Ah, the feeling of sand squishing between my toes as I stroll on the beach; so natural, so free. Many of us love the feeling of being barefoot. My 3 little kids live for it. It takes them hours to put on their shoes, but only seconds to take them off! The adults I meet at work as a podiatrist often feel the same way, saying, “It just feels good.” Yep. I agree. There is something special about the way being barefoot feels. Maybe it is Mother Nature telling us, “This is the way it should be.”
But, I also have lots of times when I notice my kids, my patients, and myself extolling the virtues of shoes. “These gel-air-pump-turbo running shoes I just bought feel amazing,” patients tell me. Or, I might find myself in the closet on the morning of my surgery day thinking, “Good day for my old man dress shoes today.”
So, what is better, living in supportive shoes, or living in bare feet whenever possible? The answer is different, and depends on each person’s “Achilles heel”, or problem. Generally speaking, if you have foot pain, it is best to increase your time in supportive shoes, even custom orthotics, and minimize your time barefoot or in flimsy footwear. You don’t want your feet doing the work of holding you up. Let the footwear do the work. If your feet don’t hurt, but other joints do, such as your knees, try using less supportive footwear. This will allow maximum motion in your foot and ankle joints, letting your feet perform as they were intended, as your natural shock absorbers. (This is a good situation for “barefoot running shoes”.)
Now, let’s get back to my favorite subject, my kids. Like most young people, they have pain-free happy feet. They don’t crave the benefits of support because nothing hurts—until chocolate lab Jake steps on their foot! Ouch! Yep. Being barefoot has its problems. A person is much more prone to cuts, scrapes, puncture wounds, bug bites, and nail injuries when he or she is barefoot. Trust me, I know. I have the pleasure of hearing blood-curdling screams daily from the shoe-resistant children in my house. Not to mention, I get to observe the problems with barefoot summertime fun every day at work. Bare feet can feel good, but sometimes there’s a price to pay.
Anyway, this post is not inclusive of all the good and bad associated with bare feet. (I could go on for days!) It is just a simple reminder that our feet are important and need our attention—especially if you hope to feel the sand squishing between your toes for years to come. Happy walking!