3 Legit Benefits of Walking Barefoot, According to Doctors


Australia is often considered to be the “barefoot capital of the world.” As someone who was born and bred Down Under, I grew up seeing many people walk around without shoes (myself included), particularly in parks and on beaches.

But in recent times, barefoot walking has been taken to another level, with some social media users vowing to never wear shoes again due to perceived benefits like great posture and stellar immunity.

While not everyone is on board with the trend, others have been consumed by the idea that going barefoot could be the answer to better health. But is it all too good to be true? Here’s what top experts have to say about the benefits of walking barefoot along with the myths you should stop believing and safety tips to keep in mind when shunning shoes.

Experts In This Article

  • Bindiya Gandhi, MD, double board-certified functional and integrative family physician with a focus in holistic medicine
  • Miguel Cunha, DPM, podiatrist and founder of Gotham Footcare

1. It improves posture and balance

One of the great benefits of going barefoot? It can improve your posture and balance.

“Walking barefoot strengthens the foot muscles, and therefore stronger muscles help promote better posture and balance of the entire body,” says podiatrist Miguel Cunha, DPM, founder of Gotham Footcare.

Your balance also gets better due to improved proprioception (the ability to know where your body is in space).

“Walking barefoot stimulates the receptors on the bottom of your feet, which can enhance proprioception, leading to better awareness of body position, posture, and improved balance,” Dr. Cunha explains.

2. It strengthens your foot muscles

With 19 muscles and tendons in each of our feet, strength plays a huge role in keeping us upright.

“There are numerous muscles that benefit from barefoot walking on soft surfaces,” Dr. Cunha says.

Some of the main muscles, he says, include your intrinsic foot muscles, tibialis anterior tendon (a tendon at the front of your ankle), plantar fascia (a thick band of tissue that connects your heel bone to your toes), and your Achilles tendon (a tendon at the front of your ankle).

A small October 2017 study in Gait & Posture on barefoot walking even noted that as you age, you encounter a decline in muscle strength, which, in turn, is linked to an increased risk of falls. When you walk barefoot, you improve your foot strength and balance, and decrease your risk of falls.

3. It reduces stress through ‘grounding’

Grounding,” also known as “earthing,” is the idea that when the human body is connected to the earth—like being barefoot on grass or sand—there are positive effects on health.

Grounding may improve sleep and cortisol levels, reduce pain and stress, and speed up wound healing, according to a March 2015 research article in the Journal of Inflammation Research.

“Walking barefoot strengthens the foot muscles, and therefore stronger muscles help promote better posture and balance of the entire body.” —Miguel Cunha, DPM, podiatrist

Wait, so does walking barefoot increase immunity?

In recent weeks, the idea of going permanently barefoot has divided the internet after a popular TikTok user, Christi Fritz, told her 2.2 million followers that she and her husband will never be wearing shoes again.

In her many videos with millions of views, one claim she’s continued to make is “walking barefoot exposes [her] to heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, and lead, which exposes [her] to a healthy level of contaminants and allows [her] to build immunity.”

So does walking barefoot increase immunity? The simple answer is no. Many variables, including diet, genetics, and autoimmune conditions, contribute to our individual immune systems.

“There is some truth to exposing yourself to different bacteria to build up your immune system, however, you have to look at the whole picture because not everyone may have a healthy immune system to begin with,” says Bindiya Gandhi, MD, a double board-certified family and integrative medicine doctor. “Those who come in contact with pathogenic microbes can actually harm themselves more.”

And while Dr. Gandhi sees the benefits of “grounding” in nature, she notes the same principles don’t apply to walking around public places.

“Going barefoot on the streets of the city can cause infections, injury, and of course, we worry about things like tetanus if stepping on a nail. You can also pick up different pathogens that could cause havoc, like parasites,” she says.

The bottom line is this: When you’re at home on carpeted areas or in nature on soft grass and sand, feel free to kick off your shoes and reap the many health and wellness benefits of walking barefoot. However, when you’re out in public places like sidewalks and stores, cover up and protect yourself from infections, injuries, and parasites—because no, being barefoot won’t give you better immunity.

The drawbacks of walking barefoot

While walking around barefoot has its benefits, before you get rid of your entire shoe collection, Dr. Cunha has some advice.

“Hard surfaces don’t support your arch, so the arch can collapse and cause the plantar fascia to stretch,” he says. “Hard surfaces increase laxity and weakness of the plantar fascia, which may result in pain and discomfort not only of the feet, but also of the entire body.”

In other words: Softer surfaces like grass and sand may benefit bare feet, but hard surfaces like concrete and hardwood floors may do them more harm than good.

Safety tips for walking barefoot

Before you decide to fully commit to going barefoot, Dr. Cunha also notes: “Barefoot walking should happen gradually for short durations on soft, gentle surfaces to allow the muscles and structures on the foot to adapt and help prevent strain or injury.”

What’s more: You should keep your individual foot health in mind before walking sans shoes. For example, people with neuropathy in the feet (nerve damage that can cause numbness, sometimes caused by diabetes) should probably not walk around barefoot because they’re at higher risk for injury and infection. If you want to give barefoot walking a try, keep your health care team in the loop for personalized recommendations.

The 6 best shoes to give you that barefoot feel

Want to reap the benefits of barefoot walking while keeping your feet safe from possible injury or infection? Try these shoes Dr. Cunha recommends:

  1. Altra Solstice XT 2 (Amazon, $129)
  2. Vivobarefoot Geo Racer (Amazon, $109)
  3. APL TechLoom Bliss (Nordstrom, $220)
  4. WHITIN Trail Runner (Amazon, $43)
  5. New Balance Minimus (Amazon, $78)
  6. Vibram Five Fingers V 2.0 Trail (Amazon, $98)

Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.

  1. Franklin S, Li FX, Grey MJ. Modifications in lower leg muscle activation when walking barefoot or in minimalist shoes across different age-groups. Gait Posture. 2018 Feb;60:1-5. doi: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2017.10.027. Epub 2017 Oct 28. PMID: 29121509.

  2. Oschman JL, Chevalier G, Brown R. The effects of grounding (earthing) on inflammation, the immune response, wound healing, and prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. J Inflamm Res. 2015 Mar 24;8:83-96. doi: 10.2147/JIR.S69656. PMID: 25848315; PMCID: PMC4378297.

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