Warning: Hardwood Floors Might be Bad for Your Feet

File:Red Pink Orange rainbow toesocks.jpg

For the past year or so, I've been having pain in my right foot, specifically in the region between my big and second toe. The pain came and went, always getting worse in the summer months. I blamed flip-flops, that is until went to a local, well-respected shoe store chain that has podiatrists on staff. (How cool is that?) On this particular visit, the said on-staff podiatrist that day came up to me and asked if I was having any specific foot issues. After I said I was, we engaged in a very eye-opening discussion, which went something like this:

Me, pointing to where it hurts: I think it's from occasional flip-flop use.

Dr. Foot, raising his eyebrow: Let's take a look. Hmm. Looks like your toes are out of alignment.

Me: Out of alignment! From wearing flip-flops??

Dr. Foot: Not necessarily. It could be heredity or....

Me: Or what?

Dr. Foot: Does your house have a lot of hard wood and tile?

Me: Why...yes.

Dr. Foot: I tell all my patients that have such floors to get a pair of house shoes.

Me: So if I start wearing shoes in the house, the pain will go away?

Dr. Foot: Well, you need to get those toes back into alignment first. You can go to a chiropractor that specializes in extremities or you can try popping them into alignment yourself. (He told me how; basically pulling gently but firmly on each toe.)

Me: Great! So that will fix it?

Dr. Foot: Yes, but if you don't start wearing shoes in the house, they'll just go back out of alignment.

This explained so much. My pain became worse in the summer, not necessarily because of flip-flops but because I ran around the house barefooted sans even the flimsiest slippers for cushion. I left the shoe store that day with a pair of super cute and comfy Keens with arch support

Later, when at home, I did as the doctor told me and popped my toes into alignment (no, it didn't hurt) and then slipped on my new Keens. Three days of wearing the shoes in the house, and occasionally checking my piggies to see if they needed to be popped into place, my pain was diminished considerably. Now, several weeks since I've been wearing shoes in the house, my toes rarely pop when I tug on them and the pain is gone completely. 

So, take heed. If your feet are achy, it might not be your shoes. It might be your floors. Try wearing shoes in the house for awhile and see what happens. You just might be surprised. And pain free. 


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Anonymous on Jun 15, 2015:

I love Merrell barefoot glove shoes. So comfortable and super cute. Wear them in house

Anonymous on Nov 08, 2012:

I usually wear flip flops or a pair of Dr.Scholl's in the house.  It's too uncomfortable otherwise (all wood and tile flooring).  I'm not crazy!

Anonymous on Nov 05, 2012:

I wonder if it's the lack of "cushion" or the fact the hardwood and tile floors have smooth surfaces which provide very little traction when walking. How do slick surfaces effect walking? Do feet and legs twist and turn while trying to propel us forward? What happens to the joints then?  Does this movement effect the back?
Shoes would provide traction and helping your feet "grip" the floor. Perhaps that's the main benefit?

Just wondering.

jlj5 on Oct 31, 2012:

I also tend to barefoot or flip flops in any & all situations I can get by with it (my feet are always HOT, even in winter).  I have hardwood floors, but chalked up my foot & lower back pain to getting older & cheap shoes.  At a friend's recommendation, I purchased a pair of Chaco flip flops & I swear by them!  I now wear my Chacos for housework, shopping, in the studio, even light hiking, and they have made all the difference.

Kristine on Oct 31, 2012:

I'm one of those folks! I wear minimalist shoes in all situtions where it is socially appropriate to do so, which for me translates to 85% of the time. When I first started wearign them my feet hurt, a lot. So I started paying attention to HOW I was walking, and that made a huge difference.

I find if I am in heels for any period of time (or even my old running shoes) my toes will go numb and my feet will hurt. It's an interesting topic that a lot of people have strong opinions on (I like the book "Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall). However, I can tell you that I am sold on "barefoot" shoes because my feet have never felt better (or stronger). As an aside -my whole house is hardwood and tile, and I only ever wear socks at most.

Kirsten on Oct 30, 2012:

We too have hardwoods everywhere and after my daughter was born I basically spent the next 4 months in the house wearing just socks or flip-flops. By month 4 my feet were killing me. I got some nice slippers with a good solid sole, and the pain was gone. Now I nearly always wear good slippers around the house.

Anonymous on Oct 30, 2012:

I'm always intrigued by stuff like this, predominantly because we (generally) are from North American countries where wearing shoes is the norm.  I recently watched a documentary that looked at North Americans and how we walk and run differently because we have worn shoes almost our whole lives and the muscles in our feet actually tend to be quite weak compared to a lot of other countries where wearing shoes isn't the norm until people are in their teens or even later.  

I basically grew up not wearing shoes, have never really liked them to be honest.  My feet may not be a sample of perfection in any way (I pronate and have extremely flat feet), but I have lived and walked on hardwood or tiles for almost my entire life without any problems.  In fact, I've spent the last two years almost exclusively walking barefoot on hardwood floors (I work from home). Interestingly, wearing runners that "correct" my pronation caused me the most problems and resulted in severe patellafemoral syndrome for a number of years.  

It really isn't a one size fits all solution, and definitely something that should be addressed and looked at on an individual basis.  Sometimes too the best way to fix a problem is to strengthen other muscles that are weak and are adding to the problem, that's why I love a good physiotherapist.


Anonymous on Oct 30, 2012:

I have the same problem and I went to my chiropractor yesterday. She said my foot does not have the correct arch in the front toes (where the toes meet the foot) and that was causing the problem. We didn't discuss wearing shoes inside the house (maybe because I was supposed to be doing this already, from a previously diagnosed plantar fasciitis problem), but fact is I had forgotten to keep wearing shoes in the house for the past couple of months, and that's when my toe pains began!  Thanks for this post though, I have taken note of the 'toe alignment' (my chiro did do a few tugs on my toe but did not say I could do it myself).

Aidel.K on Oct 30, 2012:

Interesting....really makes me wonder about the effects of minimalist shoes. Some folks wear them all day.

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