In quarantine, we wear slippers at home, sneakers for outdoor walks, and everything else is stashed in the closet. Comfortable footwear has been one pandemic bonus — or so we thought.
Logging extra hours standing while cooking or working at makeshift desks is causing a new malady: Slipper feet. Podiatrists say that they’re seeing an increase in heal pain, plantar fasciitis, tendonitis, and inflammation in the ball of the foot. Slipping in stocking feet on smooth floors and moving wrong while doing barefoot home workouts are also causing foot and ankle injuries.
“Foot health is very important for health of the entire body and how it moves,” said Chad Walding, doctor of physical therapy and co-founder of Native Path. “It’s important for balance and general mobility. It’s one of the most underdiagnosed physical issues.”
Walding says the real problem isn’t unsupportive footwear as much as standing still for long periods of time.
He recommends wearing slip-resistant socks around the house and getting an anti-fatigue floor mat for standing tasks, like washing dishes or working at a standing desk. The mats subtly encourage small movements to keep your body moving. Other options are to step in place or take a walk around the house every 30 to 45 minutes.
He also recommends walking outside with less cushioned shoes to train feet to respond to the natural environment. Walding says the combination of flat sidewalks and cushioned shoes mean our feet are getting weak. A supported arch is fine, but look for shoes with a lower, less cushioned heel.
If you used to work out on machines at the gym, the living room workout is going to look different. Machines keep you mostly in one position. If you’ve switched to doing high-impact exercises, your feet and ankles will be moving differently. Exercising barefoot can lead to strain on the feet and ankles.
But Walding said the important thing is grip with the surface. A yoga mat or wood floors might be fine barefoot. Otherwise, gym shoes can help with grip.
Wearing Shoes in the House
We’ve all seen what happens on sidewalks, so if the thought of stepping one shoe-wearing foot off your doormat makes you gag, we don’t blame you.
“I like to recommend an indoor pair of shoes,” said Tonya Harris, environmental toxin expert and founder of Slightly Greener. “Shoes can track a lot of undesirable things into the house, such as dirt, germs, and even lead, so it’s a good idea to always leave your shoes at the door.”
If you need to wear street shoes in the house, clean them off first.
“To clean the bottom of shoes, use soap and warm water,” Harris said. “You can use a soft cloth, or if there is a lot of debris, you can use a soft-bristled dish brush or a toothbrush to help get into the tiny areas. You can then wipe down the sole with a disinfecting wipe.”