It sounds from all of your criteria that cork flooring would work very well for you.Cork is soft and forgiving to walk on,
- it does not hurt your back, and
- generally will not break things that you drop on it like stone or tile surfaces will and
- feels great to walk on barefoot.
It is also fairly insulating and will not conduct heat like a hard surface floor so it will be much more comfortable in cold winters or warm summers.
Cork is also a very sustainable material, rather than harvest an entire tree, cork is peeled from the tree and can be re-harvested every few years. Cork itself will also not offgas or harm your indoor air quality the way many laminate floors will, just make sure the cork you buy is finished with a low voc finish.
The easiest way to put in a cork floor is floating panels that simply snap together.
- These panels actually float over your existing floor or subfloor and create a nice cushiony feel when you walk.
- Make sure your installer puts down a felt underlayment to prevent excessive noise when you walk due to the air space under the panels.
Cork flooring now comes in many different looks and colors so don't worry about being limited to something that actually looks like a wine cork, you can get any look or feel that you want.
We recommend a product called Natural Cork from US Floors, they come with a urethane finish which is long lasting and durable and can be refinished easily. For those sensitive to urethane finishes you can get Natural Cork unfinished and finish it with a wax finish yourself.
For more information:
Read "Is cork flooring really a green product? It seems fairly accepted that it's a renewable raw material, but is the final product really green?" a Q&A answered by David Bergman.