Fuzzy slippers are cute and cozy in the cold months, but are they doing more harm than good?
Outside shoes aren’t allowed in my house, which was the case in my parents’ house growing up and now in the house I share with my husband. Because of this, I’m a big slippers person and almost always wear them around the house.
But it has recently occurred to me that, because I work from home, I’m spending my days almost exclusively wearing house slippers, gripping my toes into their footbeds and flip-flopping around the house with abandon. Is this going to be bad for my foot health in the long run? I talked to two podiatrists to get their input on the matter and, surprisingly, it’s mostly good news for slipper fans.
House slippers can be helpful for people with foot issues
“I’m always promoting indoor house shoes,” Saylee Tulpule, a podiatrist at Foot and Ankle Specialists of the Mid-Atlantic, told HuffPost. “For certain pedal issues, such as plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis or metatarsalgia, I recommend patients wear an indoor house sandal or slipper in order to provide arch support, cushion in the ball of the foot and general comfort.”
When I brought up my concerns about my frequent slipper use and rarely spending any time barefoot, Tulpule explained that wearing an indoor house slipper or sandal won’t necessarily weaken the intrinsic muscles or joints of the foot or ankle. Most of her treatment plans for patients, in fact, involve a foot and ankle conditioning program (which often includes stretching and strengthening exercises) in conjunction with wearing proper footwear.
Ultimately, your feet will determine what is best to wear around the house. “If someone has foot problems and pain, it’s best to wear supportive shoes with socks, even inside the home,” said Wenjay Sung, a podiatrist at Global Podiatry Partners at Methodist Hospital in Los Angeles. “If someone has no foot problems, barefoot is acceptable.” He added that for most Americans, wearing slippers around the house is the safest option, as a well-designed slipper will provide support and protection for the foot, in addition to providing flexibility and comfort.
But if you’re prone to foot problems, avoid this one style
Since toe gripping can lead to plantar fasciitis and muscle spasms, it’s important to find a slipper that fits well. Backless slippers like slides aren’t as secure as a slipper that goes around your entire foot, and they can potentially lead to foot issues (but not always). “I usually tell my patients to avoid slides for this reason,” Tulpule said.
Sung explained that toe gripping is a sign of a fit or sizing issue. “Toes grip to secure the position of the foot into an oversized sandal, and if a person finds themselves in this position, often it’s recommended to start fresh and find a more fitting type of sandal [or slipper],” he said. “Toe gripping can lead to plantar fasciitis because the muscles tensing the toes can also tighten the plantar fascia ligament, leading to inflammation and eventual strain.”
Here’s what to look for in a quality slipper
Like other categories of footwear, you’ll find a range of options in terms of price, material and design. In the cooler months, a fuzzy pair of slippers is definitely appealing, but it’s important to look for certain qualities to help ensure they’ll be comfortable to wear.
Sung said the best house slippers provide support, calling out brands like FitFlop and Vionic. “These slippers are designed to take the pressure off the toes so there is no excessive gripping and provide increased stability compared to barefoot.” While wearing slippers shouldn’t hurt your feet, certain designs may provide better comfort and support.
Vionic is also among Tulpule’s recommended brands for house slippers and sandals. She also suggests Spenco, Oofos, Chaco, L.L.Bean and Birkenstock. When shopping for house slippers, she recommends looking for something with a breathable material (like sheepskin or wool) that keeps your feet warm and comfortable. An anti-slip rubber sole is also good to have, and an orthotic footbed is a big plus. “An orthotic footbed provides arch support, a deep heel and cushion in the ball of the foot,” she said.
Here’s what to avoid when slipper shopping
Steer clear of house shoes with slippery soles (to avoid accidental slips and falls) and non-breathable synthetic fabrics. Tulpule said slippers made with non-breathable materials can make your feet hot, trap sweat and increase your chance of getting athlete’s foot or toenail fungus. If your feet are moving around too much in the slipper, that’s also a red flag.
Sung added that house shoes that lack support will put pressure on the toes and muscles in the foot and cause excessive gripping from the toes, leading to pain and other issues. Indicators that you’re not wearing proper footwear around the house include pain, blisters and calluses. “If a corn forms at the end of the toes, there could be excessive gripping by the toes. This indicates that the shoe is causing the foot to overexert itself,” he said. “Blisters are another warning sign, especially when there is excessive sweat and rubbing on pressure points to the foot.” If you’re experiencing either of these, it’s time to get rid of your slippers and find something else.
Whether you like wearing slippers or walking around barefoot, find what works best for your feet
As far as slippers versus bare feet go, Sung said there’s no hard rule for barefoot or house slippers, and he recommends people try both. “If your home has hardwood or tiles, slippers may be a better option to provide comfort and support, especially in the cold of winter,” he said. “If your home has carpet or rugs, barefoot is a great option as well.” In short, do what makes you (and your feet) happy.
Here are some picks from the podiatrists’ favorite brands
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