Do we live in a shoe-obsessed culture? Have we been tricked into thinking that we need shoes to protect us from pathogens? Professor Daniel Howell, author of The Barefoot Book: 50 Reasons To Kick Off Your Shoes, says that wearing shoes has led to fallen arches, bunions, hammer toes, knee arthritis, blisters, corns, calluses, athlete’s foot and toenail fungus. The answer, he says, is not in “better shoes” — but in no shoes at all. He’s even managed to dig up a few podiatrists who say the same. Is a revolution brewing… or is there some truth in a mother’s advice to always wear your shoes while playing outside?
The Case For Going Barefoot
“It’s a fact that nearly all of the foot ailments that lead us to a foot doctor in the United States can be traced back to the shoe as a primary cause,” professor Howell states. On the other hand, “Research shows that walking barefoot strengthens our feet, makes them more flexible and improves body alignment.” He points to a number of studies that confirm the dangers of athletic shoes.
Some people say there is a psychological shift that comes along with freeing the feet from the confines of shoes. In her book Endangered Pleasures, Barbara Holland writes:
“It’s just that we’re always, at some level of consciousness, aware of whatever’s wrapped around us down there, as of a hand lightly but immovably across our mouths all day. For us and others like us, the moment of taking off the footwear is a relief and a joy, and in summer, with the barefoot hours extended into days, our personalities change. Barefoot, we’re almost always at peace. We’re gentle and tolerant with our fellow man. Stress and anxiety evaporate and grief itself seems bearable as long as our feet are free.”
The Case For Shoes
Critics of the barefoot revolution say, “Not so fast.” People with osteoporosis, diabetes and skin problems should not walk barefoot, Dr. William Huff with Group Health Physicians cautions. Furthermore, as we age, the fatty pads on our feet — our natural shock absorbers — become worn out and thinner, says podiatrist Douglas Monson DPM. Shoes add a much-needed layer of cushioning. Perhaps picking up yoga or Tai Chi would be a better way of strengthening the foot, these experts suggest.
Something as simple as getting your feet wet in damp grass is enough to damage the skin’s natural protective barrier and allow infections to take hold, Dr. Giuseppe Militello of Columbia University tells the NY Times. Going barefoot in the grass exposes a person to plantar warts, athlete’s foot and pseudomonas bacteria. “It resides in the grass and earth, you pick it up and it festers in your shoes,” he adds.
Our Take On The Barefoot Trend
We know there are a lot of nasty organisms in our environment. We’ve written about it before. Personally, we don’t like bringing these microbes into our homes, so we leave our shoes at the door. We use the SteriShoe UV shoe sanitizer to kill up to 99.9% of the harmful microbes in our shoes each night for a more sanitary shoe-wearing experience. We make sure the shoes we wear are the right podiatrist-recommended types for our feet and we go barefoot in the privacy and comfort of our own homes.