First of all, if you have diabetes, you should never go barefoot. Advanced diabetes can cause a progressive numbing of the feet, which is called peripheral neuropathy. This decrease in sensation can prevent you from feeling something you stepped on, such as a splinter of wood or glass, or even a nail. Often this will lead to infection and can progress to put the foot at risk for amputation. People with diabetes should always protect their feet with a shoe, house shoe, or slipper with firm sole.
If you do not have diabetes, there is some more leeway with this issue. The answer is more dependent on the type of floor you are walking on. For instance, a home with soft, plush carpeting should be fine to walk on barefoot. The carpeting will absorb shock from your feet and provide cushioning for long periods of standing.
We don't, however, have thick carpeting all over the house. In fact, it is a well established fact that most families spend most of the time in the kitchen. It is no coincidence that many gatherings in the home end up congregating in the kitchen. With few exceptions the kitchen is not carpeted.
So what if we stand on a ceramic tile kitchen floor? When we stand or walk on a hard surface, there are two types of forces involved. One is the force of the impact of your foot on the ground surface. There is then an equal and opposite force known as the "ground reactive force" sent from the ground back in to your limb. With that reasoning, unprotected steps on a hard, unforgiving floor will double the force on your feet. Running will increase that force fourfold.
The forces can be cut down by adding shock absorption. We typically call this "footwear." A rubber sole, for instance, will absorb some of the shock from the foot impacting the ground as well as a portion of the reactive force.
Back to "kicking off" your shoes when you get home. You're generally fine to do that, so long as when you are on a hard tile or wood surface, protect your feet with some good, cushioned footwear. That is, of course, unless you're diabetic or have another condition that has reduced sensitivity in your feet. In that case, better to be safe with shoes then sorry.
Tanglewood Foot Specialists is a recognized center of excellence in Houston, TX known for the evaluation and treatment of all injuries and conditions of the foot and ankle. Dr. Andrew Schneider is the medical director of the practice and personally assures that each patient has the time and attention he deserves. For more information and many informative videos, visit http://www.tanglewoodfootspecialists.com and his blog at http://tanglewoodfootspecialists.blogspot.com