Going barefoot may help arthritis sufferers

By Tom Nordlie • Published: January 5th, 2007
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Going barefoot can be fun, but sometimes it’s downright dangerous.

Who’d want to brave broken glass, steaming pavement or icy weather without shoes?

But bare feet may actually reduce one health risk.

According to a study published recently in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism, going shoeless reduces harmful joint stress in people with osteoarthritis of the knee.

Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage that cushions joints is gradually worn down, causing inflammation and pain. It affects more than twenty million Americans.

Previous research has suggested that unusual joint stress can worsen osteoarthritis of the knee. If that’s true, then reducing stress should keep knees healthier.

In the study, researchers used sophisticated equipment to record the movements of seventy-five osteoarthritis patients as they walked with and without shoes.

The results showed patients experienced twelve percent less inward torque on the knee while barefoot. Inward rotation of the hip was eleven percent lower and outward rotation was ten percent lower when subjects went shoeless.

The researchers concluded that modern shoe design might make people twist their knees and hips as they walk.

One possible culprit is the elevated heel, which alters balance and weight distribution. Another is the stiff sole, which prevents feet from flexing naturally.

Many questions remain unaswered. For example, whether osteoarthritis may CAUSE joints to twist unnaturally.

But if the study’s basic conclusion is right, osteoarthritis sufferers may want to go shoeless when conditions permit.

And hey, moccasins are about due for a comeback, right?