Barefoot – Kick off your Shoes
Welcome – this article covers going barefoot
When a barefoot query came in recently, Richard, the father of 14 year old Max, wanted to know whether it was okay for his son to play football barefoot. I’m all for barefoot and certainly love being unshod around the house but one must balance the response with some of the unknowns.
The Barefoot Question
“I hope you don’t mind me asking for your professional opinion. My eldest son Max (14) is a county football player and most days he will practice for an hour or so without shoes. Could this have a detrimental impact on his feet and bones – he plays with a full match ball which are pretty hard to be fair.”
A very good question Richard and one that might be rewarded with a one liner. i.e Max will come to no harm using barefeet; but will he? As always I question advice on the internet but does this answer Max’s parents query.
There are 2 riders to barefoot activity. That he has no existing medical problems that we would need to consider, and secondly that wherever he is barefooted he takes great care in assessing the ground for safety. Glass and dirty objects make up some of the most serious of consequences.
Three articles are reviewed for their assumptions, accuracy and false ‘mediarised’ hype. All the original articles were accessed randomly hyperlinked (blue)
Anyway, as usual I like to see what the internet says, so lets take it on board.
The article – Kick Off Your Shoes: The Surprising MD-Approved Benefits Of Walking Barefoot (updated last on March 26, 2020) and accessed by this author in May, 2020‘Walking barefoot… has gone from being a kooky and playful trend, to a scientifically-researched practice with a number of remarkable health advantages,’ suggests Functional Medicine doctor Isaac Eliaz MD. The article itself might seem kooky when associated with aligning the earth’s electrons to your body. That activity will bring much benefit to the body in terms of moving blood around the body stimulates the immune system and generally making us feel better. This article tries to link barefoot with other ideals associated with exercise. This means it is only a piece for entertainment and not really bulging with information for Max and his parents.
A bit more academic?
In my second review we look at Karen Weintraub’s article, Going Barefoot Is Good for the Sole. Walking without shoes builds calluses, but that does not limit sensation. June 26, 2019
Now this sounds more helpful. Daniel Lieberman, a professor of biological sciences at Harvard University, experimented with bare foot running. Lieberman suggests ‘that scientists do not yet understand the impact of footwear on the body over the course of millions of steps’ adding it would be good to study the effect on 70-plus years in humans.
My response: I think we know a good deal about human movement as much as animal movement so to expend a disproportionate amount of money on such studies should be focused on changes within joints.
I like Weintraub’s article as it makes you think outside the box. Kristiaan D’Août, is a senior lecturer in musculoskeletal biology at the University of Liverpool in England. He is alleged to suggest in Weintraub’s article that ‘the foot is one of the least understood structures in the body because of individual variation, the complexity of foot bones and ligaments, and because so much of what happens inside the foot is impossible to see’. Yes, well, perhaps and no!
My response: Maybe Weintraub does some injustice to the scientists. We know a lot more than she is suggesting to her readership, whether it is a good quote or not. What I can say is that we still cannot find measuring equipment that will tell us accurately what physical forces are doing within the foot. We have amazingly accurate equipment but attaching probes to skin and not deep inside is the main difficulty. So let’s leave this heady science concept and see what my last example offers.
Objective Health Benefits & Risks
There is an argument lurking in this article. As we move from childhood to adulthood we lose the benefits that come from walking barefoot. The mantra let our feet be free shines. Another quote emerges from an orthopaedic surgeon from the USA, a Dr Jonathan Kaplan who extols the benefits of walking barefoot as,
“The most straightforward benefit to barefoot walking is that in theory, walking barefoot more closely restores our ‘natural’ walking pattern, also known as our gait.”
Better foot function & Posture?
Meanwhile board-certified podiatrist and foot surgeon (in the UK board-certified implies registered) Dr Bruce Pinker suggests that shoes can prevent you from using certain muscle groups that can actually strengthen your body. Here are a list of other benefits of bare feet walking. The following I completely agree with.
Better ground strike position, balance and body awareness, improved mechanics, maintaining good range of movement in joints up the body so that muscles and ligaments are optimally maintained. Relief from pressures from shoes affecting bunions, hammertoes and other foot deformities. The best benefit in the list is the last sentence – pressure relief. Shoes can dilute quality of the nerve messages to the brain so balance is better without shoes.
But what of those risks?
Now all articles must show a balance. An impartiality or non partisan approach to writing. I like the next bit.
Walking barefoot in your house is relatively safe. But when you head outside, you expose yourself to potential risks that could be dangerous.
“Without appropriate strength in the foot, you are at risk of having poor mechanics of walking, thereby increasing your risk for injury,” explains Kaplan.
While it may be more natural to walk or exercise barefoot, without additional padding from shoes, you are susceptible to injury from the terrain (like rough or wet surfaces or issues with temperature, glass, or other sharp objects on the ground). You also take the chance of exposing your feet to harmful bacteria or infections when you walk barefoot, especially outside.
The BIG CAUTION is covered by Dr Dietz and an osteopath
“Christopher Dietz, DO, MedExpress, says people with diabetes should always consult with their primary care physician before going barefoot. “If they have peripheral neuropathy, they can sustain wounds on the bottom of their feet and not realize it,” he explains.
If you have pain in your heels after resting or have pain when you walk, you may need to go back to supportive shoes and start slowly again when your feet have healed.”
READ MORE ABOUT RISKS FROM FOOTLOCKER
MY ANALYSIS of BAREFOOT ACTIVITY
Appealing to a young person!
Send me your query
I hope this helps readers in their search for information.
For me – I love this type of question as it is so easy to turn this into a mini article to share with readers on my website so thank you Richard and Max.
If anyone has a query they want researching about a foot problem just write to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
About the author: Is he qualified to write about ‘barefoot’ ?
Thanks for reading this article was based on a question from a member of the public and written by David R Tollafield for FootLocker and published by Busypencilcase Communications Ltd (Est 2015). June 2020