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They say you shouldn't judge a person until you've walked a mile in his shoes. But to truly get to know a few Knights who walk UCF's campus, you may need to take yours off.

A few UCF students and one professor are trading Converse for calluses and walking barefoot through campus, as well as life.

Toni Paz, a junior creative writing major, started walking barefoot around campus as a once-a-day routine, which transitioned into a new lifestyle.

Starting to walk barefoot this semester has helped Paz change the direction of his life. After switching his major from biology to writing, he said he has taken more of a vulnerable step, literally, toward what he really loves to do.

"Whenever you aren't wearing shoes, your feet are so connected that the connectivity leaks into everything. You make your life a little more naked in that sense, which helps you connect and be more open and truthful," Paz said.

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For Paz, being barefoot is more spiritual. Walking through a parking lot to feel every pebble and acorn reminds Paz that nature is a little stronger than him in very basic ways.

"You have to take the extra thought and be a little more mindful when you're barefoot because you don't know what your next step is going to be," Paz said. "I've been walking a little wiser now. You walk with more of a purpose."

Driving barefoot, on the other hand, is something that Paz said he is still getting used to.

Paz is currently working on an article on his in-depth philosophy on walking barefoot, and plans to get it published in Imprint, a student-run online magazine.

Mason Cash, associate professor of philosophy at UCF, is walking the same path as Paz, one he says inspires people to be more in touch with who they are.

Cash advises students to step out of their comfort zones and experience walking barefoot, something he's been doing since he was a child. Cash grew up on a beach town in New Zealand, where being barefoot was the norm.

"I look at my class pictures from elementary school, and half the kids are barefoot," Cash said.

Walking around with the support of his tough calluses is a way of life that he prefers to live.

Although Cash said people sometimes look at him weird, people also look at him with confusion when he is wearing shoes.

"I've got pretty good visual habits for scanning the ground and making sure I'm not going to step in anything gross or dangerous," he said.

Cash said he has stepped on a few thorns and bits of glass in his life, but that won't stop him from walking around barefoot. Both Cash and Paz, however, do opt for shoes when they're required in public places.

Still, dangers in the road and weird looks from people won't stop Cash and other students from walking barefoot, including Sean Lamphier, a sophomore nursing major.

Lamphier has been walking barefoot since his freshman year, and said he feels more comfortable freeing his feet from the stuffiness of shoes.

"[Wearing shoes] is just all around uncomfortable," he said. "Without shoes, my feet can breathe."

The comfort of being barefoot is something that Lamphier said he thinks other students should enjoy, allowing them to feel more at home while on campus.

Some students, like Amanda Godfrey, a senior English language arts education major, feel most at home when sitting cross-legged in class. Taking off her shoes is what Godfrey said allows her to do this most comfortably.

"I noticed other people looking at my bare feet, but I never really cared," Godfrey said. "Shoes were really just a hindrance and I didn't care to take time to put them on just to take them off again in class."

Godfrey said students should try walking barefoot if they really want to, and feeling the temperature changes of the sidewalks between shaded areas is something worth experiencing.

For some students, being without shoes is more of a self-satisfying preference.

Leo Franco Crespo, a freshman physics and mathematics major, said he walks barefoot for two main reasons: to feel the ground under his feet and for his own self-eccentricity.

"Feeling the grass and asphalt satisfy me; it's as if I know exactly where I'm walking," Crespo said.

Crespo said he and his friends wear tie-dye clothing and have a distinct look resembling a new-age hippie.

"As hippies, we love the world and everything it can teach us. By wearing shoes, we barricade ourselves from an integral part of, what we believe, is life," he said.

Aside from the strange looks from people on campus, Crespo said there is really nothing different between wearing shoes and walking barefoot; it is just a way of life.

For those interested in supporting the freedom of walking barefoot, the Society for Barefoot Living provides a friendly forum for members to share thoughts and experiences about barefoot living, and is available to educate the public about the benefits of going barefoot and promote barefoot acceptance.

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