Barefoot is the most common term for the state of not wearing any footwear. Wearing footwear is an exclusively human characteristic, however some animals held by humans are also issued with footwear, such as horses and, more rarely dogs and cats. There are health benefits and some risks associated with going barefoot. Footwear provides protection from cuts, abrasions, bruises, and impacts from objects on the ground or the ground texture itself, as well as from frost or heat burns, and parasites like hookworm in extreme situations. However, shoes can limit the flexibility, strength, and mobility of the foot and can lead to higher incidences of flexible flat foot, bunions, hammer toe, and Morton's neuroma. Walking & running barefoot results in a more natural gait, allowing for a more rocking motion of the foot, eliminating the hard heel strike and therefore generating less collision force in the foot and lower leg. There are many sports that are performed barefoot, most notably gymnastics and martial arts, but also beach volleyball, barefoot running, barefoot hiking, and water skiing. In modern language, someone who tends not to wear shoes in public or is participating in the aforementioned sports may be described as a barefooter.
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