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Should you take your shoes off at home? Experts weigh in

Like to walk around barefoot? You might want to reconsider.
Artur Debat / Getty Images

While you might take pleasure in kicking off your shoes as soon as you get home and walking around barefoot (or just not putting shoes on in the first place if you're working from home), you can be doing some serious harm to your feet. According to experts, failing to support your feet for long periods of time can be damaging.

"I've been seeing a lot more [cases of] tendonitis and plantar fasciitis and generalized foot pain, I think, just from the lack of support and people just being in socks or just barefoot all day," Dr. Jacqueline Sutera, a New York City-based podiatrist and member of Vionic's Innovation Lab, tells Shop TODAY.

Though walking around barefoot may seem more comfortable and natural while you're at home, wearing some form of supportive footwear is better for your feet in the long run. Though, what kind of footwear? And when should you be wearing it? To find out exactly how best to take care of your feet indoors, we spoke to several experts. Read on below to find out what they say about which shoes to wear and when to wear them.

Do I need to wear shoes around the house?

According to experts, the answer comes down to time spent barefoot and on what surface.

Carpeted flooring, grass, sand and other soft surfaces can help increase circulation in your feet, which in turn "increases the nourishment of nerves, muscles, and bone of the foot and also helps minimize swelling of the lower extremities," Dr. Miguel Cunha, podiatrist and founder of Gotham Footcare in New York City, tells us in an email.

"Walking barefoot may also help improve the strength and flexibility of the muscles and ligaments of the foot improving the function of the feet ultimately reducing injuries of the feet and improving posture and balance of the body," Cunha adds.

However, if you're planning on spending a lot of time on hard surfaces or walking around, you should be supporting your feet.

To best understand, think back to high school physics, Sutera says. Since all of your body weight is pushing down on the ground, the ground must exert an equal and opposite reaction — essentially sandwiching your feet between your body and the floor and leading to foot pain.

"You're standing without anything between you and the floor. So you're relying on your foot to absorb the shock and you're using your own natural cushion with all of your body weight pushing down on that thin layer of fat," Sutera says. "So, the response is, your body gets this inflammatory, painful condition."

And no, just wearing socks instead of going completely barefoot doesn't make it any better.

"Wearing socks is the same as going barefoot," Sutera says. "I have found that when you're home a lot and you're home all day and working from home and just spending the majority of your time barefoot, that has been leading to foot problems and foot pain."

Is it OK to wear "outside" shoes inside the house?

Even though the experts say you should be wearing shoes inside, that doesn't mean all shoes are created equal. You should still be leaving your "outside" shoes at the door.

Taking off the shoes you wore outside once you get home is a good idea for sanitary reasons, according to Dr. Lisa Cuchara, a professor of biomedical sciences at the School of Health Sciences at Quinnipiac University. Especially if you live with someone who is immunocompromised or have little ones crawling around on the floors of your home.

Regardless of where you travel on foot, you're still bringing germs and allergens into your home each time you wear them in your house, Cuchara tells us via email, along with a particularly gross statistic.

"Fecal matter is something found on almost all shoes that have been worn for more than four weeks. Ick," Cuchara says. "More bacteria and more diarrheal causing bacteria is typically found on the bottom of your shoes than on a public toilet seat."

What is the best shoe to wear around the house?

When it comes to supportive footwear, a sneaker is likely the best thing for your foot, according to Dr. David S. Levine, a foot and ankle surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.

"It's accommodative on the upper, meaning it's not a narrow-pointed toe box that's squeezing your foot, it is often made of some semi-firm materials," Levine tells us, referring to most sneakers. "On the bottom side, it's supportive and has some proper balance of cushion and support."

Cunha does point out, though, if you wear a supportive sneaker as your house shoe, remember to not walk outside in them to avoid the transfer of germs from outside to inside.

If sneakers seem too restrictive or you just want to let your feet breathe while you're at home, Cunha recommends a good pair of sandals, "as they can feel just as comfortable if not even more than sneakers."

"Use of a good sandal indoors allows your feet to breathe and reduce the collection of moisture on the skin of your feet which can contribute to growth and spread of microorganisms such as bacteria, fungus, and warts," Cunha says. "This lightness and airiness of a sandal can feel alleviating and soothing."

Though whatever shoe you wear inside or outside of the house should have a good balance between comfort, structure and support, Levine says. Looking for a topographical footbed that contours to your foot, or a memory foam footbed can also help provide that balance.

If you're feeling encouraged to re-invest in your footwear, we've got you covered. With all of the above in mind, we searched for some of the top-rated shoes that meet the criteria described by our experts and rounded them up below.

Top-rated house shoes

Crocs Neria Pro II Work Clog

These clogs feature a fully-molded upper and removable, washable liners. According to the brand, they're designed for people who spend most of the day on their feet, including healthcare and retail workers, so they'll be able to easily support you from Zoom meeting to lunch prep and beyond.

Crocs Classic Clog

The Classic Clog is ventilated for breathability, has foam cushioning and also has a heel strap for extra support from the back. They're easy to clean, according to the brand, and come in dozens of colors.

Birkenstock Arizona Soft Slide Sandal

Birkenstocks are known for their molded cork footbeds that mimic the natural shape of the foot. They are also designed to support the instep and ball of your foot.

Teva Hurricane Drift Sandals

Teva's sandals might remind you of summertime, but they can provide support all year long around the house. They're designed with an injection-molded silhouette to support your foot and also feature hook-and-loop closure, which makes them easy to pop on and off.

Oofos Unisex OOriginal Recovery Thong Sandal

These sandals were designed to provide support and shock absorption to help sore feet and legs recover from tough runs and workouts — which is why we think they're perfect for wearing around the house, whether you got in a sweat session or not. Reviewers say that they provide "incredible comfort" and feel like "walking on clouds."

Hoka Kawana Sneakers

This sneaker from Hoka One One is designed for training, but since reviewers and even one TODAY editor say they're so comfortable, they can be a great house shoe, too. The mesh upper helps to make them breathable while the plush cushioned sole can soften the impact while you walk on any surface.

STQ Slip-On Mesh Walking Shoes

With cushioning, breathable fabric and a lightweight feel, the shoes seem perfect for anyone who wants to go the sneaker route. They also have a slip-on design so you can easily slip them off and put on your outside shoes when you're rushing out the door.