Science has recently shown that there are tangible health benefits to wiggling your toes in the grass every now and again. Because direct physical contact with the ground has been proven to help regulate our autonomic nervous system and to maintain our circadian rhythms, more and more people are ditching their shoes and walking around barefoot.
But before you go running around shoeless, be wary. Not only could you be exposing your feet to harmful debris like nails or glass, but you could also be welcoming nasty infectious conditions. And that’s not all!
Explore all the risks of going barefoot before you slip off your shoes:
1. Cutting or Injuring your Foot
Simply put, when you’re barefoot, there’s nothing shielding your feet from injury. Whereas stepping on a rock might produce a dull sensation through the thick rubber of a sneaker, the same impact on your bare foot could cause severe pain, bruising or cut your skin.
Rusty nails— let’s hope you have your tetanus shot!— glass, thorny plants, and rough surfaces can irritate or injure your feet. Even on seemingly soft surfaces like sand, beach shells or debris could be a threat.
Those with diabetes or vascular disease need to be especially mindful of this, as they are prone to lack sensation in their feet, and may not realize they stepped on something sharp. Plus, it generally takes longer for diabetics to heal.
2. Exposure to Viral, Bacterial & Fungal Infections
Even if you don’t cut your foot, dry feet can have small cracks, which allow infection in. Barefooted walkers have to worry about picking up various different forms of infections— and developing chronic conditions.
Toenail fungus, Plantar warts, athlete’s foot, and other foot skin problems often form after direct exposure to contaminated surfaces. You may already know to avoid high-traffic public spaces like locker rooms, public showers, and pools, but you could pick up a virus, bacteria or fungus virtually anywhere.
Although many of these conditions can be treated with antibiotics or topical creams, it’s not uncommon for untreated conditions to turn into chronic recurrences.
3. Pain for those with Preexisting Conditions like Misalignment
Do you know if you have misaligned feet? Many people go years without a diagnosis, but this condition could be exasperated by not wearing proper footwear. It’s often characterized by a tendency to roll your foot inward while walking due to the collapse of a space between your ankle bone and heel called the sinus tarsi.
The most common causes of misaligned feet are genetics or overuse. If you previously suffered from some sort of running injury like a sprain, strain or stress fracture which never healed properly, the risk of walking barefoot could apply to you.
For those with bowed ankles and a misaligned gait, you could be experiencing pain in other areas besides your feet, like your back or knees, as these parts of your body try to compensate for the misbalance. Those with misaligned feet can usually find relief by wearing custom-fitted orthotics, but walking barefoot can actually worsen the aching by removing the arch support or special adjustments you need.
4. Aching Heels or Arches
Ever heard of the condition flat feet? Those with weak arches— whether due to genetics or injury— arthritis or other conditions should be cautious about walking barefoot for prolonged periods of time.
Those with heel pain like Plantar Fasciitis or forms of foot tendonitis can often benefit from the cushioning or added arch support of orthodontics. If you experience pain in your heel or arches while walking barefoot, these conditions may affect you.
Are You Experiencing Any of These Foot Issues?
We’re not saying you can’t go barefoot in your own home or take a stroll through your backyard and feel the grass between your toes. However, anytime your feet are exposed, be sure to take proper precautions.
If you or your child recently spent some time barefoot and are experiencing any of these foot problems, it’s time to get checked. Oftentimes getting fitted into proper footwear or custom orthotics is the best solution.
Our team at Foot & Ankle Group is here to help. Drop us a line at 239.936.5400 to make an appointment, today.
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