How Walking Barefoot Can Affect Your Feet
Among running aficionados, the debate rages: cushioned shoes or minimalist. For those who argue for cushioned shoes, the advantages include more support and balance; for those who prefer minimalist, there is the benefit of natural foot strike. Many runners even argue that running barefoot has more advantages than one would think. Now ask your orthopedist what he thinks about walking barefoot, and he may tell you that any supportive, cushioned shoe – even a minimalist shoe – is better for you than barefoot. Here are some of the adverse effects that can occur when you decide to ditch the shoes and go barefoot.
Effects of Walking Barefoot
Injury to the Foot
Without shoes’ protective buffer, your feet are exposed to a variety of possible injuries, to include stubbed toes, cuts, scrapes, blisters, and damage to the muscles, ligaments, and tendons in your feet and legs. Conditions like plantar fasciitis develop when you increase the pressure on your feet. Without a shoe’s sole protecting the heel and distributing the weight of the body throughout the foot, the heel can become inflamed and painful.
Infections that Need to be Treated
Shoes serve as a protecting shield for your feet. This keeps a lot of bad things like bacteria and parasites away. Walking barefoot, especially outside of the home, increases the chances of you exposing your feet to pathogenic bacteria, viruses and fungi. This is especially troublesome if you develop open wounds while walking or running outside. Infections will require you to see a doctor, take medications, and take it easy until you heal completely. Diabetics are especially vulnerable to infection, which can abscess, turn gangrenous, and can become life-threatening.
Shock and Ligament Damage
With every step or stride we take, our feet, legs, and joints absorb shock. Wearing shoes –especially shock absorbing shoes – can greatly reduce the shock that travels to these various body parts. If you ditch the shoes, you are exposing your body to a significantly higher amount of shock. This means there is added pressure on the bottom half of your body that can lead to pain, decreased endurance for walking or running, and possibly injuries to the ligaments and tendons in the legs and feet.
There are millions of things on the ground and it’s impossible to guarantee you won’t step onto something sharp or dangerous. When this happens, you will not only experience pain when the wound develops and heals, but it may also increase your risk of getting scarring on the feet. Overtime, you may also experience rougher and cracked skin, callouses and maybe cracked toenails, all of which are treatable but hardly desirable.
When to Walk Barefoot
While these adverse effects of walking barefoot should be taken into consideration, experts say there are some benefits of walking barefoot. So what should you do to get the best of both worlds? Walk barefoot on soft surfaces, like sand, or through the grass! This will let you get the benefits of walking barefoot without exposing yourself to the unwanted side effects. Additionally, if you do walk barefoot outside, be careful of your surroundings and walk in safe, clear areas where there is less risk of dangerous objects on the ground. Also, wash your feet thoroughly when you come home so you reduce the chance of infections spreading. Finally, listen to your body. If you experience pain or soreness in the legs or feet after walking barefoot, stop and talk to a doctor before proceeding. While it’s great to get the benefits of walking barefoot, it’s not worth getting the negative symptoms.
Find a Foot and Ankle Specialist in Central Maryland
Get healthy by the foot! If you are interested in learning about whether walking barefoot and other good benefits for foot health, make an appointment with Dr. Marc Lipton of Orthopaedic Associates of Central Maryland. With a wealth of knowledge and experience in podiatry and three convenient locations, Dr. Lipton will help keep your feet healthy and strong. Call 410-644-1880 to make an appointment today.