The Nuance

Why You Should Spend Time Walking Barefoot Every Day

Walking barefoot or in minimalist shoes can prevent multiple health problems

Markham Heid
Elemental
Published in
5 min readMar 23, 2022

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Photo: Nick Page/Unsplash

Where I live, in southwest Germany, there are a bewildering number of shoe stores that specialize in barefoot-style footwear. I’ve counted at least four Barfußschuhläden within a mile of my home.

I’ve asked my local friends about this, and they shrug and say things like “Freiburg is an eco-city” or “People here like to feel close to nature.”

I’d noticed. Last weekend, my kids and I were walking in the Black Forest when we passed a woman hiking barefoot. My eight-year-old is an inveterate gawker, and he stopped and stared at her as though she were insane. Patiently, smilingly, she explained to him the pleasures of walking barefoot, especially outdoors.

That encounter motivated me explore the latest peer-reviewed research on minimalist shoes and barefoot walking. After a few hours of reading, I started to think I was the crazy one for binding up my poor feet in thick layers of leather, rubber, and molded plastic.

A 2021 study found that people who switched to minimalist shoes for six months increased their foot strength by nearly 60%.

Kristiaan D’Août, PhD, is a senior lecturer in evolutionary biomechanics at the University of Liverpool in the U.K. He has published more than a dozen papers on barefoot locomotion and barefoot-style footwear.

When we spoke earlier this week, he told me that more work is needed to iron out the pros and cons of barefoot running. But when it comes to walking, it’s clear that more of us should spend time each day barefoot or in minimalist footwear.

The problems with conventional shoes are numerous and well-documented.

There’s the raised heel, which research has linked to both discomfort and assorted injuries. Most shoes are also too narrow, especially in the toe box, which D’Août says compresses the foot and over time can cause bunions and other deformities. Many shoes provide arch support, which seems useless — at best. “The idea that the arches of healthy…

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Markham Heid
Elemental

I’m a long-time contributor at TIME and other media orgs. I write mostly about health. I grew up in Michigan, but these days I live in southwest Germany.