Barefoot Walking Can Lead to Heel Pain

Apr 13, 2020

If you’re one of the millions of Americans helping to “flatten the curve” by spending a lot more time at home than you used to, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve also made some changes to the types of clothing you wear on a day-to-day basis. Out with the jeans, in with the pajama pants!

When it comes to foot health, though, one of the most significant wardrobe shifts people are making is not wearing shoes. After all, most Americans tend not to wear shoes inside their own homes anyway. It’s just that now they’re spending most (or all) of their workdays at home, too.

Unfortunately, that can be a problem—especially if you have any history with heel pain. When you take away that familiar source of daily support, overuse injuries like plantar fasciitis can easily follow.

The Link Between Walking Barefoot and Heel Pain

So what’s the real source of the problem here? After all, humans have been around longer than shoes have. Why do so many feet struggle to get through the daily grind without breaking down?

There are a couple of factors at play here.

One is that, while your ancient (and even not-so-ancient) ancestors probably spent most of their days walking on grass, dirt, sand, or clay—surfaces with some give to them—there’s a good chance your home is full of hard, flat floors made from wood, tile, linoleum, or even concrete.

If you’re not wearing shoes and the floor isn’t giving you any shock absorption either, your heels and arches are on the hook for the entire brunt of those impact forces.

And if you have any structural issues with your feet, such as a flat arch, the consequences of those impact forces can be magnified even further. Now, not only are you not getting any help from shoes or the floor, you’re also betrayed by your feet themselves.

In most cases, what tends to happen is your arches get overstretched and fatigued much more readily after a day (or several days) with very little support. And as those arches wear down, they start to tug painfully and become irritated at the connection point with the heel bone. Congratulations: that’s plantar fasciitis.

If you’ve already struggled with heel pain at one or more times in your past, then all this barefoot walking at home is even more likely to cause a problem.

What Should You Do If Your Time at Home Is Leading to Heel Pain?

If you find that your heels are really starting to bother you even while you’re spending most of your days at home, here are a few things you can try:

  • Wear your regular shoes indoors at least part of the day, especially on hard floors. It might not be what you’re used to, but your arches will appreciate the extra support.
  • Be selective about being barefoot. We know you’re probably going to want to spend part of the day barefoot, too, and that’s okay. Prioritize taking your shoes off if you know you’re going to be sitting at a desk for a while, or walking primarily on carpeted surfaces.
  • Consider supportive alternatives. A number of shoe brands make sandals and even slippers with built-in arch support. If you struggle with heel pain, these are much better alternatives than going barefoot or wearing totally flat shoes or flip flops.
  • Stretch and exercise your feet regularly. Stretching out your calves, heels, and arches regularly throughout the day relieves tension and helps those structures stand up to the impact forces you’re putting on them.
  • Listen to your body. If you feel your heels or arches starting to get sore, don’t push your luck. Put your feet up, rest awhile, and then put some supportive shoes on before going back about your day.

What If My Heel Pain Still Won’t Go Away?

Pain is always considered an urgent problem. That’s as true in a time of pandemic as it is at any other time.

If home care options haven’t given you the relief you need, please call us at Capital Podiatry Associates. We have flexible appointment options to meet your needs while keeping you and your family safe, including telemedicine and valet medicine.

We’ll help you figure out what kind of appointment you need so that you can get the prompt, high quality evaluation and care you need in a manner that makes sense for your situation. Just call (703) 560-3773, or contact us online.

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