Is it OK to go barefooted? That’s a question many foot doctors around Chicago are asked, and it’s one without an easy answer.
When Kids Go Barefoot
As toddlers, we likely took our first steps barefooted. Some pediatric specialists actually encourage letting children learn to walk barefooted because shoes, they insist, affect the way children use the bones and muscles in their feet. As they walk barefooted, children receive feedback from the ground, and that feedback improves their proprioception – their awareness of their body in space.
Pros and Cons for Adults
But what about adults? Some orthopedic specialists insist that barefoot walking is beneficial for adults because it restores our natural walking pattern, also known as our “gait.” Other benefits of barefoot walking include better control of our feet when they touch the ground, improved balance and proprioception, maintaining appropriate range of motion in your foot and ankle joints, and relief from improperly fitting shoes.
On the negative side, walking barefooted, especially outdoors, makes you more susceptible to injury. Indoors, there’s the constant threat of stubbing your toe. Outdoors, walking on hot surfaces and sharp objects may seriously harm your feet. You may also pick up harmful bacteria and infections from walking barefoot outside.
How to Walk Barefoot—Safely
If you want to follow at least a partially barefooted lifestyle, we suggest the following:
- Start slow and indoors, going barefoot for 15-20 minutes at a time.
- Ease up if you feel pain or discomfort.
- When you venture outdoors, stick to soft surfaces like grass or sandy beaches.
- For barefoot exercise outdoors, consider low-impact activities like yoga or Pilates.
The Bottom Line
If you enjoy it, going barefooted can have benefits if you do it safely. If you notice foot pain or discomfort of any kind, it’s important to visit a good foot doctor around Chicago as soon as possible. Contact Mitchell Foot & Ankle with any questions or to make an appointment at 773-324-3338.