Why Does it Hurt to Walk Barefoot?

A Modern Problem

Many centuries ago we all walked barefoot.

Our feet were perfectly designed for uneven and soft or hard surfaces.

All the joints of the feet and the various muscles and tendons that act like pulleys on our feet were adapted for walking on sand, dirt, grass etc.

So, Why Do They Hurt?

There are a large range of reasons as to why your feet may hurt when without shoes and socks, but if you have noticed any of the following, then it’s worth making an appointment with your podiatrist:

  • a sudden increase in the intensity or regularity of the pain or if you had no pain previously.
I woman hiding her toes due to ingrown toenails
  • you are unable to put any weight on your foot.
  • you notice swelling and or redness in your foot. NB: this requires an immediate visit to a doctor or hospital.
  • If you have diabetes and you notice that your feet hurt or that the sensations have changed in your feet.
  • You notice a tingling, numbness, or pins and needles like pain in your feet.
  • you notice an open sore on your foot or blood or pus or any other fluid in your socks or shoes.

Some of the Most Common Causes of Foot Pain when Barefoot.

  • Unfortunately you’re not going to like me for this one, but the leading cause is related to age. As we age the fat pad underneath the bones at the front of our feet (metatarsal heads) and under the heel bone become thinner or “migrate” away from where they are most needed. 
    A lot of people describe this feeling as being like their “walking on the bones” of their feet, which essentially they are!
  • Arthritis – can go hand in foot with ageing but not always. The most common form of arthritis is osteo-arthritis which is a slow wear and tear of the joints and bones which can be accelerated by injury or over-use. 
    But there are several other types of arthritis which are not related to age such as rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis. See your doctor if you are concerned that your arthritis is not normal for your age.
A wart on the bottom of a foot
  • Corns or callous – yes, these seemingly minor thickened areas on the bottom of your feet can feel like you have a stone stuck in your foot, and you almost do.

Corns are made of keratin, the same material that not only hair and skin are made of but also buffalo horns, so these guys can be extremely hard.
Podiatrists can quickly and painlessly remove these from your feet, although they will grow back if the cause of the pressure in that area is not addressed.

You can book an appointment with one of Dynamic Podiatry’s experienced podiatrists by clicking here.

  • Metatarsalgia: damage to or inflammation of the connective tissue that holds your metatarso-phalangeal joints (where your toes join your foot) together (the plantar plate) and the joint capsules themselves. This will sometimes occur with a shift in position of your toes, causing them to fan out.
  • Morton’s neuroma – this is a thickening of the nerve that runs between your metatarsal bones due to irritation from the way the bones are moving, often cause by high heels or narrow toe boxes in footwear.
    Some of the terms people use to describe this pain are – a hot poker stabbed into my foot, pins and needles, a shooting pain into the toes or up the foot, and an electrical feeling.
  • Tendinitis – our feet are controlled by muscles both within the foot (intrinsic) and several contained in the lower leg (extrinsic). Most of these muscles have tendons to connect them to the bones they move and if there is excessive stress on these tendons through overuse, poor alignment, flat feet, or a traumatic event, they can form tears and swell within the sheath (conduit) they are contained in. 
    This will cause any movement of these tendons to be painful, sometimes intensely. 
    To learn more about the intrinsic muscles of the foot and what they do click here.
These are a few of the most common causes of feet hurting when barefoot but there are quite a few others.

What Can You Do To Reduce the Pain?

Unfortunately the answer to walking barefoot is quite an obvious one, wear footwear.

At least for a while. Wear some type of cushioning footwear for up to 6 weeks, this is how long it can take for soft tissue injuries to heal.

A podiatrist is assessing a child's heel


The footwear doesn’t have to be a bulky shoe, even trying a cushioning pair of thongs such as Archies, or a cushioning slipper or lightweight shoe may do the trick.

But if you’re not getting the relief you need, it’s time to ask for help. You don’t want a small acute problem, turning into a long term chronic problem which can affect all weight bearing activities even when you’re wearing shoes.

We're Here to get You Back to Activity

As mentioned above if your case in an emergency (unable to weight bear, swelling, redness, fluids or exudate) – then seeing a doctor or a hospital is crucial.

If not an emergency but you are suffering from painful feet that affect what activities you ca enjoy pain free – then it is time to see your podiatrist about getting you back to your best.

A family running barefoot on the beach

At Dynamic Podiatry our mission is to enhance the lives of all family members to allow them to get the most out of themselves without foot or leg pain.

So we’d be very happy to help you back on the road to recovery.  Call 3351 8878 or book online below to make an appointment.

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