The “bare ankle” trend that filtered down from the catwalk to the sidewalk may look stylish, but medical experts warn that wearing shoes without socks carries a health risk.
As a matter of fact, the sans socks trend has sparked a fungal epidemic among young “trendy” men.
Other than the sweat and the smell, wearing shoes, sneakers, and training pumps without the soft furnishing of protective socks, ultimately develops into gross foot complaints and lessens the shelf life of your footwear.
Furthermore, foot fungus means, itchiness, soreness, tenderness and other irritating sensations you can well do without. Foot infections and fungal growth are widespread, but you can reduce the risk by wearing socks at appropriate times and taking good care of your feet.
However, there are times when it’s best not to wear socks, too.
Table of Contents:
- 1 What Are the Benefits of Not Wearing Socks?
- 1.1 Importance of Wearing Socks
- 1.2 Wearing Sneakers without Socks
- 1.3 What’s the Point of Socks?
- 1.4 Is It Better to Run with or without Socks?
- 1.5 Is It OK to Exercise without Shoes?
- 1.6 10 Reasons Why Wearing Socks with Shoes Matters
- 1.7 Do Socks Make Feet Sweatier During the Summer?
- 1.8 Read Our Latest Posts:
What Are the Benefits of Not Wearing Socks?
Biomechanically speaking, the human body is designed to walk around barefoot. The shape of your feet is designed to stretch, and your ankles, knees, and hips respond to the dynamic feedback from your feet.
When you are in the house, garden, beach or other environments that are conducive for walking barefoot without causing pain or injury to the soles, going shoeless and sockless provides your feet with benefits – not to mention helping you to connect to the natural energy lines of the earth.
Although one of the principal functions of socks is to soak up moisture secreted from the sweat glands in your feet, the warmth socks provide can also make your feet sweat. When feet are unable to breathe, they are at risk of developing fungal infections.
Skin also needs to breathe, and a shoe and sock combo is suffocating. To take the best care of your feet, it is good practice to remove your shoes and socks when you get the opportunity so the skin can be cooled and replenished with oxygen.
However, your feet are going to sweat regardless, and it is not always possible to walk around barefoot.
Importance of Wearing Socks
On average, your feet sweat about half a pint a day. With the combination of stuffy shoe fabrics to sop up some of the moisture, shoes create a breeding ground for germs and bacteria.
The vast majority of modern shoes are made from fabrics that prevent your feet from breathing adequately. This is particularly the case in men’s shoes which typically have leather or suede fabrics and lining made from synthetic materials.
When your feet sweat but are unable to breathe, the moisture, heat, and bacteria become trapped inside the shoe. This is what causes your shoes, and your feet to smell.
- Important: The College of Podiatry has issued a warning that not wearing socks with shoes increases the risk of developing foot-related ailments such as infections and fungal diseases like athlete’s foot.
The extent of potential foot problems depends on the amount of sweat you produce. Ironically, not wearing socks makes feet perspire more which creates more moisture and can leave your feet vulnerable to fungal infections. It is therefore vital to wear socks that are designed for sweaty feet.
What is important to note is that your feet are going to perspire regardless. If you don’t wear socks, the sweat that comes pouring out of your shoes leaves residue in the shoe lining. This makes your shoes smell and breeds bacteria. This creates more havoc for your feet.
There are also financial implications. When perspiration is left to manifest in your shoes, it makes them smell and degrade quicker, this you need to replace them more regularly. Socks absorb sweat, and this slows down the wear and tear process.
Wearing Sneakers without Socks
The feet have 250,000 sweat glands that secrete an average of half a pint a day. This amount is increased when you are engaged in physical exercise. Most sports footwear is ill-prepared to manage the amount of fluid that spills from your feet despite the claims made by sports manufacturers.
While sneakers that are specifically designed for running and other sports activities are made from fabrics that intend to ventilate the feet and absorb moisture, they are not equipped to manage the amount of sweat intake you generate if you’re wearing sneakers without socks.
All sneakers need replacing eventually of course, but wearing socks protects them from accruing sweat which dry’s out and stiffens in the lining. This makes the sneakers bend out of shape and aggravate your feet, which in turn, has a negative impact on comfort and performance.
Not only will wearing sneakers without socks cause damage to your feet, but they also look unsightly. When the sweat stains cling to the inside fabrics, they are difficult to wash out and eventually develop mold. This not only looks unsightly but causes a terrible stench that, in certain situations, would be somewhat embarrassing.
What’s the Point of Socks?
The debate between sock or no sock dragged on for several years before tests conducted by the college of podiatry laid to rest the claims of the no-socks brigade.
Even though it is clinically proven that socks help to protect your feet from fungal infections and other foot ailments, the question regarded the need for socks is a persistent one.
In a sense, the question is understandable. Socks are an enigma; the patterns, colors, and fabrics are a fashion statement, but not wearing socks with shoes is also regarded as a fashion statement.
