We’ve written in the past about the benefits of walking barefoot, especially for the purposes of strengthening the soft tissue structure and bones of your feet. And if you are in the habit of enjoying an occasional walk through moist grass or on a sandy beach, you know how wonderful it can be to feel “grounded” on the earth without shoes.
However, being barefoot can also present certain risks. Members of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons report that they frequently treat cuts, punctures wounds and burns that may result in infections and/or surgery because people go barefoot.
Here are a few areas of concern to keep in mind when you ditch your shoes:
- Being barefoot can worsen existing foot conditions
Many problems are potentially worsened by going barefoot. The list of such issues includes Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, plantar plate injury, heel contusions, and iliotibial band syndrome, to name a few. This is due to the changes in biomechanics (and lack of support) as follows:
- Without shoes, your heel “drops” lower, putting additional strain on the Achilles and other tendons of the feet
- The arch falls further inwards, causing stress and imbalance between the rearfoot, midfoot and forefoot as you complete the gait cycle
- The nerves and tissues can become sensitive, causing inflammation to the bursa and irritating nerves.
- You are more susceptible to foot injuries, such as cuts, bruises, and burns.
The skin on the bottom of the foot is sensitive and easily damaged. Glass, wood, metal, rocks, shells and countless others materials litter the ground, posing a hazard even when we think we’re treading carefully. Broken glass or other foreign bodies entering your foot can cause pain and difficulty with removal as they may be small, sharp and can move through the tissue planes. Any cuts and lacerations can easily lead to infected wounds, further compounding the problem and requiring treatment.
- Exposure to other types of infections.
You don’t necessarily need an open wound to suffer an infection. When you go barefoot, it is easy for your foot to pick up bacterial, fungal and parasitic infections like athlete’s foot, toenail fungus, hookworm, strongyloidiasis, cutaneous larva migrans, tungiasis, tetanus, and more. You may not notice these immediately, but they won’t be undetected for long.
- Increase in bites and stings
If you’re walking barefoot outdoors, you stand an increased chance of being being bitten or stung by snakes, scorpions, spiders, ticks, fleas, mosquitoes…you name it. You can practice awareness in most situations, but being caught unprepared can mean higher risk.
There are numerous benefits of being barefoot, especially if you aren’t currently experiencing pain or discomfort in the feet and ankles. If you wear shoes all day long, you may find that spending a few hours a day barefoot may help your feet become stronger and more flexible over time.
However, there are times when some type of footwear is advisable. Around moist environments like swimming pools, wet grass and locker rooms, wear flip-flops. That will help you avoid fungi, viruses, and bacteria, especially in public places. Always wear shoes when walking in areas where you might burn your feet, such as around a campfire or grill. You can accidentally step on stray campfire coals or embers.
At Houston Foot and Ankle Care, we treat all types of injuries resulting from being barefoot. These include sudden puncture injuries, burns, infections, strains and stress fractures. If you’re experiencing any degree of pain or aching in your feet, call us at (713) 541-3199 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Gabriel Maislos, a top Houston podiatrist and noted podiatric surgeon. Dr. Maislos treats foot and ankle injuries and can help you find relief from common foot problems including plantar fasciitis, bunions, ingrown toenails and tarsal tunnel syndrome through minimally-invasive techniques that help you get back to normal activities quickly. Houston Foot and Ankle Care accepts most major insurance and offers discounted cash pricing for the uninsured.