Like nearly all southern boys of his age, President Jimmy Carter went barefoot as a boy. He wrote about it in his book, An Hour Before Daylight, Memories of a Rural Boyhood.
This is what he wrote:
From as early in May until as late in October as weather and my parents permitted, I never wore shoes. The first warm days brought not only a season of freshness and rebirth, but also a time of renewed freedom for me, when running, sliding, walking through puddles, and sinking up to my ankles in the ploughed fields gave life a new dimension. I enjoyed this sense of liberation until we boys began wearing shoes to church and school when we were thirteen years old and entered the seventh grade. Many of the men who lived on the farms went barefoot all their lives, except on cold winter days. There is no doubt that this habit alone helped to create a sense of intimacy with the earth. Although briars were a problem- particularly in early spring when our feet were tender-what I remember most unpleasantly was the hot top soil. It was enjoyable to walk behind a plow in a cool, newly opened furrow, but when we were pruning watermelons, fertilizing growing crops, or poisening boll weevils, our feet were in direct contact with the earth’s sun-baked surface. The balls of our feet were thick and tough, but it was painful when hot sand and friable earth would spill over onto the more tender top of our bare feet. On the hottest days, from noon to midafternoon, we had to resort to a kind of shuffling dance, with brief pauses under watermelon leaves or in other small shaded area. In the barn lots and animal stalls, there was no way we could avoid walking in the accumulated manure, and, in fact, we never tried to do so. I had to help catch and harness the mules and horses, feed the chickens and hogs, and help milk the cows each day; through it all, going barefoot was still preferable to wearing shoes.
There were some disadvantages to bare feet. There was always the possibility of stepping on old barbed wire or a rusty nail, with the danger of tetanus. Another problem was at school. The pine floors were not sanded and polished but rough, the dust kept down by regular applications of used motor oil. We soon learned to pick up our fet with each step, because splinters were prevalent and a threat to bare feet that slid for even an inch across the surface.
Almost everyone was afflicted from time to time with hookworm, which we called ground itch. My playmates and I suffered the first stages of it. A study of black and white rural schoolchildren during the 1930s revealed a hookworm infection rate of between 26 and 49 percent. The difference between me and some of the others was that Mama always put medicine between my toes, which prevented the parasites from migrating over time into my lungs, then my throat, and from there into my small intestines.
Let me just add that neither tetanus nor hookworm should any longer be a problem, due to vaccination (for tetanus) and good sanitation (for hookworm). I suppose the occasional splinter could still happen, but very few places still use unsanded pine floors.
Let me finish by highlighting what he says at the end of the first paragraph there: through it all, going barefoot was still preferable to wearing shoes..