To shoe or not to shoe, that is the question. If you’re anything like me, you kick your shoes off as soon as you walk through the door to your home after work. However, I know many people who will not go without shoes, even in their own home. So what are the arguments for going barefoot or not? Is it safe? Is it healthy? Is it even legal if you want to go without shoes in public? The answers may surprise you.
Belief: Going without shoes is bad for your feet.
Truth: Shoes are a modern day convenience. Millions of people worldwide still go without shoes on a daily basis, many of them by choice. Research on those who go without shoes show that their feet are actually healthier than those who constantly wear them. One reason may be that most people who wear shoes are not wearing the correct size. And don’t even get me started again on high heels. Common problems associated with wearing the wrong shoes include: calluses, bunions, hammertoes, and other foot deformities. Shoes interrupt the natural gait of humans. Evolution spent thousands of years perfecting the way we walk, making sure that each step increased the health of the human body in a natural, mechanical way. Now you throw on a pair of shoes and that gait changes. Take running for example. Research shows that when we run without shoes on, we are more likely to land on the balls of our feet, causing less shock to the legs than the “traditional” running gait of heel-toe while wearing shoes.
Belief: I can hurt myself or get a disease from going barefoot.
Truth: Think about the things you do everyday. Do you drive to work? Driving is exponentially more dangerous than going barefoot. When people argue about the dangers of going barefoot, they throw around words like “athlete’s foot”, “tetanus”, and “parasites” to scare you. The truth is that these are of very little concern. Let’s look at athlete’s foot. The APMA describes athlete’s foot as “a skin disease caused by a fungus, usually occurring between the toes. The fungus most commonly attacks the feet because shoes create a warm, dark, and humid environment, which encourages fungus growth.” http://goo.gl/e13HXO Pay close attention, did you notice the word shoes in that quote? So when people try to tell you that going barefoot will grow fungus on your feet, just look down at their shoes and chuckle. You know the truth.
But what about tetanus? Sure, cuts, abrasions, and stepping on sharp objects are always concerns when going barefoot, but this is easy to avoid and remedy. First of all, make sure your tetanus booster is up to date (once every ten years). Secondly, don’t just start going barefoot everywhere all at once. If your feet are not accustomed to being barefoot, then the soles of your feet are probably pretty sensitive. Once you start going barefoot for short periods of time, the skin on the soles of your feet will stiffen and grow thicker, which makes them more resistant to sharp objects. Third, be smart! Even if you love going barefoot, you wouldn’t walk through a construction site or a pile of glass without shoes. So be logical and watch where you step.
Ok, so how about those pesky parasites? While it is true that certain parasites can enter the body through the feet, this is very uncommon in the United States. The main concern for parasites is in developing countries where sanitation might not be the best. Again, just be smart about this. Don’t walk through a sewer without shoes on (although, I can’t think of why you would walk through a sewer in the first place).
Belief: Going barefoot is just gross and dirty.
Truth: When is the last time you washed your running shoes? Or that pair of high heels you wear to work every day? I’m guessing your answer was somewhere between “not very often” and “never”. Now, how about the last time you washed your feet? I’m hoping for most of you that the answer is every day in the shower. So when you get right down to it, going barefoot may get your feet a little dirtier than if you were wearing shoes, but based on how often your feet get washed, I would say that’s an ok trade off.
Belief: Going barefoot is good for everyone!
Truth: Unfortunately, this one is not true. If you have certain conditions, especially diabetes, it is very important that you continue to wear shoes, even at home. Diabetes leads to poor circulation in the feet, resulting in diminished sensitivity. So while most people would be able to feel a small sharp object poke the bottom of their foot, people with diabetes may not and this could lead to infection and possibly amputation. Even something as simple as stubbing your toe could lead to a more serious problem. The good thing is, there are plenty of shoes out there that, when they fit properly, can actually be good for your feet and look stylish.
You also want to wear shoes while playing sports or working around heavy or dangerous machinery or conditions. I wouldn't suggest playing a game of soccer or going to your factory job without shoes, even if it's legal to do so.
Belief: Going barefoot in most public places is illegal.
Truth: WRONG! There is no law requiring you to wear shoes except in a few public places, such as government buildings. When you see that sign in the window that says “No shirt. No shoes. No service.” That is simply that establishment’s decision. There are restaurants that won’t seat you if you aren’t wearing a tie, but that doesn’t mean it’s a law. Don’t believe me? The website www.barefooters.org wrote letters to the government of every state in 2009 asking about laws concerning going barefoot. Every single response affirmed that there was no law requiring footwear in public establishments. You can read all of the responses here: http://goo.gl/IxHwnF
So the next time you want to kick off your shoes and relax, do it. Get in touch with Mother Nature and feel the sand/dirt/grass between your toes. I promise, you wont get in trouble for it, although you may get some strange looks.