WHEN SHOULD I WORRY ABOUT...

Should You Wear Shoes While Working From Home?

July 22, 2020 - Katie McCallum

Life is full of "No Shoes, No Service" obligations and activities. Shoes are required at the office, in grocery and retail stores, at the bank, in restaurants and bars, at your gym — and the list goes on.

Where shoes aren't required is your home.

And, during the COVID-19 pandemic, you're likely at home way more than usual. In fact, many of us are working from home now, finding ourselves barefoot because of it.

So, when you don't need to put shoes on, do you still need to put shoes on?

"Your bare feet are naturally built with plenty of padding, and while shoes can help provide them with extra cushion, there's no need to be worried about walking around barefoot all day in your home," says Dr. Pedro Cosculluela, orthopedic surgeon specializing in foot and ankle surgery at Houston Methodist.

Here's everything you need to know if you've been allowing your feet the pleasure of going au natural way more than usual, as well as who should be wearing shoes while working from home.

The aches and pains of adjusting to being barefoot

Walking around barefoot all day won't do any long-term damage to your foot, but it is something most people's feet will need some time acclimating to.

If you're going from wearing shoes most of the time to being barefoot all day, it's a new stress for your feet that can result in some discomfort.

"The tiny muscles in your foot (the short flexor muscles, the interosseous muscles and the lumbrical muscles) don't get used much while walking in shoes," explains Dr. Cosculluela. "When you eliminate shoes and walk barefoot, these muscles start working more intensely. This leads to muscle fatigue and, if you're walking barefoot enough, even mild pain."

This pain isn't worrisome, though. It's just like the general muscle soreness and aches you feel after exercising other muscles — and it should go away with time. The length of time needed to adjust to being barefoot likely varies from person to person and can depend on factors such as whether your home is mostly hardwood, rather than carpet.

If you just can't stand the soreness, don't stress: You don't have to give up on your comfort altogether and put your regular work shoes on.

"Almost any type of house shoe is fine to wear while working from home, slippers included," Dr. Cosculluela adds.

In fact, even just your slippers are enough to keep you safe from things you may step on around your home — like one of those tiny Lego pieces your kids may have left lying around. Ouch!

Going barefoot isn't for everyone, though

While most people should experience no problems being barefoot all day long, others may want or need to wear shoes for extra cushion or protection.

"If prior to working home from home you had a preexisting foot condition causing you pain, such as plantar fasciitis or pain at the ball of your foot, walking barefoot for most of the day could further add to that pain," explains Dr. Cosculluela. "In this case, you may want to consider wearing a comfortable shoe as a means of providing some extra cushion to your feet."

In addition, some people may need to wear shoes at home as an added layer of foot protection.

"Walking around barefoot is not recommended for people with diabetes, since these individuals often have a lack of sensation in their feet," explains Dr. Cosculluela. "This lack of sensation can make it easy for minor scrapes and cuts on the bottom of the feet to go unnoticed, and can ultimately lead to the development of a hard-to-heal wound or infection."

Dr. Cosculluela recommends that people with mild loss of sensation in their feet wear tennis shoes, or some other sturdy shoes that offer protection. A person with profound loss of sensation in his or her feet, however, may need to consider wearing a more specialized diabetic shoe.

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