Health Gear

Barefoot Walking on Uneven Terrain Outside and Textured Mats Indoors for Stronger, Healthier Feet 

November 30, 2023
Textured Floor Mats

When you can’t spend enough time barefoot outdoors, add textured mats and a balance beam indoors to challenge your foot muscles daily. 

If I made a list of all the surfaces I walked on in a day, a typical day would probably read: carpet when I get out of bed, wood floors downstairs, concrete to and from the car, industrial flooring in the office, at the grocery store, and at the gym. What do they all have in common—they’re all flat, hard, and frankly, a bit boring for our feet.  

We live in an era where smooth surfaces and tight, constricting footwear dominate our daily lives. It’s like we’ve put our feet in solitary confinement, depriving them of the chance to flex those intrinsic muscles that are crucial for our stability and support.  

Walking over more diverse and challenging surfaces requires us to be more intentional by planning barefoot time in our backyard, at the beach, or out in nature. And when winter rolls around, it’s often unlikely that we’re going to spend enough time barefoot outdoors to give our feet what they really need to stay healthy and strong. 

So what can be done? Add more texture to your indoor spaces! Here I’ll share some of my favorite tools that can be easily added to your daily routine to give your feet a workout—and once they’re in place, you won’t even have to think about it! 

Benefits of Walking on Textured Surfaces and Uneven Terrain

Strengthens foot muscles: this is the obvious one and probably what got you thinking about the need for more texture indoors.  

During a study published in 2007 in the podiatry Journal “The Foot,” the researchers studied the feet from three different populations (Sotho, Zulu, and European) and compared them to the feet of 2,000 year old skeletons that were habitually unshod. They observed that the ancient population had the healthiest feet, followed by the modern Zulu population, which often goes barefoot. The habitually shod population, the Europeans, had the unhealthiest feet of the lot. This goes to both the fact that most modern footwear is unhealthy, and that there is a lot of benefit from walking barefoot over textured terrain. 

Improves joint mobility and strength: In a study about the biomechanics of walking on uneven terrain, researchers for that knee and hip mechanical work increased on uneven terrain. The best way to improve joint mobility is to use it! 

Stimulate your nerves: Besides working your muscles, walking over textured surfaces both indoors and out will stimulate your nerves. Your feet have over 200,000 nerve endings, and only walking on hard, flat, smooth surfaces provides very little stimulation. 

Tools to Add Floor Texture Indoors

There are a number of different tools out there to add texture to your floors. Of the ones we’ve tried, these are the ones we come back to again and again!

Muffik Floor Puzzles

We’ve had these textured floor mats for a little over a year and absolutely love them. Whenever a new friend comes over to play with my son, it’s always fun to see how much they love these mats. Our feet love texture!

These are Orthopedic puzzles designed to mimic surfaces found in nature. There is a range of options, from little logs, a bed of seashells, and tiny dots that feel like an acupressure mat.

You can get them from Barefoot Kids. Use code KELLY10 for 10% off.

Here are some other great options to add floor texture indoors:

Balance Beam

A balance beam is great for working on your balance (obviously), challenging your foot and ankle mobility, hip stability, and improving overall body awareness. Plus they’re fun! Magical Shoes has a “Move Magical” section on their website which lists several foot strengthening and mobility tools, including a balance beam. We’ve really like this one as it’s very versatile.

Use code KELLY10 for 10% off at Magical Shoes.

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