Going Barefoot? Pros & Cons of Walking Barefoot

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I know some people feel they need to continually wear shoes, but how freeing is it, when you kick back at the end of the day with your shoes off? What about going barefoot everywhere? Let’s look at the ins and outs of going barefoot in public places and what’s to know about going barefoot everywhere.

benefits of going barefoot in public, could you feel overdressed if you're not barefoot?

Did you grow up going barefoot as a child? If so, you’ve had a good start… let that (barefoot) inner child run free.

“Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet, and the winds long to play with your hair.”

Kahlil Gibran

Is going barefoot healthy?

In answer to ‘Is walking barefoot good for you, healthwise’…Apart from situations where it exposes you to infection or risk of injury, science indicates it has desirable health benefits.

Going barefoot massages and strengthens your feet, joints, and muscles and so helps in supporting healthy organs and other bodily systems. And, then there’s the part where it helps with staying young in body and spirit…

Going barefoot all the time may not be practical. But going barefoot at home or running barefoot on beach areas is an easy way to ground yourself, much like hugging a tree. For running on firmer ground or harsher environments you might need shoes if your soles are not hardened.

I go barefoot a lot. But then I work from home. Before that, I still managed to kick off my shoes every chance I could.

I regard my feet as my base, as the footing for my overall skeletal support and posture. Therefore, I need them healthy to give me a good standing as I age and the best way to do that is to go barefoot where and when I can (some people prefer barefoot shoes for this reason).

I also find it liberating and relaxing to go barefoot. It’s been a part of my self-wilding journey.

Where do people like to go barefoot

Here are some examples…

Barefoot at the beach

Lots of folk go barefoot at the beach. I’m one of those. The soft sand and refreshing seawater on my feet are relaxing and make for a carefree experience.

Walking barefoot on the beach can also provide an exfoliating effect, as the sand helps to slough off dead skin cells from the soles of the feet.

And, some people believe that walking barefoot on the beach helps ground them and connect them to the Earth’s energy.

Parks and nature trails

Parks and nature trails are another popular destination for barefoot enthusiasts.

Walking or hiking barefoot on natural surfaces such as grass, dirt, and rocks can be a sensory experience that allows people to connect with nature in a unique way.

Going barefoot can also help to strengthen the muscles in the feet and legs, as well as improve balance and posture.

Some people find that going barefoot in nature can be a therapeutic and grounding experience.

Traditional practice

In some cultures, going barefoot is a traditional practice that is still observed today.

In many parts of Asia, for example, it is customary to remove your shoes before entering a home, temple, or other sacred space. In some cases, going barefoot is also considered a sign of respect or humility.

Some choose to go barefoot as part of a minimalist lifestyle or as a way to reduce their environmental impact by not wearing shoes that require resources to produce and dispose of.

Benefits of going barefoot

According to Inc, Steve Jobs used walking barefoot as a strategy to spark his intuitive thinking, resulting in his success in the technology business.

The evolutionary history of humans shows that barefoot walking is the biologically natural situation.

Footwear Science, Volume 1, 2009 – Issue 2

But here’s the part that you might appreciate… where going barefoot helps with staying young in body and spirit, and other health tips…

Staying young and agile

Wearing shoes affects the shape and development of your feet.

First hand, I’ve seen older ladies with deformed toes, especially their big toe points towards the others, and smaller toes are permanently bent. They tell me it’s the high-heel shoes they wore when younger.

Not only bent toes but growing up wearing closed-in shoes long-term can impede foot arch development [Ref] and lead to deformations of the foot, both flat feet or hollow feet, which affect walking and balance and can lead to painful foot conditions, especially as we age.

shoes can cause deformation of the feet, flat foot or fallen arch, normal foot, hollow foot or high arch
Deformation of the foot

Going barefoot more often helps avoid such foot deformities and the impact they have on the quality of our movement later in life. Coupled with the deformity problems are the declines in muscle strength and sensory functions that aggravate the risk of falls as we age.

Going barefoot has benefits in that, as studies indicate, it increases muscle strength and improves proprioceptive sensibility as it gives us better foot and ankle musculature [Ref].

Thus, my take is that going barefoot more often means staying younger in agility for longer.

Avoiding inflammation and chronic pain

Examples are plantar fasciitis and heel spurs. What is plantar fasciitis? It is inflammation of the plantar fascia, the ligament that connects your heel to the front of your foot. The condition is more common in people over 40 years and is a condition with pain, mostly a stabbing pain in the heel.

