How The Pandemic Can Hurt Your Feet, Whether You Wear Shoes Or Go Barefoot

Podiatrist Bobby Pourziaee has seen his fair share of shoe-related injuries. The self-proclaimed “High Heel Doc,” who has a practice in Beverly Hills, California, said his clients often come in for issues related to constrictive shoes. But Pourziaee has noticed a pattern over the past several months: Because people have been quarantining due to the coronavirus pandemic and wearing shoes less often, he’s gotten fewer complaints from patients about inflamed nerves and stress fractures.

And yet, for many people, seven months of working from home have also meant seven months of a lot of bare feet. What, if anything, is a lack of supportive shoes doing to our foot health?

“The one thing I’ve seen with the gyms being closed and people doing home workouts are people developing plantar fasciitis and tendinitis, because they’re doing their workouts without tennis shoes on,” Pourziaee told HuffPost. “They feel like, ‘Since I’m home, I don’t need to wear them for this workout.’”

Typically, Pourziaee said being barefoot is fine if you’re sitting at a desk a majority of the day.

“If you’re in a situation where maybe you like to stand at your computer or are consistently getting up and down just to be mobile and not stagnant during the day, a house shoe or something like a Birkenstock with any type of support goes a long way in supporting the arch,” he said. “You have 26 bones in the foot. This helps support them.”

He also quelled any fears that feet may widen without a structured shoe every day.

“Our feet widen naturally over time,” he said. “It’s not so much not having the support of a heel, but more wanting to make sure you have something like a tennis shoe or something with an orthotic,” or a shoe insert.

The podiatrist is more concerned that people are moving less these days, which can be bad for our foot and leg health.

“We’re not leaving the house to go to work, not getting enough walking in the day overall,” Pourziaee said. “We have to be really cognizant to take a break for 30 minutes and take a walk around the block and stretching. Stretching the calf, the plantar fascia along the bottom of the foot is so important and really does prevent a lot of problems from happening.”

If you’re looking for ways to keep your feet happy and healthy, Pourziaee has a few stretches and exercises he recommends to his patients that ― you guessed it ― can be done from home.

“A really simple one is to grab an exercise band or any band you have and, with your knee straight, wrap the band on the ball of the foot,” he said. “Use your hand to pull the foot toward you. This will stretch out the most important things including the Achilles tendon, which is along the back of the low leg. You pull it toward you and hold for 30 seconds without pulsing, and then switch back and forth three times.”

For best results, do this exercise twice a day — first thing in the morning and then again at night. Pourziaee also recommends soaking feet with Epsom salts for 15 minutes at the end of the day to increase circulation and reduce inflammation.

Thankfully, all of this means that with the exception of exercise, we can feel free to keep wearing our comfy shoes ― or no shoes at all ― with ease.