If you’re like the majority of folks stuck quarantining at home, you haven’t worn real shoes in maybe six full weeks (save for the occasional trip to the grocery store). But all that walking around the house barefoot, while better than running around town in sky-high stilettos, isn’t doing you poor feet any favors. In fact, it might be making any foot conditions you have worse, or setting you up to develop new ones. To learn the ins and outs of exactly what happens when we forgo shoes for weeks on end, we tapped podiatrist and founder of Gotham Footcare, Dr. Miguel Cunha. Here’s what he had to say.
Is walking around the house barefoot bad for my feet?
According to Dr. Cunha the answer is a resounding yes. “Walking barefoot on hard surfaces for an extended amount of time is bad for your feet because it allows the foot to collapse, which can lead to a tremendous amount of stress not only to the foot, but also to the rest of the body” he explains. Basically, the muscles in our feet shift and readjust in an effort to relieve some of the stress caused by walking on hard floors (yes, even those with carpets), but these adjustments frequently cause imbalances that then further the progression of things like bunions and hammertoes.
So what should I be wearing then?
“I strongly advise against wearing outdoor shoes indoors to avoid the unnecessary and non-hygienic transfer of soil, bacteria, viruses and pollen from the environment into our homes,” says Dr. Cunha. That said, your favorite cozy slippers might not be a good choice either. “It is important to pick a shoe that offers as much durability and protection as possible without sacrificing comfort or flexibility.” He specifically recommends the new footwear brand Muvez, which has a removable outdoor-only sole so you can easily transition from running errands to running after your two year-old.
The type of shoes you should wear will also depend on whether or not you have a preexisting foot condition, like weak arches, bunions or a tendency to overpronate. For instance, if you have flat feet and want extra arch support, Dr. Cunha recommends looking for shoes that feel pretty stiff (to prevent your arch from falling), like Asics GT-2000 8 sneakers ($120), while those with high arches should look for shoes with more flexibility and a slightly softer midsole, like Vionic’s Amber sandals ($90). What about those who don’t have any serious foot concerns? A pair of classic Teva Universal sandals ($60) or Vionic’s Wave Toe Post sandals ($65) should do the trick.