Knock Your Socks Off

As I’ve written about before, the muscles in your feet are extremely important. When they’re engaged, your arch can absorb a huge amount of force, and the muscles further up the kinetic chain – in your legs and hips – work their best, too.

Whereas, when your arch collapses, every step smashes the small muscles and tendons in your feet. Worse, the navicular bone in your heel collapses inward, torquing your shin, and turning off muscles like your glute medius on the side of your hip. It’s a consistent cause of chronic pain in feet, knees, hips, and low-backs.

That’s why I’m a long-standing supporter of going barefoot: it allows you to use your feet (and, in turn, your legs) they way they’re meant to work.

Obviously, if you run along city streets (like I do here in NYC), you probably don’t want to go totally barefoot, should instead opt for some minimalist, zero-drop shoes. (I’m a big fan of Inov-8.) And if you’re working out in a commercial gym, even if you take off your shoes, you probably still want to keep on your socks, to avoid picking up infections like MRSA or ringworm from sweaty floors.

But when you’re padding around the house, you’re in the clear. And while you may already be taking off your shoes at the front door, there’s a big difference between going barefoot, and going sock-clad mostly barefoot.

First, though socks are more forgiving than shoes, they still squeeze your foot, preventing natural toe splay. Second, socks are slippery. Walking depends on friction – between your foot and the ground – to give you something to push against. Imagine walking on ice: with almost no friction between your shoes and the ground, you automatically start to take small, tentative, penguin-like steps, instead of natural human strides. Sure, socks on wood floor (or even carpet) aren’t nearly as slippery as shoes on ice. But they’re still slippery enough to change the way you walk, and to undercut the skill- and muscle-developing point of walking around barefoot in the first place.

So, in short, make a point to walk around your home without shoes – and without socks. It’s the healthiest thing to do.

May 30, 2017