While shoes are designed to help the foot imitate a natural walking motion, only walking barefoot can accomplish a truly natural motion. Walking barefoot, either around the home or in other settings, can help strengthen the foot, straighten and tone the bones and muscles of the foot, and help develop new muscles in the foot. Making a habit out of walking barefoot in the home can even help relieve stress and regulate body temperature, especially in warm conditions. By walking more naturally and improving the motion of the foot, one can improve his or her balance as well, and in some cases correct flat feet.
Walking barefoot in public can be a hazard, however, as more debris is present on sidewalks and other public areas. The foot is directly exposed to such debris, and one may become injured after stepping on something sharp. The injury is then at risk for infection, so walking barefoot in public may not be the best idea, especially for someone new to the practice who has not developed protective calluses on his or her feet. Even walking barefoot around the home poses risks, so one should be sure to walk only in areas that are relatively clean and safe if possible, and to wash his or her feet regularly.
The benefits of walking barefoot are significant enough that the risks may well be worth it, at least around the home. The barefoot walking motion encourages more movement among the muscles in the foot, which helps circulate more blood through the foot, ankle, and lower legs. Muscles that may not get used regularly when a shoe is worn begin to flex and become stronger, which can improve balance and body alignment. Barefoot walking can further help correct poor posture, limps, and other maladies by promoting correct walking mechanics. The body will essentially realign itself and help the legs move more naturally.
Barefoot walking can also help improve agility and lower stress. More muscles begin to work to steady the body during barefoot walking, meaning there are more muscles to help propel the body in different directions quickly. The mind often associates barefoot walking with relaxation, since most people are only regularly barefoot during periods of relaxation. The foot becomes more sensitive to textures, meaning that pleasant textures such as cool grass or a soft carpet can help relax the mind and soothe the body. Walking barefoot also reduces pain in the feet and ankles, meaning the body has less pain to focus on and more pleasant sensations.