As far back as I can remember, I always liked going barefoot. As a kid, I would do that all summer in spite of the bee stings I often got due to the clover in our yard. Science now tells us that there are advantages of bare feet.
I could write this whole article about the problems that shoes can create—corns, bunions, plantar fasciitis, sprains and falls, hammer toe, ingrown nails, athlete’s foot, spinal misalignment and diabetic problems just to name a few. However, I think I’ll take a positive approach and look at the benefits of not wearing shoes…especially in the house.
Unless there is ice on the ground, I go out to get the newspaper barefoot in any weather. There are two reasons. One, I like the feeling of being connected to the earth. (See grounding below.) Also, our sidewalk is concrete with sharp exposed gravel. That makes me feel that I get a bit of a reflexology treatment which wakes me up. Husband Bill thinks I’m nuts. (Quite possibly true, but I don’t think this is the best evidence.)
A great many cultures around the world take their shoes off when they enter their home and they ask their guests to do the same. It is long-held tradition, but a fair amount of modern science is confirming the advantages of bare feet.
- Fewer germs. Shoes track in bacteria…even dangerous ones. A University of Houston study showed that more than 1/3 of randomly tested homes were contaminated with C. difficile, that nasty antibiotic-resistant bug that can cause potentially lethal diarrhea. Those bacteria were also found on 40% of doorsteps and shoes.
- Fever toxins. Shoes track in chemicals such as pesticides and weed killers. Once in the house, as we walk, they are kicked up into the air we breathe. These are also an obvious risk for babies crawling around on the floor.
- Gets the lead out. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends NOT wearing outside shoes in the house because of the increased contamination with the heavy metal, lead. Link to their position paper.
- Less pollen and fewer allergens. Open windows are not the only way the Mountain Cedar pollen and other outdoor allergy triggers come in.
- Ditches dirt. 85% of the soil in our homes comes on our shoes or the paws of pets. (Maybe we should start making our dogs wear shoes outside. It is very funny to watch.) More dirt leads to more house cleaning.
- Less wear and tear on rugs and floor finishes. Grit sticks to the soles of shoes and becomes like sand paper.
- Relieves osteoarthritis. According to more than one study, walking barefoot (or in flat shoes) lessens the load on knees and possibly hips.
- Allows feet to breathe. Besides reducing the risk of fungus, we detox a bit through our feet.
- Grounding / earthing. On our radio show a few years ago, Stephen Sinatra, MD discussed the advantages of bare feet and staying connected to the earth’s energy. The public areas of our home are stone which allows some of that energy through to my bare feet.
- Kicking off your shoes reminds your brain and body to let go of the stresses of the outside world.
Do be careful. On hard surfaced floors, socks can be slippery. (Remember that Tom Cruise scene in the movie Risky Business?) If not going barefoot, wear something with a non-skid sole. The wrong shoes can cause plantar fasciitis, but if you already have that problem, barefoot may aggravate bone spur soreness. According to the folks at Emily Post Etiquette, it is nicest to tell guests that “We are a no-shoes house” rather than just instructing them to lose their shoes. (For those guests worried that they haven’t had a pedicure, maybe snag a couple of pairs of those foot covers from TSA the next time you go through security at the airport?)
Image from healthychild.org