Some of the things we do every day are damaging our feet. Here are the surprising dangers, according to podiatrist Phil Vasyli:

  • To start, simply walking barefoot at home, on hard, flat surfaces, can cause damage. That’s because our feet were designed to walk on soft surfaces, like dirt, sand or grass, that give way. Think about walking on wet sand, your heel sinks in, and your arch is supported by the surrounding sand. But when we walk on bare floors, it causes unnatural stress on the structure of our feet, and that can trigger heel and knee pain. And socks aren’t enough to stop it from happening. You’re better off wearing shoes with arch support at home if you have hard floors.

  • Another surprising foot danger? Ballet flats and flip flops. Because they don’t have any arch support, they allow the foot to roll inward beyond the normal range of motion, so when you take a step, you’re pushing off from your big toe, instead of all your toes. That can cause everything from knee pain, to shin splits, to painful inflammation in your feet.

  • Another way we’re damaging our feet: Being overweight. Even just a little. It raises the risk of tendon inflammation and osteoarthritis. That’s because excess weight puts stress on our feet with every step. Dr. Vasyli recommends extremely heavy people start with exercise that doesn’t put pressure on the feet, like cycling, swimming, rowing or yoga, instead of a walking or running program.

And here’s one way to reduce foot pain: Stretch your calves. Dr. Vasyli says every time you walk up a flight of stairs, take a minute to pause on a step and stretch each heel down for 30 seconds. It’ll nip foot and lower leg pain in the bud.