Here’s why walking around barefoot is a bad idea
Keep tootsies in good shape this summer
The warm summer weather brings with it the opportunity to sport sandals and flip-flops, and even walk around barefoot. But one wrong step during sandal season could lead to foot pain or a painful and unsightly injury.
“Your feet are vital to getting around every day. It is important to take precautions during summer months when it is more comfortable to wear sandals or flip flops,” explained Dr. Ellianne Nasser, DPM, a podiatrist at Geisinger Community Medical Center. “Walking in sandals can predispose you to breaking one of the many small bones in your foot, injuring a toe or experiencing pain that will make it more difficult to walk.”
Stubbing a toe is usually not a huge problem, outside of the sharp pain you feel in the minutes after. However, if you hit your toe badly enough, it could begin swelling and the nail might separate from the toe. This usually looks more unsightly than anything; however, if there is a cut under the nail, you could be at risk for infection.
Similarly, if the nail separates close to the base, you should see a doctor. This is not only painful, but could be a sign that there are other problems with your toe. If your toe is swollen, bruised and looks bent or deformed, or it’s difficult to walk, it may be broken.
Fungus and cuts and bee stings—oh my!
When you visit the pool or play outside in the yard you might enjoy the carefree feeling of walking around barefoot. At the beach, you can feel the sand between your toes. But you could also walk on a broken piece of glass, step on a bee in the grass or even expose your skin to fungus, viruses, such as plantar warts, and bacteria.
If you step on a sharp object like a piece of metal, you could also expose yourself to tetanus. If you haven’t had a shot in the last 10 years, or you can’t remember having a tetanus shot, you’ll need one if you injure yourself this way.
People with diabetes are at increased risk for problems resulting from walking barefoot.
“Diabetics might not feel minor foot injuries and could expose themselves to infections without realizing it,” said Dr. Nasser. “For them it’s especially important to avoid walking around barefoot and to wear proper shoe gear.”
Flat sandals and flip-flops aren’t much better
Switching from sneakers, comfortable dress shoes or casual flats to sandals is one marker that it’s summer. While these shoes might at first seem more comfortable, they can do some damage to your feet.
Casual sandals and flip-flops with a flat foot bed lack the arch support that your feet need. They might be a good option for walking around poolside or on hot sand until you get to your spot on the beach, but you should avoid wearing them all day, every day.
“Wearing flat sandals or flip flops for walking and activity could cause foot pain because they don’t offer arch or heel support, and they don’t absorb the shock when your foot hits the ground,” said Dr. Nasser. “Wearing flat sandals or flip flops consistently can lead to tendinitis and chronic heel pain. Look for sandals with a supportive arch and cushioned insole.”
In addition to pain, you could also expose your feet and toes to blunt trauma if you trip or fall while wearing them.
Instead, opt for shoes that are appropriate for your activity. If it’s a day of sightseeing, wear a pair of sneakers.
“If you’re headed to the pool, it’s okay to change into flip flops. Just be mindful of where you’re walking,” said Dr. Nasser.
Dr. Ellianne Nasser, DPM, is a podiatrist at Geisinger Community Medical Center in Scranton. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Nasser or another Geisinger podiatrist, call 570-275-6401 or visit Geisinger.org.