Those who are either hollow (high arches) footed or flat-footed are more likely to develop plantar fasciitis, according to HealthLine.

Heel or calcaneal spurs may also develop from wearing shoes that are poorly fitted and stress your foot muscles and ligaments.

bones of feet, calcaneus spur, issues with feet from wearing shoes
Image credit: HealthLine spurs heel bone (calcaneus)

Wearing shoes continually (every day and over a number of years), especially high-heeled shoes can change your foot arch, which is why some people acquire these conditions. Going barefoot strengthens the muscles and ligaments of the foot and so helps avoid problems such as these.

NOTE: If you already suffer from plantar fasciitis, then going barefoot straight off the cuff is not recommended. It might be a challenge and you may need a special course of remedial action. Seek professional advice.

Perks of stress relief

While walking barefoot in the house has advantages, there are earthing benefits that come from direct contact, going barefoot outside, on natural substrates.

A 2012 review of earthing research reveals the array of evidence emerging on the benefits of being in contact with the Earth through going barefoot outside [Ref]. Findings suggest the effectiveness of this against chronic stress and numerous other health disorders, including cardiovascular disease.

The authors go so far as to say “From a practical standpoint, clinicians could recommend outdoor ‘barefoot sessions’ to patients”.

Away with foot fungal growth

A fungal infection can be painful or at least annoying. It also contributes to smelly feet.

Going barefoot as much as you can, whether it’s around the house or outside, can allow your feet to air and this is good for avoiding fungal growth, which thrives on moisture.

Where do fungi thrive the best? “In dark, warm, moist places, like your shoes” according to current medical advice [Ref].

# Better balance

Walking and running barefoot strengthens the feet and leg muscles that help with balance. But that’s not all.

When your feet are in direct contact with the ground, nerve endings can signal any unevenness to your brain. When you’re acquainted with this you adapt automatically to the terrain in response.

This means less risk of falling and injury. This is also relevant in terms of staying younger for longer.

Overall perks

Walking barefoot massages the base of the foot. Here, certain zones correspond to other parts of the body, particularly the organs. This is known through reflexology.

Stimulating a recognized area of your foot has health benefits for the corresponding organ of your body.

Walking barefoot (especially over natural terrain) stimulates all areas of the foot and so contributes to the body’s health benefit overall.

areas stimulated when walking barefoot indicated by reflexology chart

# Better flexibility with toe dexterity

You can become quite dexterous with your toes. Picking up small objects off the floor with your toes becomes quite easy. This skill is handy for avoiding that extra strain on your back.

It’s a natural gift I have that I find useful for when my hands are full or at times when things fall under the table or I might need to discreetly fetch something off the floor.

Being able to stand on your tippy-toes also has advantages and it is due to toe dexterity that you can acquire through going barefoot.

You learn a lot when you’re barefoot. The first thing is every step you take is different.

Michael Franti

Are there walking barefoot dangers?

What’s bad about going barefoot everywhere? There are dangers in doing most things and going barefoot everywhere has its risks.

For instance, if you have cuts or open wounds on your feet, there’s the risk of infection, especially when you might be walking in mud or across contaminated grounds.

Also, going barefoot at industrial or other workplaces can carry the risk of injury and protective footwear is necessary.

Sometimes your feet need protection!

There are workplaces and then there are these times…

Surviving extreme cold conditions will mean you need to wear shoes that keep your feet covered and warm.

As well, going barefoot, and hiking over rocks that are sharp and jagged might cause you injury. Going barefoot on concrete or asphalt in the middle of a hot summer’s day might burn your feet if you haven’t already conditioned them for going bare.

If you suffer foot pain when walking barefoot, it’s a good idea to investigate why and whether continuing the habit of walking barefoot will improve the condition or not.

The thing about barefoot walking or running is to get your feet and legs used to it bit by bit, rather than go fall bore. Hardening your soles will protect you from injury.

You need to transition into it, if all you’ve ever done is wear shoes, the reason being your soles will need hardening and your feet and leg muscles won’t be accustomed to it especially if you wear high heels often. –>> Here are some popular ideas available online.

For DIYs, you can crochet barefoot sandals, from patterns available at Amazon.com –>> see details (affiliate link).

