The Health Benefits of Wearing Shoes in the House.


The Health Benefits of Wearing Shoes in the House.

Every day, people with foot pain hobble into Dr. Priya Parthasarathy’s podiatry office, and she asks them the same three questions:

  • “What do you do for work?
  • Where do you work?
  • And what do you put on your feet when you’re working?”

More often than not, they work from home, barefoot.

Over the past few years, there’s been a “significant increase” in people experiencing foot pain, says Parthasarathy, a podiatrist with Foot and Ankle Specialists of Mid-Atlantic in Silver Spring, Md. A rise in remote work is partly to blame, she believes.

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There is a solution to the aches, strains, and even stress fractures, though it’s not one patients like to hear:

  • Start wearing shoes inside.
  • “It makes such a big difference,” she says.
  • There are lots of reasons why people go barefoot at home.
  • It’s a common and expected practice in some cultures; others do it because they’re grossed out by tracking dirt and germs inside.
  • But for people without strong feelings on the subject, and whose home doubles as their office, indoor shoes are a good idea.
  • People who work remotely tend to underestimate the amount of time they spend walking around barefoot during the day.
  • “You’ll get up and stand around the kitchen and chop vegetables, or clean, or go up and down the stairs to do laundry,” says Dr. Jackie Sutera, a podiatrist based in New York City.
  • That’s a problem because hard floors, unlike padded carpets, don’t offer any support or shock absorption.
  • If you’re barefoot, only your fat pad the thin layer of fat located under the ball of the foot and the heel—will absorb that repetitive impact.
  • “There’s a cumulative effect,” Sutera says.
  • Putting pressure on your feet by walking around barefoot for weeks or months can cause them to become inflamed, which can lead to serious problems.
  • Many of Parthasarathy’s patients who work from home, for example, have metatarsalgia, which is inflammation that causes pain at the ball of the foot.
  • “It can migrate upwards, causing pain in the knees, hips, and back,” she says.
  • Plantar fasciitis, meanwhile, can lead to stabbing pain in the bottom of your foot, while Achilles tendinitis is characterized by pain and stiffness in the morning, as well as swelling in the heel area.
  • “No one is meant to walk on hardwood floors all the time,” she adds.
  • “That’s very different from walking on soft, grassy terrain, or the beach.
  • You’re walking on engineered wood.”

Tripping risks, standing desks, and poor sitting form

  • Hard floors are at the root of many foot problems but they’re not the only culprit.
  • Consider all the opportunities for tripping over or running into stuff.
  • Your kids left Legos all over the floor and you didn’t see them before walking into the room barefoot? Ouch.
  • You stubbed your toe against the edge of the bed?
  • Here’s hoping the neighbors didn’t hear your screams.
  • Throughout the pandemic, “I saw a lot of people coming in with fractured toes and feet from accidentally kicking furniture or tripping over pets,” Parthasarathy says.
  • Such injuries can be especially concerning for people with diabetes, who are at heightened risk of foot complications.
  • Wearing sneakers makes you more stable than you would be either barefoot or in just socks.

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Then there are standing desks.

  • Some remote workers, determined to be more active, end up standing for the majority of the day but forget to put on shoes, Parthasarathy says.
  • That can quickly tire the feet and exacerbate or lead to conditions like plantar fasciitis.
  • In addition to wearing shoes, Parthasarathy recommends using an anti-fatigue floor mat, which research suggests can alleviate foot fatigue, ensure pressure is well-distributed, and promote stability.
  • “That, paired with a good sneaker, could really make a difference,” she says.

Of course, not everyone is motivated to stand all day.

  • Some prefer sitting and in a less-than-ideal position, to boot.
  • If you’ve ever pulled your feet up underneath yourself while perched on your office chair, you know they eventually start to hurt.
  • “There are tendons that go around the ankle, and they don’t like to be stretched in those ways,” Parthasarathy says.
  • “Sitting with one foot under your bottom for even a few hours a day will put you more at risk for tendonitis.”
  • If you’re wearing shoes, she points out, you’ll probably be more inclined to keep your feet on the ground.

What to look for in an indoor shoe

  • Shoes provide comfort, support, and protection, while taking pressure off important tendons and ligaments.
  • But not just any sneaker or slipper will do.
  • If you can bend yours completely in half, it’s time to invest in a better pair, says Dr. Nicole Brouyette, a senior staff podiatric surgeon at Henry Ford Health in Detroit.
  • Same verdict if you flip your shoes upside down and find that the soles are so worn out, they’re uneven.
  • Ideally, shoes will have a spacious fit at the toes and provide at least some degree of arch support.

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  • “Everyone has a natural arch to their foot, or if they have flat feet, they need a natural arch,” Brouyette says.
  • “I make sure the shoe has that built-in you can check to see if there’s a little bit of a ridge by the middle of the foot, on the bottom.”
  • If there’s not, you don’t necessarily need to buy a new pair; she often suggests patients buy an over-the counter orthotic, which is an insert designed to relieve foot pain.
  • They can be especially helpful for people with plantar fasciitis, she says; in serious cases, she might recommend a custom, medical-grade orthotic that’s designed to match the contours of your feet.
  • You might be tempted to wear slippers inside and that’s O.K., with some caveats, Brouyette says.
  • If they’re the fuzzy type designed to keep your feet warm, they’re probably not providing meaningful support.
  • “You’re maybe doing a disservice to yourself,” she says.
  • Wear them while you’re watching a movie on the couch, but once you start walking around, opt for a pair with an outer sole that provides arch support.
  • Perhaps you still have cold feet about wearing shoes inside because no one wants to track in dirt, allergens, or especially feces.
  • There’s an easy solution, Brouyette says: Keep two separate sets of shoes.
  • Wear your public-facing, outdoor shoes to the gym or grocery store or wherever else you head when you leave the house.
  • Then, have another set of shoes you only wear indoors.
  • “I know we’re creatures of habit, and sometimes it’s like, ‘I’m in a rush, I just ran in from the grocery store, and I have to get on this call,’” she says.
  • “But it takes a quick three seconds to take them off and put on your indoor shoes.”
  • Your feet will be happy and the habit ensures there’s nothing disgusting about wearing shoes inside.

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