Some men find the European tradition of wearing shoes sans socks a stylish and trendy statement. And there is an argument that no-socks do look better at times – such as with shorts, for example.
It also feels unnatural to wear socks in warm weather. Is the point of socks not to keep your feet warm? Surely wearing sock is the summer will make your feet sweat even more.
Well, yes and no.
In hot weather, your feet sweat even more than usual, and as medical research concludes, socks are needed to absorb perspiration. They ultimately provide your feet with the protection they need to prevent you from developing fungal infections and denigrating your shoes.
Different types of socks also perform various functions. For example, compression socks aid blood circulation and allow blood to flow back to the heart. This will reduce swelling, aches, and fatigue in the legs and eliminate the potential for contracting cramp.
Socks made with soft natural fibers work best such as merino wool and cashmere. Cotton is also a suitable material for everyday wear, but not when playing sports or other strenuous activities such as hill walking.
Although natural fabrics are more expensive than socks made with artificial fibers, the natural materials perform better when absorbing perspiration thus are most useful for everyday wear.
Furthermore, socks made from natural materials protect the lining of your footwear from gathering too much moisture which makes them easier to clean and stay fresh for longer.
Some shoes, especially when new, rub against the contours of your feet, particularly near bones such as the big toe, little toe, heel, and ankle. This can make shoes very uncomfortable to wear and cause painful chafing, bunions and ingrown toenails.
Wearing socks with new shoes protects your feet from scuffing and reduces the chances of you developing blisters, not to mention the sweaty feet syndrome you’ve mustered by the time you get home.
- Pro Tip: According to Healthline, wearing socks at night has benefits too. They help keep the core temperature of your body cool, moisten the feet to improve crack heels and increase blood circulation to decrease the risk of a Raynaud’s attack.
Although medical experts recommend wearing socks, on occasions where you don’t want to, there are measures you can take to reduce the amount of sweat your feet emit.
Putting talcum powder on your feet and spraying heavy-duty antiperspirant in your shoes and on your feet will help reduce the amount of moisture, and inserting dry tea bags on the instep and lining overnight will absorb some of the perspiration. It is also recommended to give your shoes at least 48 hours to dry out, so don’t wear shoes for two consecutive days or more.
Is It Better to Run with or without Socks?
Any professional athlete or experienced fitness enthusiast will tell you that the first step in a training program is to have appropriate footwear with a comfortable fit. The purpose of this is to protect your legs and feet from injury and help improve your performance.
Socks are equally important because of their ability to protect your feet and give your foot more support in the running shoe. However, experts also say that in sporting environments, it is pertinent to wear the right type of sock.
The first rule is no cotton socks or foot gloves made from artificial fibers. Although cotton socks absorb sweat, they do not dry out and can cause a slippy-grip underfoot. Synthetic socks made of acrylic or lycra work best.
Depending on the activity and the surface, the type of socks you are wearing can make an impact.
Cross country runners that like to go off-track through rocky hills and uneven terrain with thorns and nettles are wise to wear woolen socks that protect the balls and heels of your feet together with your ankles.
Although most running shoes are lined with ventilated fabrics that allow your feet to breathe, they are not resistant to a build of sweat.
Running without shoes will, therefore, degrade the inner lining of your running shoes and cause the material to break. The holes will then rub against your feet, ankles, and heels and cause chafing, blisters, and corns.
Furthermore, by running sockless, your feet produce more sweat which ultimately increases the chances of you developing a foot fungus, such as athlete’s foot.
Is It OK to Exercise without Shoes?
Exercising without footwear may feel liberating and in the right conditions is healthy for your feet. However, the decision to wear shoes or not depends on the activity you are doing.
Although it is natural to go barefoot when playing football on the beach, for example, you endanger damaging your feet by kicking a leather ball and chafing your foot with gritty sand. This can cause a rash, and your feet will feel uncomfortable when you do put shoes on.
- Point of Interest: In the 1980’s, South African athlete Zola Budd inspired people to run without shoes. Some modern physiologists are inclined to agree with her. Evolutionary biologists argue running shoes alter the stride and create an unnatural heel-first gait.
Wearing shoes also weaken the arches of the feet. Exercising barefoot is shown to strengthen the muscles and improve arches.
It is also believed that people that exercise without footwear suffer fewer strains and injuries such as shin splints and plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the heel. However, more research is needed.
Barefoot exercise does come with risks, though. Without the protection of shoes, there is a higher risk of cutting and puncturing wounds in your feet which carry the threat of infection.
Research has also shown that exercising barefoot causes bone marrow edema and stress fractures over the long term.
Walking on soft surfaces every day is an effective way of toughening the soles of your feet. Light exercises such as stretching, yoga, tai chi and qi-gong are best performed without shoes, but sports that involve running or applying heavy pressure to your feet such as tennis or badminton is hard on the bones and more likely to cause injury.