How to go barefoot in public

It’s understandable if you feel embarrassed about and reluctant to go barefoot in public. Many of us have been trained from a very young that going barefoot is a slight on our character.

I admit I have this thing about others judging me poorly if I’m not wearing shoes in public, if I go barefoot in public places such as shopping malls and formal social gatherings, that is. This is ingrained in me because of the messages I got from my parents, my schooling, and society in general.

In some cultures, it is perfectly acceptable, and so it’s an easy thing to do. For others, like me, you’ll need to get past that ego trying to protect your image (see my article on the ego vs your true self and finding fulfilment).

In some places, wearing shoes is one of the dress laws for entering the venue, and sometimes this can mean wearing more formal footwear.

A way around this discernment and still get the benefits of going barefoot is to wear bottomless sandals or shoes or shoes with a minimal layer between your feet and the ground –>>

Laws on Going Barefoot in Public

This article is not intended as legal advice. You should check with your local authority. 

Going barefoot in public Australia

Across Australia, I have been unable to find any legislation explicitly forbidding driving barefoot or requiring you to cover your feet in some way.

Iain Kelly, Contributing Journalist CarsGuide, 7 Feb 2018

Australia is one place in the world where you’ll find some people going barefoot everywhere. It’s not illegal to go barefoot in public.

Views on going barefoot in public

The idea of going barefoot in public can raise some different views, but a discussion of the topic on a public forum (Female First Forum), gave these representative responses:

I think women look good when barefooted (weather permitting, of course). Here in the US, you don’t see it very often, but I usually notice, and they always look good.

Thats a great idea! I love watching my man walk round in bare feet, especially out in public

Going barefoot actually has it’s advantages. Lot of acupressure points are there in the feet, and it keeps you fit and healthy. You should walk barefoot on grass for sometime if weather permits!

I love to be barefoot everywhere, its more of an indoors thing this time of year tho, unless I’m drunk wen my feet become immune to cold.

I wouldn’t even contemplate being barefoot at present outdoors, or any other time for that matter as usually too cold lol, only time I did was when really drunk.

Its a beautiful summer down here in Auckland, New Zealand so Im barefoot constantly…even our winters are mild so I can be barefoot all year round, no problems!

Yeah I never wear shoes when I go out in public, although down here in New Zealand our winters are much warmer than in UK. In a couple of weeks time I’ll be going to a church wedding and I will be in bare feet, simply because I am more comfortable that way.

I have been barefoot in Public 2 times, one time when my shoes were stolen at a party and once after a girls-night out when i sort of lost or forgot them.

Very seldom do I ever go barefoot in public.

I only walk barefoot in nature. In the cities is too much trash, glass or the pavement is boiling hot. I can’t stand that. But I like to walk barefoot 

I hope this has given you the confidence to get out there and go barefoot in public, even if only at the beach or poolside.

Nothing compares to the feeling of being barefoot in the summer, especially in beach communities. In Australia, going barefoot at the beach is very common. It pervades this sense of freedom, of being true to yourself; and walking around barefoot can make you feel like you are on vacation.

I go barefoot a lot! It’s liberating. It’s relaxing and it helps rid the noise of a busy life.

Before you go…

Knowing the benefits of walking barefoot is the first step. Read my next article that talks about transitioning to going barefoot …

How To Transition To Barefoot

5 thoughts on “Going Barefoot? Pros & Cons of Walking Barefoot”

  1. I don’t like to wear shoes. Life is better barefoot ! ^__^
    In fact, “Going barefoot is the gentlest way of walking and can symbolise a way of living – being authentic, vulnerable, sensitive to our surroundings. It’s the feeling of enjoying warm sand beneath our toes, or carefully making our way over sharp rocks in the darkness. It’s a way of living that has the lightest impact, removing the barrier between us and nature”.
    — Adele Coombs, “Barefoot Dreaming”

      • Thank you dear Mary-Anne. In fact, this quote is from “our” page of Society for Barefoot Living.
        Society for Barefoot Living:
        I don’t like to wear shoes. Life is better barefoot than in shoes. And I discovered this great pleasure since at 3 years old, (in 1962), in a village of my country, Romania. Now I’m a barefoot hiker, very health and happy !
        I wish you all the best, with strong health and happiness, in peace !

  2. I love your article on going barefoot. I am tempted to leave my shoes at home today and going to work barefoot. ?

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