Getty Images Is it ever OK to walk around barefoot? If the alternative is walking around in flimsy flip-flops, then yes. While a barefoot-style running shoe doesn't have much cushioning, for everyday wear it beats a cheap, unstable flip-flop, says Megan Leahy, MD.
"A barefoot shoe completely encloses the foot, but a flip-flop doesn't stay on by itself," Dr. Leahy explains. "With any shoe that doesn't properly grip the heel, you're gripping your toes to keep it on, which can lead to hammertoes, plantar fasciitis, and tendinitis in general." But if you're considering barefoot shoes as an alternative to a more shock-absorbing running shoe, use caution: When you're used to the extra support of super-cushioned running shoes, your joints may not be able to handle the impact of going nearly-bare. "I've actually seen a fair amount of injuries as a result of this," Dr. Leahy says.
Make the switch to a barefoot running style slowly: Start by walking in barefoot style shoes first, then gradually add in a few short runs a week, giving your body and feet time to adjust to the lost support.