A man leaning on a wheely cart walks barefoot through a field, mountain range seen behind him
"It’s as simple as using my two bare feet to make a change for someone else." Image by: Anton Nootenboom
A man leaning on a wheely cart walks barefoot through a field, mountain range seen behind him
21 March 2024

Meet the Guinness World Record holder walking barefoot across America for men’s health

5 minutes read time

Anton Nootenboom aka. The Barefoot Dutchman, is the current owner of the Guinness World Record for the longest barefoot hike, but now he sets out to break his own record, all for men’s mental health.


The Movember mission really spoke to me. It’s already in the slogan, “changing the face of men’s health.” This is exactly what I’m trying to do. It felt like a no brainer for me to walk for Movember. It's the great work you guys do all around the globe. It's not just America. It's not just the Netherlands. It counts for everyone. We lose one man to suicide every single minute. But that's worldwide, so I want tackle this problem worldwide. Hopefully this story spreads to all corners of this planet.

How my mental health journey started

I got started because I had to struggle myself, mentally, pretty severely to find out that it has nothing to do with being a man or woman, and everything to do with being human. Along the way, while I was coming out of it, I learned a lot about what mental health means and about how many people it impacts. I learned I was not by myself, and in that process I learned the numbers about men's mental health, how it affects men so differently because we are born and raised with this very old perspective of “Don't cry, man up.” I worked in very masculine environments. I was in the army for 10 years. I was in construction for 6 years and I saw it. As soon as I became more aware of it, all of a sudden I saw it happens everywhere and I saw how big this problem is.

A lot of people think that my mental health issues came because of the army. That's not the case. It's everything that could have happened to anyone: heart break, financial pressure, not being in the right place with house and job, loss of identity.

My mission

I started this barefoot mission, because I don’t want someone else to feel like they’re alone. It's okay to be vulnerable. It's okay to show emotion. And if you do, that's going to unburden you already so much that you feel like you don't have to do this by yourself. So, that's why this became such a big mission for me. Because I just see this being this massive problem that no one talks about, because mental health is still a taboo. We're in freaking 2024. We go to all different sorts of planets, but we still don't know how to talk about emotions.

When I was living in Sydney, I started walking barefoot. I was going through my mental health journey, and at some point I started to learn that walking barefoot is actually a thing for your mental health. When I came out of my own mental health struggles, it was like a potion of ingredients coming together.

Being in the army for such a long time, I know this power within that when you’re physically and mentally challenged, and you feel like you can’t go any further, that’s when you’re only at 10%. We have so much more within ourselves than we make ourselves believe. I had kind of lost that feeling, so I wanted to feel that again. And at the same time, I wanted to show other people that I’m not special, or any different, and that we all have this same power. I wanted to feel on top of the world.

So, I thought, why not go to the highest mountain range on the planet, the Himalayas? I decided to go to base came of Mount Everest…barefoot. As I reached base camp, there’s this big rock, and I stumbled towards it on my sore feet, and as my fingers touched the rock, all the emotions hit me at the same time. But I also had this realization that I’ve got something here. It’s as simple as using my two bare feet and will power that can make a change for someone else. All of a sudden I had this new purpose in life.

Going cross country for Movember

Coming off of Everest, I was still working on my mental health, so I decided to walk a new world record in Australia, walking from Cairns to Sydney, to share my story and raise awareness about men’s suicide and mental health. And now I’m doing it again in America.

I started on the 7th of February at Santa Monica Beach in LA and I’m going to be walking towards Times Square in New York City. Cross country, barefoot. It’s about 3,100 miles.

I’ve teamed up with Barebarics, makers of awesome barefoot sneakers, for this barefoot walk for a cause and mutual campaign that we’re calling #BraveMenTalk, to help raise awareness for men’s mental health. As soon as we hear that word, we’re triggered. We put our chin up and puff up our chest, so we hope it helps to light a fire, and plant a seed in men to start thinking to themselves, “I’m brave if I talk.”

I’m hoping to meet a lot of people and to inspire them to go out and seek out more from life for themselves. I hope to make people feel safe by hearing my story, and to come out and share their story, so that creates that ripple effect. Lead by example is my life motto. It’s something the army taught me. So by just sharing these stories, I hope to create that safe space for others to feel like, “Okay, if he can do it, I can do it.” Just like Forrest Gump, I hope at some point there will be a following of people, walking along, and talking, and being a part of this adventure, having a story to share.

The message I want you to know

Your story holds the power to save someone's life. That’s the one message I try to keep sharing. Everyone feels a little bit uncomfortable sharing their story, but everyone should know that you are the start of the ripple effect. Even if you're with a bunch of mates, and you just say, “Hey, I'm struggling”, that could create the safe space. One of your own mates might say, “Holy shit! I've been struggling for a year already with this. I'm so happy that now I'm not alone.” I want men to know that sharing their story is not a burden, it's actually creating a safe space for other people around you, so they know they’re not alone, there’s someone else out there.

You can create and save space for another person to feel safe and actually save a life.


Learn more about the Barefoot Dutchman and follow his cross country journey.