10 Reasons Why Wearing Socks with Shoes Matters
Now we’ve established that socks should be worn with shoes and sneakers and appropriate footwear is advisable for most exercise activities, let’s take a brief look at the reasons why you should wear socks with shoes.
Protection from Germs
Public places are breeding grounds for germs. Walking barefoot in swimming baths, changing rooms, airports and office carpets can attach to your feet and infest your skin or open wound.
UNF biologists have found fungus, virus, staph and even ecoli lurking around public spaces where people are often barefoot. Ecoli is caused by feces and if the infection gets into an open sore can be very nasty.
Protection from Injury
Wearing shoes not only keeps your feet safe from germs but also from debris that could cause a cut or puncture wound. Socks protect your feet and ankles from debris that might get into your shoes such as small pieces of grit or broken glass.
Fungi are present alongside various bacteria and thrive in warm, moist environments.
Wearing shoes without socks creates a breeding ground for bacteria which can cause a fungal infection of the toenails (onychomycosis).
Fungal infections also cause athlete’s foot which is the most common type of foot complaint in people that wear shoes without socks.
Signs of athlete’s foot start with itching and peeling skin between the toes but can spread to other areas and cause a red, scaly rash that is sensitive to the touch and causes stinging, itching and burning. Start using the best athlete’s foot cream as soon as possible.
When feet are confined to tight-fitting shoes, sweat does not evaporate properly and seeps into the lining of your shoes. The perspiration then becomes infused with bacteria which creates fatty acids that give off an unpleasant odor.
When you don’t wear socks, your feet release more sweat, and without soft fabric to soak up the moisture, the sweat is absorbed into the fabric of the shoe which precipitates back into your skin.
Once the bacteria are in your skin, eliminating smelly feet becomes more difficult, and subsequently more embarrassing.
Along with the head and hands, the feet are a primary outlet of heat for your entire body. Keeping your feet warm in cold weather also helps keep the core temperature of your body warm.
Blisters are a reaction to rubbing, friction, and burns. They are the body’s natural defensive mechanism to protect the skin from further damage and promote healing.
Wearing shoes without socks are typical causes of blisters because the fabrics rub against the exposed skin which is too tender to cope with persistent rubbing.
Corns and Calluses
The constant friction of bare skin against footwear makes the skin dry, cracked and chafed. Not only does this irritate the skin and cause pain, the prolonged rubbing of shoe fabrics against bare skin results in corns and calluses.
Corns are a build-up of hard skin around the toes and calluses are a skin abnormality on the heel or sole of your foot. Both are painful and unsightly, but can easily be avoided by wearing socks. This can help to prevent foot calluses due to the persistent aggravation of your skin.
- Fact: There are 250,000 sweat glands in the feet. During exercise, the glands are working overtime because of the amount of heat you are generating. The feet are one of the centers for controlling body temperature.
If you are engaged in a sporting activity that requires a lot of energy, your feet will produce a lot of sweat which then soaks into the fabric of your sneakers and eventually creates a slippery surface underfoot.
As a result, your grip is weakened which ultimately impacts on your performance, especially when playing sports that require you to be quick off your heels such as tennis, football or basketball. Even when you’re out walking, a sweaty shoe can make you lose your footing.
Socks keep your feet snug and warm, protecting your skin from chafing or paddling round in a shoe full of sweat. Wearing socks helps keep moisture levels to a minimum and maintains comfort levels for longer.
Do Socks Make Feet Sweatier During the Summer?
In an interview with Cosmopolitan magazine, Podiatrist Dina Gohil says wearing socks that are appropriate for the environment, weather and activity will help reduce sweat during the summer season. Ideally, the material should be a synthetic blend.
One of the causes of sweaty and smelly feet is wearing the wrong type of footwear and sock in warm conditions. Shoes with plastic or synthetic fabric linings are not a good option because they do not allow sweat to evaporate normally, nor do they absorb perspiration.
You will experience the same problem with synthetic socks. Cotton and nylon socks do not absorb much moisture before becoming sodden, and all-woolen socks tend to become clammy.
The solution is to wear socks made from 60% wool and 40% man-made fibers. If you are playing sports in the summer, buy socks with ventilation panels that are specifically designed to absorb moisture. There are specialist antifungal socks that you can wear.
The summer heat will naturally make your feet sweat more. You may, therefore, want to consider investing in some anti-bacterial, fresh-feet socks that contain chemicals to discourage odor-producing bacteria.
While socks won’t prevent your feet from sweating more in the summer, they are needed to absorb perspiration. By not wearing socks you are inviting bacteria to make a home in your shoes and create foul-smelling odors.
On occasions where you feel socks are not needed, treat your feet with antiperspirant and talc to absorb the moisture, and leave teabags in your shoes overnight to absorb the excess moisture. And always change your socks every day.