Foot health

21 December 2010

Barefoot in the city

Here at Health24 we took a look at the little hazards that can happen when walking around the city streets barefoot.

Feeling the beach sand between your toes and the grass beneath your feet feels great. Exponents of barefoot living argue that if we weren’t so prissy about it, we could and should spend a lot more time barefoot. Proven health benefits include some relief from back and joint pain; and the development of stronger and more flexible feet.

Just because walking barefoot is natural, doesn’t mean the floors we walk on are. Unlike nature, the streets are paved with filth: just taking a walk around the block is enough to cake your soles with gunk made of oil, chemical fallout from air pollution, human spit -which could carry TB one of the world’s most notorious killer diseases, lavish traces of animal and human excrement, and any number of other elements you don’t really want to take home.

  • In any city, shattered glass is a factor in parks and beaches, but more so on streets and pavements; and even the smallest glass shard can cause an injury which, if not looked after, can lead to infection.
  • Nails, thumb tacks, needles and spikes are the collective nemesis of bare feet. Apart from the pain, scarring is highly likely. Needles and ill disposed syringes can spread infections; and there are some scary viruses out there.
  • However nothing can compare to the annoyance of a splinter or thorn. It  might not be the most painful, but removing the irritant is often very difficult, and gets harder as infection leads to swelling and reddening.
  • Sharp rocks aren’t as common in the city as it in the countryside, but loose tiles, chipped cement and sharp edges are.

  • First of all diabetics should never go outside without shoes on. Diabetes can cause the nerves on the soles of the feet to become numb, mean pain can go unnoticed. If this happens, it’s potentially the beginning of something ugly: gangrene and foot ulcers are common problems. Diabetes also affects the blood supply, meaning injuries take longer to heal.
  • Although extremely rare it is possible to become infected with HIV should you stand on a needle that has recently been infected.
  • Gangrene is a bacterial infection that causes the living tissues around it to die. It sets in when a deep cut becomes infected, and that infection is left to fester. The cure is radical: the affected area has to be amputated to stop it spreading.
  • Foot ulcers are extremely painful and may take years of therapy before they’re resolved. They’re caused when there is a lack of blood supply to the leg or foot, infection or a trauma to the foot.


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.