The warm weather of summertime invites less clothing and open footwear like sandals and flip-flops. Many people, however, find even the thin rubber thong of a flip-flop between their toes to be too restrictive and immediately shed these toe shackles as soon as their feet reach the safety of an open expanse of grass.
But according to some doctors, the freeing and enjoyable practice of walking barefoot – reminiscent of of the carefree summers of youth – is something we should take more care in doing, or perhaps not even do at all.
According to Dr. Judith Hellman, a New York City based dermatologist:
“When you go barefoot, you are exposing yourself beyond what you really need to.”
Besides the hazards that you can see in the grass (if you pay close attention while frolicking), like rusty nails and pieces of glass, doctors caution about invisible bacteria. If given the right environment, these bacteria can penetrate your skin’s natural barrier and cause infection. For example, people with compromised immune systems, or with cuts or broken skin on their feet, are more susceptible to the fungus that causes athlete’s foot and the virus that causes plantar warts.
But even if you don’t fall into the category of people who are more susceptible to the bacteria in grass, just walking in damp grass can take away your skin’s defenses as well. New York dermatologist Dr. Giuseppe Militello said:
“It resides in the grass and earth, you pick it up and it festers in your shoes. I think the best thing to do is to wear sandals or flip-flops or to just not get your feet wet. And when you do get your feet wet, thoroughly dry them before putting your shoes back on.”
So, going barefoot isn’t a major threat to your health, but keeping in mind the ways to avoid infection will allow you to more thoroughly enjoy one of summer’s greatest pastimes.
If you do develop a skin condition, find a dermatologist near you with the Vitals Doctor Finder.