There are many different opinions about barefoot walking since the activity has both benefits and risks. The most commonly agreed upon benefit to barefoot walking is that, in theory, we are walking in a “natural” walking pattern or gait.
Without sneakers, we typically take shorter strides, allowing us to have greater control of our foot position as it hits the ground. Also, a more natural gait helps us maintain a healthy range of motion in our foot and ankle joints along with building strength and stability within our muscles and ligaments.
There is concern about how shoes alter the way we walk, potentially leading to stronger forces and stress across our lower extremities, especially the foot and ankle. Finally, a poorly fit shoe can be constricting, cause bunions, hammertoes or other deformities.
What are the dangers?
Although walking barefoot sounds like the ideal, there are risks to consider. Like many activities, having the appropriate strength is important.
Without this, there is a risk of poor walking mechanics leading to an increased risk of injury. This is extremely important for the beginning barefoot walker.
Although shoes can lead to changed walking patterns and deformities, a properly fitting shoe can allow for a natural gait and give effective structural support and padding.
Even though it is more natural to walk barefoot, the walking environment should be taken into account. Without the padding and protection from shoes, we are at greater risk of injury from terrain, especially wet or rough surfaces.
Temperature, be it too hot or too cold, can also be a factor. Also, let’s not forget the risk of stepping on sharp objects such as glass.
How can you properly walk and exercise barefoot?
If you are not used to barefoot walking, you have an increased risk of injury. If you do want to try barefoot activities, the key is to participate in a controlled and safe way.
These activities should be incorporated gradually over time to let the foot and ankle strengthen and adapt to the new method. Furthermore, emphasis should be placed on finding appropriate surfaces like grass, soft soil or an all weather running track to accommodate the foot.
Finally, just like a baby, learn to walk before you run. More strenuous activities should not be attempted until a substantial amount of time has been spent preparing and strengthening the foot. Call our offices today by dialing (404) 855-2141 to talk to an Atlanta orthopedic doctor about safe barefoot running practices.