With all the extra time we are all spending at home and changes to our lifestyles, our feet have been through a tremendous change as well. Moving from being in shoes at work to mostly barefoot at home is a vast departure for what our feet are used to. Being at home is an incredible opportunity to focus on our foot health and body alignment, the flexibility of what we can and do put on our feet has never been freer. So, it begs the question; should we be wearing slippers or be barefoot in the house? And how do we care for our foot health while at home?
For those with underlying conditions, like diabetes, neuropathy and loss of sensation, the answer is relatively simple, yes. We need to wear well fitted footwear to protect these precious feet from stepping on foreign objects that may not be felt due to the changes in sensation and prevent injury in this population that typically heals more slowly.
But for the average population this is a much more complicated question to answer.
There are certainly benefits to being barefoot. The skin on the bottom of our foot being exposed to different textures and surfaces is tremendously beneficial for proprioceptive input, or the bodies sense of location, movement, or action in our body. This input helps our body become more in tune with where our limbs are in space and can be helpful in improving balance and functional posture. Wearing socks around the house can still help with functional foot strengthening but the layer of material between the foot and the ground will impede this valuable sensory feedback to your foot. If you can, sock free is the way to go! The bottom of our feet have four layers of small muscles that can benefit from being barefoot. However, it can take time to do this comfortably, especially if you are accustomed to wearing shoes all day at work. Going from footwear all day to barefoot all day is like going from running once a month to running a marathon, it is possible to run that marathon, but you must train for it. Barefoot training is no different. A great way to prepare your body to be barefoot is to mobilize the tissues for the foot and work on being able to splay your forefoot, especially if you are used to being in shoes. If you are new to using a sensory foot massage ball, go ahead and try it out yourself with this video tutorial by Brandon Nethercott.
If you are experiencing pain or have and issue with your body alignment, you may need to “train” to be barefoot around the house. Healthy populations should look to be able to spend some time barefoot daily but depending on your biomechanics, activity level and foot type, barefoot time will look different from person to person. If you want to learn more about foot types and what they mean check out https://www.getaligned.com/pages/what-foot-type-are-you. Typically, the things we need to do to make an injury get better are very different than what we need to do to prevent an injury from coming back. If it is determined that your alignment and mechanics are a contributing factor to your discomfort or injury, slippers at home will likely be recommended either with a molded footbed or custom fit with an orthotic. If you have a history of cracks or fissures on your heels, this can also be caused by being barefoot around the house. Pivoting through the heel while barefoot can compress the fat pad in your heel and create cracks in the skin from the pull, so slippers should be considered. Especially with the amount of time we are all at home right now, this is the fastest way to make a big impact to your foot health.
So, what type of slipper should you wear? There are plenty of slippers with a molded footbed which are great to help mildly support the arch of the foot, even out pressure on the bottom of the foot and add cushioning. These slippers fit an average foot shape with very mild alignment issues and are a great option for general achiness or tiredness from standing for long periods (think of all those home cooked meals you’ve been making this year!). They have come a long way style wise, these leopard print ones by Vionic are super cute. If you are dealing with more complicated alignment issues or specific injuries, like forefoot pain, heel pain, plantar fasciitis or Achilles tendonitis for example, custom fitting a slipper with an Align Orthotic is the most effective solution. These slippers will have a footbed molded exactly to your corrected foot positioning and shape. They are designed specifically for you; to guide your unique movement, to offload tissues, align your skeleton and prevent long term issues. This is how you benefit from not just comfort and style, but health.
Incorporating barefoot time should be done slowly if this is new to you, starting with 10 minutes a day around the house is a great introduction. As you progress to longer times barefoot, getting some training in functional foot strengthening and re-posturing is recommended so that you are not setting yourself up for pain or injury. Don’t jump right into exercising barefoot all over Toronto if this isn’t something you have experience in!
As always, our Align Clinicians are here to help if you have any questions about keeping your feet their healthiest and strongest while at home. Even if you just want to ask an introductory question, you can instantly message us through our website or Instagram. Or book online for a virtual or in-person consult or full Body Align Assessment with us. We want to keep you moving on your feet, in your best health, style and comfort.
Written by Tavish Argenti HBSc(Kin), C. Ped (C)
Align Clinician. Canadian Certified Pedorthist.
This information is provided for general health and wellness awareness and does not constitute as medical advice. It is not meant to be used, diagnosed or treat medical conditions. For diagnosis or treatment of a medical condition always consult your Physician.