5 Places to Always Take Off Your Shoes, According to Podiatrists
There are just some situations when it's better to go barefoot.
Shoes are arguably one of the most critical parts of any wardrobe. Besides elevating your outfit, they also provide the vital function of supporting and protecting your feet throughout the day. However, there are some times when it's better to go barefoot—and we're not just talking about when you kick back at home after a long day out and about. Read on for the places you should always take off your shoes, according to podiatrists.
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Sandy or gravely spaces
It's hard to think of a place where letting your feet go free feels better than when walking along a sandy beach. Fortunately, according to experts, this is also one case where it's actually best to remove your shoes.
"Running or walking barefoot on sand allows your feet to adapt better to the uneven surface," explains Wang Lushun, MD, an orthopedic surgeon. "This can help improve balance and strengthen foot muscles, reducing the risk of injuries like ankle sprains."
Indoors at home
Rules may vary from house to house, but experts say there are plenty of reasons to go barefoot when paying someone a visit.
"People should be practicing this as a courtesy to all homes they visit," says Laura Purdy, MD, a board-certified family medicine physician, tells Best Life. Not only is this a sanitation issue, she says, but it is also a religious tradition for many.
You're also running the risk of bringing in much more than the dirt or mud you can see. "Anytime you wear outside shoes inside your house, you are possibly tracking bacteria, harmful chemicals, pollutants, and more," says Sondema N. Tarr, DPM, a board-certified podiatrist and foot surgeon at Direct Podiatry Arizona. "This is a cultural practice that has been seen around the world for millennia."
And besides immediate hygiene concerns, it can have other essential health benefits. "Wearing shoes for extended periods can restrict the movement of your feet, leading to muscle imbalances and potential foot deformities over time," says Daniel Pledger, a practicing podiatrist and founder of ePodiatrists. "By letting your feet breathe and move naturally within the comfort of your home, you promote foot strength, balance, and overall foot health."
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Homes with small children or babies
"It should be a no-brainer that anyone visiting homes of families with young babies takes their shoes off when entering," says Purdy. "If they have babies crawling around as it can transfer to their mouths from their hands, potentially making them sick and otherwise challenging their immune system."
This also includes daycare or childcare facilities. "Young children spend a significant amount of time playing on the floor and engaging in activities in these places that involve crawling or sitting close to the ground," says Pledger. "By removing shoes at daycare centers, we create a cleaner and safer environment for children to explore and play without unnecessary exposure to harmful substances."
Barefoot public spaces
The saying "no shirt, no shoes, no service" has become an unspoken rule for most areas of public life. However, there are still a few shared spaces where taking off your shoes is a good idea.
"With the notable exception of spaces like an airplane cabin which has high foot traffic, spaces like yoga studios and certain fitness and wellness spaces fare better regarding safety without footwear," says Wang. "This helps to maintain the cleanliness and safety of the indoor space, ensuring that those practicing certain moves and exercises are less likely to be affected by the bacteria and dirt carried by the shoes."
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When they get wet
The feeling of soaking wet shoes or boots can be one of the more uncomfortable situations to suffer through. But besides being squishy, spending too much time with damp feet can create many other issues.
"Wet shoes and socks are a breeding ground for fungus and bacteria!" warns Brad Schaeffer, DPM, a board-certified podiatrist, foot surgeon, and owner of Central Park Sole, tells Best Life. "Take them off whenever and wherever they are sopping, too moist, or even damp to dry to everything out and avoid any potential infections or related problems."