Aspirus Media Center

The Dangers of Going Barefoot

April is National Foot Health Awareness Month

4/13/2023

Dr. Thomas Landretti, Aspirus Podiatrist

As the weather starts to heat up, many will begin replacing their winter boots with sandals, flip flops or no shoes at all. As tempting as it may be to feel the earth beneath your feet, doing so can expose them to harmful risks.

 

“Although it may be a very common summertime habit, going barefoot can leave your feet exposed and vulnerable. Walking barefoot on hot surfaces such as blacktop or cement can burn the bottoms of your feet in addition to the possibility of stepping on rocks, glass or other sharp objects that could penetrate the skin and cause an infection,” says Thomas Landretti, DPM, Aspirus Podiatrist.

 

Apart from potential cuts and burns, walking barefoot also exposes feet to bacterial and fungal organisms that can infect the skin and nails, leading to a change in appearance, odor, and comfort.

 

“Public showers can contain contagious bacteria and fungus that can lead to health issues including athlete’s foot and ringworm,” says Dr. Landretti. “Wearing shower shoes in high traffic areas is the best way to prevent the spread.”

 

Here are some tips from the American Podiatric Medical Association to keep your feet healthy all summer long.

 

  • Limit walking barefoot as it exposes feet to sunburn, as well as plantar warts, athlete's foot, ringworm, and other infections and increases risk of injury to your feet.
  • Wear shoes or flip flops around the pool, to the beach, in the locker room and even on the carpeting or in the bathroom of your hotel room to prevent injuries and limit the likelihood of contracting any bacterial infections.
  • Remember to apply sunscreen all over your feet, especially the tops and fronts of ankles, and don't forget to reapply after you've been in the water.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Drinking water will not only help with overall health but will also minimize any foot swelling caused by the heat.
  • Keep blood flowing with periodic ankle flexes, toe wiggles, and calf stretches.
  • Some activities at the beach, lake, or river may require different types of footwear to be worn. To be safe, always pack an extra pair of sneakers or protective water shoes. If your shoes will be getting wet, they should be dried out completely before your next wearing to prevent bacteria or fungus from growing.
  • Avoid wearing flip flops for extended periods of time. Most don’t provide the required support or the necessary fit to stay securely on your feet and may cause blisters and pain on the arches or the balls of your feet. Additionally, you may be more likely to slip or fall due to the lack of stability.

 

Many diseases and foot problems can be prevented through healthy personal hygiene and foot care. Healthy foot hygiene practices include not only washing your feet but also clipping your toenail, changing socks at least once a day, wearing well-fitting, protective footwear.

 

“Fungus loves dark, warm and wet environments,” says Dr. Landretti. “People should make sure to keep their feet dry, sanitize flip flops and sandals often and treat any cut or scrape they may get on their feet as soon as possible.”

 

People should check their feet regularly for cuts, sores, swelling, dryness, and infected toenails and apply treatment as needed.

 

If an injury to the foot occurs, seek professional medical attention from a podiatric physician. If foot injuries are left untreated, they can result in worsening pain or infection. Use the Aspirus Find a Provider tool to get treatment wherever your travels take you this summer.

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