When a toddler learns to walk, parents are told to let the process happen naturally and without shoes. This is because shoes can affect how a child uses the muscles and bones in their feet. So, lets us know more about the benefits of barefoot.
Babies also get feedback from the ground when they walk barefoot and it improves their proprioception (awareness of their body in space).
As a child gets older, they stuff their feet into shoes and lose the benefits of walking barefoot.
This is why advocates of walking and exercising barefoot reject wearing shoes all day and encourage us all to keep our feet free.
What are the benefits of walking barefoot?
“The most direct benefit of walking barefoot is that, in theory, walking barefoot more closely recreates our ‘natural’ walking pattern, also known as our gait,” explains Dr Jonathan Kaplan, a foot and ankle specialist and orthopaedic surgeon at the Hoag Orthopedic Institute.
But if you go to any running or walking store and look at several different pairs of shoes, you will see that many of them have excessive cushioning and support.
While this cushion-type padding may look pretty awesome when walking in these types of shoes, podiatrist and foot surgeon Dr Board-certified Bruce Pinker says they can prevent you from using certain muscle groups that can really strengthen your body.
Other benefits of walking barefoot include:
- better control of the position of the foot when it hits the ground
- improving balance, proprioception and body awareness, which can help with pain relief
- better foot mechanics, which can lead to improved hip, knee and core mechanics
- maintaining an appropriate range of motion in the joints of the feet and ankles as well as adequate strength and stability in the muscles and ligaments
- relief from ill-fitting shoes that can cause bunions, hammertoes or other foot deformities
- stronger leg muscles that support the lower back area
- What are the potential dangers of walking and exercising barefoot?
- Walking barefoot in your home is relatively safe. But when you go out, you expose yourself to potential risks that can be dangerous.
“Without adequate foot strength, you run the risk of having poor walking mechanics, increasing your risk of injury,” explains Kaplan.
This is especially important to consider when starting to incorporate walking barefoot after spending most of your life in shoes.
He also says you have to consider the surface you’re walking on. While it may be more natural to walk or exercise barefoot, without the extra cushioning of your shoes, you are susceptible to injury from the terrain (such as rough or wet surfaces, or issues with temperature, glass, or other sharp objects on the ground).
Walking barefoot, especially outdoors, also puts you at risk of exposing your feet to harmful bacteria or infections.
Christopher Dietz, DO, MedExpress, says people with diabetes should always consult their primary care physician before going barefoot. “If they have peripheral neuropathy, they can have wounds on their feet and not realize it,” he explains.
How to properly walk and exercise barefoot?
Knowing how to walk and exercise barefoot takes time, patience and the right information. So before ditching your shoes in favour of a more natural approach to walking and exercise, there are a few things to consider.
Start slow. You have to be patient and start with a short 15 to 20 minutes of barefoot walking. Kaplan says it’s important to let your feet and ankles adjust to the new environment. As your feet get used to walking without shoes, you can increase the distance and time.
Relax if you feel any new pain or discomfort. “While walking barefoot sounds like the perfect choice, there are dangers to consider,” explains Kaplan. “Without sufficient strength in the foot, you run the risk of having poor walking mechanics, increasing the risk of injury. This is especially important to consider if you are starting to incorporate walking barefoot after spending most of your life in shoes,” she adds.
Try it indoors. Before you hit the pavement, it might be a good idea to let your bare feet get used to the safe surface in your home. Misiura says it’s best to use an indoor surface that you know doesn’t contain anything you could accidentally step on.
Practice on safe surfaces
Once you’ve mastered the interior, try walking on exterior surfaces that are less dangerous, such as lawns, rubber bands, sandy beaches, and grass.
Consider using a minimalist shoe. While your feet adjust to the smaller structure and padding from your shoes, you may want to consider using a minimalist shoe before going completely barefoot.
Experiment with balance exercises. Misiura recommends starting with simple balance exercises, such as standing on one leg or raising yourself up on your toes and lowering yourself slowly.
Try an activity that requires you to be barefoot. Take advantage of activities that are already done barefoot, such as yoga, pilates or martial arts.
Check the legs for injuries. Check the bottom of the feet every day for injuries, as many have reduced sensation in their feet.
should not include more strenuous activities such as barefoot running or hiking until you have sufficient time preparing your feet for this type of activity.
If your heels hurt after resting or you have pain when walking, you may need to return to supportive shoes and start slowly again as your feet heal.
Going barefoot while walking and exercising have some benefits as long as you follow safety precautions and exercise in moderation.
If you have any concerns about your own safety or the health of your feet, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor before exposing your bare feet to nature for any length of time. All medicine told is ABMS certified. Also, check out more blogs in the fashion and health section.