I've been watching the Discovery Channel series Dual Survival, which features primitive skills expert Cody Lundin, who hasn't worn shoes for 20 years. He is paired with Army-trained survival expert Dave Canterbury (who wears modern footwear).† On each episode they mention research that says that humans who didn't wear footwear had fewer foot problems than our modern shoe-wearing societies.
There aren't a lot of studies, but there are a few significant ones.† One studied the feet of 180 modern skeletons and compared them to 2000 year-old skeletons of a barefoot society.† The results were, "The pathological lesions found in the metatarsals of the three recent human groups generally appeared to be more severe than those found in the pre-pastoral group. This result may support the hypothesis that pathological variation in the metatarsus was affected by habitual behaviour including the wearing of footwear and exposure to modern substrates."† In other words, wearing shoes and walking on modern floors, streets and sidewalks is associated with more foot problems seen in skeletons.
Source: B. Zipfela, L.R. Bergerab, "Shod versus unshod: The emergence of forefoot pathology in modern humans?" The Foot. Volume 17, Issue 4, Pages 205-213 (December 2007)
On a recent episode, Cody gave in and fashioned "Jerusalem Cruisers" out of a tire and a seatbelt strap to help him get across a sharp volcanic rockfield.† Can't fault him for that.
Another study found that going barefoot decreased the stress on knee and hip joints for patients with osteoarthritis.† I wonder whether that was primarily due to gait changes or due to just not having an extra half pound to a pound of weight on each foot.† I will continue to encourage everyone to wear lighter-weight shoes and not attach ankle weights.
Source: Shakoor N, Block JA (2006). "Walking barefoot decreases loading on the lower extremity joints in knee osteoarthritis". Arthritis Rheum. 54 (9): 2923-7. doi:10.1002/art.2212
I've always gone barefoot or in stocking feet around the house.† But. except for on a sandy beach, I otherwise wear shoes outside the house.†† And I have a review from a friend who tried the Vibram FiveFingers shoes that take nearly-barefoot to a whole new level.
Barefoot Running Pros and Cons from our Sports Medicine Guide explores issues that probably also apply to walking barefoot.
Do you enjoy walking barefoot?† For how far?