To Wear Shoes or not to Wear Shoes? That is the Question!

Most of the time, we think of shoes as a fashion accessory, but it is also important to remember that shoes are used to help support our body alignment, protect our feet, and make it so we can enjoy our favorite recreational activities. The proper shoes for our daily activities can be very important.


3 Reasons to Wear Shoes

wear shoes or not

1. Shoes can correct your posture and reduce pain 
As humans, we are not symmetrical and that is normal; however, sometimes these asymmetries can lead to aches and pains in the feet, ankles, knees, hips, or low back. With proper footwear, we can make corrections for leg length discrepancies, pronation of the feet, and pelvic alignment. Also, it can reduce pain in patients with plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, and sciatica, to name a few. 

2. Shoes provide you with better grip
The grip of our shoes is very important depending on the type of activity you are participating in. For example, a hiking shoe will have more grip than a walking shoe so that you are able to grab onto rocks and uneven terrain. The amount of grip provided can also help with balance and stability so that you are less likely to fall. Athletes will use different types of spikes, grips, and pegs on their shoes which will allow them to pivot and change directions quickly without foot/ankle injuries. Having the right shoes for the appropriate activity is key. 

3. Shoes can help protect your feet
Shoes can eliminate the chances of contracting fungal infections or sores on the feet. This can be extra important for individuals that have diabetes or are older in age, as our skin heals more slowly. This makes us more susceptible to infection due to these open wounds. 

How to choose a good shoe

  • pick the shoe based on what sport or exercise activity you are interested in
  • bring your socks and orthotics with you when trying on a new pair of shoes for proper fit
  • make sure you can wiggle your toes in the shoe to assess if the toe box fits
  • try on shoes in the afternoon as our feet swell and you want to make sure that the shoe will be comfortable all day
  • make sure to stand up and walk around in the shoes to make sure your foot doesn’t slip

When to replace your shoes

  • change your exercise shoes about every 6 months or every 500 miles
  • shoes can break down even when they are just sitting in your closet so make sure to check the following:
    —cracks in the soles
    —breakdown of the insoles (this will show damage first!)

    —tearing of the fabric (don’t judge the wear of the shoe based on whether the treads are worn down)

3 Reasons Not to Wear Shoes

Shoes are very beneficial when you have a foot injury, you are playing a sport, or participating in outdoor activities, however, if you do not fall into one of these categories, I challenge you to wear shoes less when you are in the house. Here are a few reasons why:

1. Foot stiffness

Your foot is made up of 26 bones that articulate with one another. These bones are meant to move and glide when you are walking over different types of terrain. Shoes help with stability, but sometimes they help too much and it causes stiffness in the foot joints.

2. Muscle Weakness
We all have muscles that help support the arches of our feet. When we wear shoes, it is similar to wearing a brace that keeps our foot in proper alignment. Since the shoe is doing all the work to support our foot, the muscles can become weak as they don’t have to contract as often to maintain that support. This can lead to what most people know as fallen arches.

3. Decreased balance
The bottom of the foot and foot joints are equipped with nerve endings that are there to help you feel the floor and adjust your balance. Shoes can reduce that sensation of feeling and the stability of the shoe decreases how much work your muscles have to do to correct your balance. 

Long story short, there are important reasons for both wearing shoes and not wearing shoes. We should all find a good balance between the two when it is appropriate. If you feel that your shoe fit is not correct or you are unsure if your shoes are contributing to your aches and pains, a free consultation can be set up with a physical therapist to discuss your injury. 

Kimberly Painter PT, DPT is a licensed physical therapist at Mettler Center. Experiencing foot pain? Ask an Expert. Call 217-398-9800 to schedule a free 30-minute consultation with a physical therapist or request an appointment online.