not a problem at all,” he said.

“People say, ‘Well, the sidewalks are so germy,’ but you know what, my hands touch doorknobs and all sorts of crap far more filthier than what my feet touch, and of course I scrub my feet every day. Everybody does. No, I really can’t say there’s anything out there that’ll hurt you.”

Hygienic concerns remain one of the most common arguments against permitting customers in private establishments, particularly those that serve food, to go barefoot.

Lessard has strongly disputed that line of thinking -- though his unorthodox views have sometimes impacted his ability to frequent such locations.

“The myth is that you have to wear footwear in a restaurant or anything,” he said.

“I talked to the public health (representative) in Saskatoon for about 15, 20 minutes and he said there’s nothing that comes off your bare feet or your shoes that interferes with the food, and it’s perfectly legal.”

Though there is no bylaw against going barefoot in Prince Albert, private establishments are entitled to use their own discretion.

Lessard described one barefoot trip to the Gateway Mall food court last summer as an example.

“I’d been to malls in Saskatoon and all over and just no confrontation, nothing, into coffee shops and things … Anyways, the mall security guy came around and he was very pleasant and he said, ‘Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to leave.’

Because you’re stimulated with the ground and connecting with the ground, you’re feeling more spiritually connected to your nature and the environment around you. Micheal Lessard (Barefoot Mick)

“I asked him why -- I’m not breaking any laws or rules -- and he says, ‘Well, you don’t have shoes and you have to have shoes on in here.’

“I’d already got my order, so I said, ‘OK,’ I had my food and then I left.”

Gateway Mall centre manager Sharon Faul said the issue of people not wearing shoes does not come up particularly often.

She described footwear policy at the mall as more of an unspoken assumption.

“I haven’t actually seen one written anywhere,” she said. “But it’s just been kind of an unspoken (guideline) that you have to be appropriately attired to enter the establishment.”

If a person entered the mall walking barefoot, a security guard would typically ask them to come back wearing appropriate footwear.

“Generally … you have to be appropriately dressed, and there is hygiene in the food court for that reason and we do have an entrance there,” Faul added.

“Because it’s accessed by the public, there are dangers that could be present that you should be wearing proper footwear.”

Despite resistance, Lessard intends to keep spreading his barefoot message.

In doing so, he won’t be alone. Lessard is a member of the Society for Barefoot Living, which he estimates now has 2,000 members worldwide, as well as the Barefoot Runners Society.

Should Lessard find sufficient interest among Saskatchewan residents for barefoot walking and running, he hopes Saskatchewan Barefoot Hikers will be able to invite some prominent speakers to address the organization.

Among those anticipated guests are authors Michael Sandler and Jessica Lee -- whose book Barefoot Walking was crucial in Lessard’s understanding of the activity -- and entrepreneur Sue Kenney, who will soon be pitching a barefoot-centric product called Barebottom Shoes or the TV show Dragon’s Den.

“It’s a covering for your foot and it looks like you’re wearing something on your feet, but the bottom, of course, is bare,” Lessard explained. The footwear thereby allows the individual to walk barefoot while avoiding negative social ramifications.

Residents interested in helping build the Saskatchewan Barefoot Hikers group can contact Lessard at lessardmicheal@gmail.com for more information.

Organizations: Prince Albert, Society for Barefoot Living, Barefoot Runners Society

Geographic location: Pennsylvania, Arizona, Saskatoon Saskatchewan

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  • B. Annock
    April 09, 2013 - 10:37

    WOW...barefoot henderson was WAY ahead of his time!!! oh i think Prince Albert remembers barefoot henderson. barefooot henderson is a legend in prince albert. yup ole barefoot henderson...at times he went barefoot in middle of winter.