How can walking barefoot affect your health?

Walking barefoot - the added value for your health

Robin Hofbauer
04/09/2021 | 3 minute (s) reading time

According to an analysis of the statutory health insurance aid and medicine market, around 8.9% of all women and 5.8% of all men in Germany were already prescribed shoe insoles in 2014. Presumably, this trend shows an upward trend, which is why these numbers are likely to be a little higher today. The number of unreported cases of those who, from a medical point of view, would need an insert due to their anatomical and biomechanical conditions, but have not yet addressed their problems to a doctor, should reinforce this trend. Looks like shoes are a serious problem. But is that really true? Sports science has a different opinion: the problem is more the feet in the shoes, the shoes have merely accelerated the negative development. Because of their lifestyle, many people have regressed foot muscles, which at some point inevitably go hand in hand with anatomical and biomechanical deficits. Shoes ensure that these deficits are not so noticeable or that they do not affect us so much because they support the weak muscles. And when it gets too bad, you go to the doctor and get shoe insoles to make up for the deficits.

The problem is deeper ...

Splayfoot, flat foot, flat arch or archesus - the list of possible foot deformities is long. What they all have in common is the fact that due to a lack of stability due to the receding muscles in the foot itself, the longitudinal and transverse arches eventually give way and the typical load and force distribution is no longer normal when stepping on. This can result in a wide variety of irritations, injuries and signs of wear and tear, all of which are accompanied by inflammation and pain. We then usually resort to increased padding in the shoes, which only causes the muscles to recede and thus exacerbate the existing problems. A vicious circle arises in which the problems can creep upwards from below due to imbalances. Ankle, knee, hip or back problems can also be caused by poorly developed foot muscles or be negatively influenced by them.

Train your feet!

In order to tackle the problem at the root, the regressed foot muscles must be slowly rebuilt. You have various options to choose from. Physiotherapeutic exercises such as the “short foot to Janda”, active shoe insoles or simple barefoot walking - there are many ways to strengthen the deep muscles of the foot.

In good weather conditions and the right surface, barefoot running in particular is a possibility that you can do regardless of time and place, that costs nothing and has many other positive effects. In this way, you can combine a mindfulness exercise with walking barefoot across a meadow and concentrate specifically on what you can sensually “feel” through your feet. This has a relaxing effect and also trains the immune system. If you regularly run barefoot, you train your foot muscles and do something good for your health.

Do not rush!

Building good foot muscles takes a lot of time and cannot be achieved over a few weeks. Ideally, you should use every opportunity to run barefoot and combine your training with strengthening foot exercises and active insoles, if your attending doctor deems this necessary. If you approach the training too intensely from the start, you risk over-stimulating the foot structures with symptoms of pain and inflammation. They are no longer used to such stresses after the long closed season and therefore need time to adapt to the new circumstances.

What are you waiting for? On the next sunny spring day, try walking barefoot for yourself and let yourself be surprised how pleasant the newly gained foot space feels!


For adolescents in particular, walking barefoot is very important for healthy foot development. Parents should be careful to walk their own children barefoot as often as possible when circumstances permit.

The exercises in the video train your foot muscles and are a good basis for walking barefoot:

Robin Hofbauer

I am a sports scientist and also a trainer for the areas of fitness training, back training, Nordic walking and aqua aerobics. I do a healthy mix of many different sports, but my favorite is weight training. My motto: "Invent yourself. And then reinvent yourself."