A character appears barefoot as a sign of their poverty. Usually, the camera will linger on their feet to emphasize the lack of shoes. Bonus points if they are shown walking in the snow and shivering from the cold. A common variation includes a shot of them looking at a pair of Nice Shoes with longing. Often used to make the character seem like a woobie.
Originally, nobody wore shoes, though in colder countries people might wrap their feet in cold weather. In the last few thousand years, shoes gained prevalence through their association with status. Making shoes requires skill and wearing them meant you were above such things as walking on the ground. Thus those who wore shoes were the nobility, and those who aspired to be nobility (this is also how foot binding becameso popular in China). Urbanization is another factor; going barefoot in a pastoral setting is one thing, but cobblestone streets can cut and abrade one's feet severely. These are the same factors that led to the development of the horseshoe.
It may seem strange nowadays, but being barefoot is entirely natural and was once completely normal in all cultures. While many cultures have yet to fully adopt the idea that walking barefoot is somehow shameful, those that never wear shoes have shrunk to small and usually isolated communities. Some cultures, such as the Maori, have a strong historical and social emphasis on walking barefoot and Maori schools often require children to not wear shoes.
Does Not Like Shoes may be a result of this if the character manages to get out of their poverty. A Sister Trope to Bankruptcy Barrel.
Several shinigami from the poorest districts of the Rukongai grew up barefoot because of the poverty in which they lived, including: Rukia and Renji (both from District 78), Yachiru (from District 79) and Kenpachi (from District 80). In the anime, Ikkaku is included in this, although the manga never confirms whether this is true or not.
This becomes a plot point during the final arc: The denizens of Soul Society's worst districts are disappearing en masse, leaving only footprints, including some shoe prints. It's revealed that people who live within Districts 50–80 are so poverty stricken, none have been known to wear shoes for 550 years. This clues in Lieutenant Kira to the fact that the conclusion villagers killed each other is wrong and that entire villages are being slaughtered by shinigami. Thanks to Kira's revelation, it's discovered that, because a huge number of hollows were annihilated by Quincies, Mayuri's men comitted mass murder to avoid a pan-dimensional disaster that could destroy entire worlds: killing spirit-dwelling villagers counter-balanced the destroyed hollows in a case of Balancing Death's Books.
Naturally, Barefoot Gen. Given that it takes place in World War II, many characters are unable to afford shoes but others, such as Gen, do not wear shoes except to school. Japan has a long tradition associated with being barefoot that is sadly dwindling in the face of Western influences.
InuYasha: Due to the feudal setting, many background characters are poverty-stricken villagers. The cast, however, are either shoe-wearers or Does Not Like Shoes examples, with Rin bein introduced as this trope before being saved by Sesshoumaru, whereupon she joins the rest of the Does Not Wear Shoes cast.
Aladdin: The titular character, being a poor thief, is barefoot until he becomes a prince.
Esmeralda from The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a poor Gypsy girl who runs around barefoot. At the end of the film, she falls in love with the clearly wealthy-looking Captain of the Guard, Phoebus, and in the sequel she gains shoes.
Inverted in Atlantis: The Lost Empire: The hero is a very poor archaeologist from the surface world who wears shoes, while his love interest is a wealthy but barefoot Atlantean princess. At the end of the film, the two marry, and as a result he ends up barefoot instead while said princess, er queen gains sandals, which are concealed by her dress.
Wreck-It Ralph from the self-titled film wears the typical mountain man outfit, appearing barefoot with tattered overalls.
Glory: This is the case for many of the black enlistees to the 54th MA Volunteer Infantry, and the Jerkass quartermaster thinks it's funny to claim that his armory has no shoes to spare when he's clearly living off the fat of his riches. Worse, a few that do have shoes, like Silas, haven't washed them out in ages and thus have gained nasty infections and blisters. Naturally, the whole regiment celebrates once fresh and new shoes are finally provided for the volunteers.
In The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Tom envies Huckleberry Finn for not having to wear shoes. Tom doesn't seem to realize it's because Huck doesn't have any shoes, or even parents to make him put them on if he did. Not that bare feet are really a sign of poverty, as Tom and many of his classmates only wear shoes to church when weather permits, and Tom thinks a new boy overdressed when he wears new clothes, a necktie, and shoes on a Friday.
Enid Blyton's The Castle Of Adventure features a poor village girl who never wears shoes. Gifted her first pair, she keeps them, delighted - and wears them around her neck.
In the short story "The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes", an orphan girl is so poor she only has one shoe. When a wealthy man gives her a pair of shoes she's so happy she goes about telling everyone that now she has two shoes, earning that nickname. ("Goody" being a then-standard shortening of "Goodwife," that is, Miss.)
Several illustrations of Les Misérables feature this trope, including the most famous one centering on Cosette◊. Which is actually a mistake: in the book, emphasis is put on the fact that Cosette has no socks even in Winter, but she does wear clogs. However, her mother Fantine was found wandering barefoot in the streets as a child.
In Little House in Brookfield (the first book in "The Caroline Years," a prequel series to the Little House on the Prairie books and about Laura Ingalls' mother growing up) Caroline's oldest sister goes to church barefoot one day because the family is too poor to buy her new shoes and the old ones pinch her feet something terrible. She thinks her new long dress will cover up her shoeless feet, and she's right for most of the time but eventually gets caught. Her parents are not pleased.
Walter Cunningham in To Kill a Mockingbird. As a result of going barefooted in barnyards, he also gets hookworms. Scout notes that plenty of the farm kids wear shoes the first day of school and discard them until it gets cold.
In Cryptonomicon, Neil Stephenson makes a point of bringing up how the foot structure of the natives who capture Goto Dengo implies that they have never worn shoes. This helps contrast their savagery and poverty to his more civilized expectations.
Velvet McIntyre because Wrestling Doesn't Pay. Her boots were stolen in real life so she just decided to wrestle barefoot.
Discussed in The Talmud (Shabbat 129a): "A person should sell the roof beams of his house to buy shoes for his feet." In traditional Jewish law, going shoeless, even indoors, is considered undignified; it's permissible only on major fast days and when in mourning.
Katia Managan from Prequel starts out barefoot and without a single Septim to her name. Most of her outfits have been supplied to her by others, not purchased herself, and they don't always include boots. Factor in how often she loses all the clothes off her back, and she ends up spending most of the comic barefoot.
The myth of Saint Pius X has him invoking the trope in his childhood. He was a Country Mouse and his parents were in charge of a tiny village's post office; young Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto (his birth name) didn't want to have them buy him shoes if it wasn't truly needed, so to make said shoes last longer he'd walk to school barefoot and put them back on when he arrived there, then viceversa.
Truth in Television. Poverty at the level of hand to mouth (or worse) doesn't leave money for things like shoes.