Walking barefoot good for your health

Walking barefoot may be good for your health


All of us have experienced the joy of walking barefoot on the beach. Maybe we should listen to our body, and walk barefoot more? New research from Daniel Lieberman of Harvard University, published in the journal Nature, supports this idea. 

Children walk barefoot

Children, when they are leaning to walk, are barefoot. The thinking is that this helps develop their foot and lower leg muscles. The nerve impulses they receive from the contact of their feet with the ground (called “proprioception”) improves their coordination and balance. 

When the child is a little older, we push them into shoes. Maybe though this is not the best approach, and we should leave our feet freer more often. Dr. Lieberman’s research showed benefits for adults going barefoot.

Harvard barefoot research

Dr. Lieberman, along with a group of international collaborators, traveled to Kenya to study the feet of people who had lived their entire life shoeless. They also studied a number of Kenyans who used shoes. The researchers returned to Boston to finish their studies, now studying Americans on a treadmill; some using tennis shoes and others shoeless.

They found that the feet of the Kenyans who never wore shoes developed, as expected, thicker skin on the soles and balls of their feet. But even though their skin was thickened and toughened by direct contact with the earth, they did not lose any foot sensitivity at all. Despite having thickened foot skin, they were able to feel everything.

Dr. Lieberman acknowledges  that walking with a cushioned sole may make you feel more comfortable. However, “the energy that gets shot up your leg is about three times bigger in a cushioned shoe than if you’re barefoot.” They found that the duration of impact of the foot with a cushioned sole is longer than for the person without shoes. The shoeless impact is shorter and sharper, which makes a difference on how the force is transmitted up the leg.

They saw that the impact of the foot with the earth, when wearing a cushioned sole, travels higher up the leg, and is dissipated by the ankles, leg bones, and knee joints. When barefoot, the impact is dissipated more by the muscles and tendons of the foot and lower leg. This means there is probably less stress on the knee joints when you walk barefoot The more you are shoeless, it may be the lower the risk of knee problems. 

Should I go shoeless more?

In general, probably a good idea. When you are outside,  be careful about the surfaces, and only go barefoot when you are not at risk of injuring your foot. Shoeless on the beach or open grass is probably ok. But here is where you can make a difference—at home.  Think about removing your shoes as you enter your house. Let your feet be free, at least when you are home. 

To find a doctor, of any specialty, anywhere in Brazil, check out our website: www.ProcuraMed.com.

See also in ProcuraMed:

Varicose veins in the legs: causes, symptoms and treatment

An introduction to “grounding” (earthing): a new health trend

Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)

Recommended doctors

This post is related to specialty Orthopedic Surgery and Traumatology. Below is a list of some physicians related to this specialty.