Here’s a good example of how kids still went completely barefoot not all that long ago. This is from an article in the April 9, 1945 issue of Life Magazine about a traveling nature museum in Alabama.
In rural Southern county it brings birds and animals into the school
Rural schools in the U.S. generally lack money and good teachers. Consequently, rural schoolchildren seldom receive anything approaching the cultural education that is offered in most urban schools. Curiously enough, they have little knowledge of the natural world surrounding them. To provide this the William T. Hornaday Foundation, named for the naturalist who developed New York Zoological Park, has established children’s nature museums in several poor communities in the South. The foundation gets castoff exhibits from big-city museums, sens a curator to set up a museum, tries to persuade local people to take over from there. In Geneva County, Ala., where most of the children wear bare feet (above), it has established two museums, one for white children and one for Negro. The stuffed animals, Indian relics and nature films on display are big treats to the children. Most of them have never seen a movie before.
Yes, they are barefoot because they cannot afford “better”. But they are also wearing jeans because they cannot afford “better”. Yet today jeans are considered acceptable and more comfortable. Bare feet are more comfortable; why can’t they be acceptable?
(Also notice how healthy, albeit dirty, those feet look, even the low-arch feet of the boy in the middle.)