Dare To
Go Bare(Foot)

Oh, your aching feet! From too-small sandals to unsupportive, flat flip-flops, summertime shoes can wreak major havoc on your tootsies. If you are hoping for some healing, why not spend a bit of time barefoot? After all, there is no time like the summer to take a shoeless stroll through the grass. Plus, your feet will get a breather and a welcome relief from too-tight thongs or flats. So, if you are ready to go bare, read on for more benefits, plus tips on staying safe while going shoeless.

Bare Feet

BAREFOOT BENEFITS

According to experts, walking or running barefoot develops muscle strength in the feet, legs, and hips, which are usually used less rigorously when locked up in restrictive shoes. Plus, you will stretch and strengthen your calf muscles as well as improve your walking or running form, agility, and equilibrium. It is no wonder, then, that many top-notch runners routinely finish their workouts with a few barefoot sprints in the grass. However, if you have certain serious medical ailments, like poor circulation, diabetic neuropathy, and open skin fissures, experts stress that you should leave the shoes on.

Nothing beats the heightened sensory experience that comes with feeling the sand (or grass or dirt) between and beneath your toes. Just ask the 800 members of the Society for Barefoot Living, who sport the shoeless look 24/7. And yep, that involves driving, shopping, and even eating out!

BAREFOOT BASICS

Obviously, a paved road pitted with potholes and potential glass is not the place to ditch your shoes. Instead, stick to sturdy but soft surfaces like golf courses (go early or late when golfers aren't around), athletic fields, parks, and long stretches of sand (stay close to the surf, where the sand is more packed to avoid ankle injuries that can occur in too-soft sand).

As you get into a barefoot routine, start off with short shoeless stints. Walk around for about five minutes a day for a few weeks to strengthen the long-dormant muscles in your feet and ankles, and to thicken the skin on the bottom of your feet. Then, you can slowly increase the time you walk or run barefoot until you are up to daily dashes of about 10 to 15 minutes.

Tips to go shoeless and keep your feet safe

The American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons report that among the millions of Americans to go barefoot this summer, thousands will suffer injuries such as cuts and puncture wounds. So, to avoid a trip to the ER, take note of their barefoot safety tips:

1. See a foot and ankle surgeon within 24 hours for a puncture wound. Hopefully, you won't be stepping on anything sharp while you are walking barefoot. But if you do, see a doctor straight away. Unsterile foreign objects can get imbedded deep inside the foot, causing damage to tendons and muscles, plus put you at risk for tissue or bone infections. Foot and ankle surgeons are experts in this area, so see one ASAP.

2. Apply sunscreen to the tops and bottoms of your feet. Your feet may be the furthest body part from the sun, but that doesn't mean they are safe from harmful rays. To prevent your tootsies from getting toasted, continually apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 with both UVB and UVA protection every few hours, and even more frequently when you are at the beach or the pool (for more information on UVA and UVB rays, read The truth about tanning). 

3. Use common sense. Don't ditch your brain along with your shoes. Be extra-mindful when going barefoot, steering clear of potentially-hazardous areas like hiking trails (filled with sharp stones and roots) as well as murky rivers, lakes, and ponds which may conceal sharp objects underwater. Plus, if you are anywhere near a campfire or fireworks, get your shoes on. Each summer, thousands of people are injured by accidental burns to their feet.

Going sans shoes? Get your feet looking fierce with these healthy tootsie tips. And if sandals are more your thing, make sure they give you the support you need to keep your feet pain-free all summer.

Comments

Comments on "The benefits of going barefoot and tips to keep your bare feet safe"

Chuck December 05, 2013 | 8:34 AM

I think going BF is great. Use to go to school BF then shoes in class. Other countries have BF schools, why not us?

Concerned January 08, 2012 | 7:28 PM

I am a cautious barefooter, the thing I am worried about most is parasites or bites from potentially dangerous creatures. Should I be too worried?

Ken Lonewolf November 28, 2011 | 4:52 PM

I absolutely enjoy going barefoot all year round. Feet are much healthier out of shoes and socks. Your feet can breath and are not going to develop fungus in dark, dank shoes. Plus it just feels great going barefoot. Ken

LCH May 23, 2011 | 2:16 PM

In your next barefooting article, consider expanding the section on benefits, and instead of banning the diabetics and the fearful, why not mention how easy it is to make barefoot-like huaraches with cord and a vibram-material sole. And I'm SO tired of the sun-causes-cancer mantra. Poor nutrition and toxic chemicals (such as those found in sunscreen products) are key culprits, not the sun. We need the sun to make vitamin D. A nice palm oil, rich in natural antioxidants, would serve much better, and smells even better when mixed with coconut oil. Save greasing the bottom of the feet for post-walking if you plan on crossing any slick surfaces....

Linda June 02, 2009 | 2:01 PM

Great article. When I was a girl I would go barefoot all summer, not putting on shoes until we went back to school in the fall. I still go barefoot all the time, I refuse to wear shoes unless it's absolutely necessary.

Ryan S June 02, 2009 | 9:39 AM

Thank you for such a positive article. The benefits of a barefoot lifestyle are numerous, not to mention that going barefoot just plain feels great! And contrary to popular belief, there are no laws or health codes that prohibit going barefoot anywhere, including stores, restaurants, malls, etc.

Barefoot January 13, 2009 | 7:12 PM

Fairly good article, however like Greg said Hiking trails are actually perfect for being barefoot-IF you work your way up to that! I have been going barefoot full time for years, and my observations are generally spot-on when it comes to the facts. 1st you have to practice going barefoot like playing piano. Start slow on relative soft surfaces, then work yourself up to things like gravel and rough pavement (Smooth concrete is considered just a hard surface like your kitchen floor. Rough would be like asphalt with fine stones sticking out). 2nd The dreaded glass shards that everyone fears, is just that-fear! I have stepped on a piece of glass maybe 6 times in 40 years, most of which didn't even draw blood. The more you go barefoot, the tougher and thicker your base becomes, therefore the harder to damage. And finally, the more year 'round you go barefoot, the healthier YOU will become. You will find that you need less clothing in winter, and you natural circulation will improve, which is of course good for your heart. Go through the health studies listed at the Society for Barefoot Living website that show in real medical terms how much damage to your body is done by wearing shoes! You'll be shocked!

Greg January 12, 2009 | 6:40 PM

If you listen to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, you would never take your shoes off. Thank you for a more relaxed approach, though still overly cautious. I had to laugh at "potentially-hazardous areas like hiking trails". If it weren't for my barefoot hiking, I might never have met my barefoot hiker wife. Try it sometime. It is not nearly as dangerous as you might think.

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