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Prairie Path Foot & Ankle Clinic

To Wear Shoes or To Not Wear Shoes

This is a question that I think will never be answered with absolute certainty.  There have been countless articles written on the benefits of being barefoot, enhanced performance with specific shoes and/or orthotics, and everything in-between, but how do we know which is best? My answer to this question and a lot of other questions in life…everything in moderation. 

I’m here at the office 40 hours a week wearing gym shoes with orthotics and then my other life includes a lot of yoga, so I’m barefoot quite a bit.  There are several benefits to both, so why not take advantage of both to find your perfect balance?

Benefits of Wearing Shoes

  • Protection: We’re not walking around on soft dirt or grass all day and shoes provide a lot of protection from outside elements, like hot asphalt, snow/ice, sharp objects, etc.
  • Support: For many people with musculoskeletal conditions it can be painful to walk or exercise barefoot due to lack of support and shoes allow them to do activities they may not otherwise be able to do.
  • Enhanced performance: We’re not perfect beings, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t want to improve our performance, whether that be at work where we are on our feet all day or training for a marathon.
  • Style: Is an explanation necessary?

Benefits of Being Barefoot

  • Strengthening: Going barefoot and not having your feet crammed into shoes allows your feet to spread out and activate all of the small muscles and ligaments within our feet.
  • Grounding: There have been studies about Earthing or Grounding that have shown increased amounts of antioxidants and decreased inflammation within the body due to the earth being negatively charged. The jury is still out in my opinion on this benefit, but who doesn’t like to be outside barefoot on a nice summer day?
  • Balance: When your feet are in shoes, you may not feel every point of contact as much, so allowing your feet to be without shoes occasionally helps to reconnect and stimulate neural connections needed for balance.

We could go back and forth all day arguing the pros and cons of both, but at the end of the day we need to understand that everyone is different, so what may work for me will not always translate to another.  If anything, it is most important to make sure that when you are wearing shoes, they fit properly and aren’t worn out and when you’re barefoot, you’re not performing activities that can cause injury on an abrasive surface.