Q: I know that some Carmelites are referred to as “discalced,” meaning that they don’t wear shoes. Is this some form of mortification?
A: Discalced Carmelites are the minority within the Carmelite family; mostly, they are cloistered. There have also been discalced Franciscans and members of other religious communities; they wear sandals (with or without socks). Some Poor Clares today do not wear shoes.
Wearing sandals was part of the 16th-century Spanish reforms of Sts. Peter of Alcantara, Teresa of Avila, and John of the Cross. Most of the Franciscans who came to Mexico and Central and South America in that century belonged to the Alcantarine Franciscan family.
The climate where a person lives is clearly a factor. A barefoot person living outdoors in northern Canada or in Alaska would eventually suffer from frostbite.
Is not wearing shoes or sandals a form of mortification? Yes. Is it necessary for salvation? No. This custom simply calls attention, in certain climates, to the difference between needs and wants.