Is Walking Barefoot Hurting Your Feet?
We’ll be honest: it always feels great to kick your shoes off at the end of a long day and let your feet be free.
And in fact, there are a few real benefits to enjoying some barefoot time here and there, especially if you’re prone to things like athlete’s foot or ingrown toenails. We certainly don’t want to deny you any simple pleasures—or worse, keep you from airing your feet out when you really need to.
But at the same time, when it comes to barefoot walking you can definitely have “too much of a good thing.” That’s something more and more of our patients are discovering this year—especially those who have, for one reason or another, been spending a lot more time at home than they once did.
Why Walking Barefoot Can Be a Big Problem
You might wonder why walking without shoes can be such a painful issue for so many people. After all, we weren’t born with shoes on our feet. Shouldn’t we be able to handle the load? What gives?
What you have to remember is that, for most of human history, we weren’t spending all our days walking on extremely hard, flat surfaces like wood or tile. Those are relatively modern creations, and are much less forgiving than dirt, grass, or clay.
To manage these threats to our comfort and mobility, we spend most of our days in shoes, which not only provide physical protection from rocks and other obstacles, but actually support our feet with a substantial amount of cushioning and arch support. This extra assistance allows your feet to withstand modern pressures, hopefully without too much issue. And more than that, your feet have come to expect it.
So you can imagine that, if you suddenly take away that source of cushioning and support, and start spending the majority of your day barefoot, your feet (and especially your heels) can start hurting in a hurry. Now, instead of getting a ton of shock absorption from your shoes, your arches and heels have to take the full brunt of the force on their own. They’re not used to it, they’re really not designed for it (especially if you have a structural abnormality such as flat feet), and it’s not really all that surprising that they don’t handle it all that well.
The Foot Pain Pandemic
As we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically altered the daily routines of many in our community. One common result, among others, is that some people who used to spend most of their day working outside the home are now spending it at home.
If you’re like most people, your pre-COVID routine probably involved putting your shoes on in the morning, going about your day (work, errands, etc.), and then pulling them off in the evening after you get home. And that probably worked just fine for you!
But now, if you’re spending all day at home, you might not be wearing shoes at all, or only rarely. If you’re not used to donning your shoes unless you leave the house, you might not even think to put them on. Unfortunately, this could be the very reason your foot pain seems to be getting worse!
What to Do If You Suspect Lack of Shoes Is Causing Your Foot Pain
The most obvious solution here is simply to start wearing your shoes and socks indoors for at least part of the day, especially if you have hard floors. Try wearing shoes during work hours (or the hours you would normally have been working) for a few weeks and see if your symptoms improve. You might be surprised!
(Just be sure you clean off the soles first, of course!)
There are some other good strategies you may consider:
- While we can’t recommend flip flops, you can definitely find sandals that have good built-in arch support. In fact, you can even find slippers with arch support!
- Take regular breaks to stretch and exercise your feet, arches, and calves. You could even try rolling a golf ball or frozen water bottle under your feet while you sit on the couch or at your desk.
- Get a few anti-fatigue mats and strategically position them in spots where you might be doing a lot of standing, such as in the kitchen.
You may find simple tips and tricks like these will significantly reduce your heel pain and improve your comfort.
However, if pain persists, please call our office. Heel pain should never be ignored, and we are the experts when it comes to diagnosing the precise causes of your discomfort and eliminating them. If necessary, we can provide advanced treatments like MLS laser therapy or custom orthotics to help get control of your pain quickly—and then keep it away for good.