What Are Common Causes of Foot Pain at Home?

Walking around barefoot on hard floors can lead to foot problems

A person walking on their toes on hardwood floor at home, illustrating that this could be damaging to your feet.

Walking around barefoot on hard floors can lead to foot problems

The pandemic has taken a toll on many aspects of physical and emotional health, some more obvious than others. While working from home has its advantages, one disadvantage may surprise you: stress on your feet.

“So many people have been hunkered down at home for the past year, and when you’re home, you often go barefoot,” says Gregory Clark, DPM, who heads the podiatry division at Scripps Clinic

“Most people nowadays have hard floors, whether wood, laminate or tile,” he continues. “What we’re seeing as a result is a higher incidence of some of the more common foot conditions, like plantar fasciitis — an inflammation of the ligament on the bottom of the foot — and capsulitis, a bruising of the foot joints. We’re also seeing more back and knee pain.”

Walking barefoot

Dr. Clark says the explanation for many foot problems is simple mechanics: “Your foot is your body’s shock absorber. When you’re not wearing shoes, your foot may be in maximal pronation — completely flat — and it can’t absorb shock, so all of that shock goes to your knees and eventually your back. I like to say that walking barefoot is like walking on stilts, rather than walking on a pogo stick.”

Shoes without proper support

Gravity, he says, also takes its toll. While foot pain doesn’t necessarily correlate with age, it does increase with mileage. 

“The impact of movement on your feet takes its toll over time,” he says, adding that many people start to experience foot pain in their mid-40s, especially if they’ve been active their whole life. 

“Just like your car, if you’ve been driving a lot of miles over bumpy roads; your feet are the same way. The strain of gravity is cumulative, and if you’ve been wearing shoes without proper support — or going barefoot or in socks on hard surfaces — you’ll eventually have problems down the road.”

Protect your feet

To relieve the strain and add more support while you’re spending more time at home, especially on floors that aren’t carpeted, Dr. Clark recommends wearing a sandal with arch support or a house shoe with a simple, over-the-counter orthotic insert to absorb the shock. 

Finally, on top of avoiding going barefoot on hard surfaces as much as possible, the best way to protect your feet is to pay attention to them. 

“One of the main things we notice is that most people tend to ignore their feet until they hurt,” Dr. Clark says, adding that the pandemic created another barrier to foot care by preventing or discouraging people from getting routine pedicures. 

“At least then, someone is looking at your feet, and if you have a bad nail or a skin crack, someone will see that and direct you to see your doctor,” he continues, adding that he’s seen an increase in ingrown nails and foot infections. 

To prevent issues, Dr. Clark suggests “putting a good hydrating lotion on your feet every day, the same way you’d moisturize your face or your body after a shower. This will help bring your attention to your feet, so if there’s a problem, you’ll notice it before it gets worse.”

San Diego Health June 2021 Issue

This content appeared in San Diego Health, a publication in partnership between Scripps and San Diego Magazine that celebrates the healthy spirit of San Diego.