A Footnote

Back in March, TNReport’s Andrea Zelinski laid bare the news that Speaker Beth Harwell had made an upstanding decision to give footwear the boot when presiding over the House of Representatives.

This photo of the Volunteer State’s pioneering shoeless solon, Tennessee’s first female House speaker, left a lasting imprint on one Daniel Howell, an associate professor of biology at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.

Howell, who teaches human anatomy and physiology, is author of “The Barefoot Book: 50 Great Reasons to Kick Off Your Shoes.”

Over the summer Howell sent the powerful Nashville Republican an autographed copy of his book with an inscription reading, “‘Barefoot’ Beth, You must be a wonderful speaker if you are smart enough to ditch your shoes! Sincerely, Daniel.”

A dogged crusader for liberating American tootsies from the fetid, sole-sapping trappings of bondage, Howell extols the many health benefits of “barefoot locomotion” in his book, while also exposing “the hazards that shoes present to our feet, ankles, legs, hips, spine…the entire body.”

“Shoes have become an unhealthy cultural addiction in the United States,” Howell writes in the book’s introduction.

Reached by phone Friday, Howell said, “Anytime I see a professional with their shoes off, I tend to applaud them.”

News of the photo circulated quickly through the “barefooting community” after it was published, Howell added.

“When I first saw the photo, I don’t recall hearing anything negative about her, or her being barefoot. But there is a lot of stigma about going barefoot,” said Howell. “I wanted to let her know kicking off her shoes is a sensible thing to do.”

To show gratitude for his gesture in support of her decision to eschew shoes, the Barefoot Speaker said she plans to send the Barefoot Professor a signed print of the photo.