Summer is fast approaching in the Southern Hemisphere and that means more playtime out in the sunshine! Your little ones can’t wait to kick off their shoes to start crawling, running and jumping around freely. Have you given a thought to letting your child go barefoot?
No Shoes, No Problem!
Your baby’s first steps are monumental, there’s no denying that! But next time you go out shopping, resist the urge to buy the first cute pair of shoes you see.
When they first begin to walk, a child’s foot has no bones. Instead, it is mainly made up of cartilage and padding tissues as the bones, tendons and ligaments are still developing. Their growing feet need the freedom for their muscles to strength, and for bone to form in its natural position. Encourage your child to walk barefoot to get their developmental years off on the right foot.
Need more convincing? Here are five reasons why going barefoot is best.
1. Aid natural growth
We’ve all had our fair share of wearing poorly fitted shoes. Do you want to subject your little one’s feet into stiff, unsupportive shoes before their bones have had a chance to fully form?
The bones in your baby’s feet can take years to fully develop. Research has shown that our feet conform to the shape of our shoes rather than developing naturally. With the freedom of being barefoot, your baby avoids wearing shoes that squeezes their toes. Healthy feet are feet that have the freedom to grow.
2. Learn how to walk
Surprisingly, shoes can distort the way children learn to walk. When we wear shoes with cushioned soles, we are more likely to slam our heels to the ground instead of walking gently. Moreover, shoes have a toe spring that lifts our heels off the ground.
All this extra assistance affects how the foot develops. It weakens the muscles that play a crucial role in walking and running, leading to weaker toes, ligaments or tendons.
3. Develop healthy feet
Research has shown that people who often go barefoot have healthier feet than people who wear shoes frequently. Shoes provide the perfect conditions for fungi and bacteria to bloom – warm, damp and dark! Furthermore, tight shoes that pinch your little one’s toes can cause ingrown toenails that can break the skin and cause painful infections. Encourage healthy feet by reducing the risk of foot diseases.
4. Improve proprioception
Have you noticed that when wearing shoes, your child keeps looking down to see where they are walking? This increases their risk of losing balance, especially for young children.
Going barefoot encourages your little one to better develop their proprioception, which is the fancy way to describe our awareness of where we are in relation to the space around us. Our feet have over 200,000 nerve endings that transmit information to our brains about the ground we walk on. Shoes reduce the amount of quality interaction and sensory information the child gets from their environment, limiting sensory pathway development.
As kids learn about their bodies, going barefoot means that they can feel the ground below them, heightening their proprioception to allow them to safely navigate their environment.
5. Connect to the natural environment
Walking barefoot enhances our natural senses – you feel the gritty sandy beach, the prickly grass, the squelchy mud, the trickling water and more. Going shoe-less directly connects your child to the natural world and it does wonders for their mental, social and emotional wellbeing. Encourage happy, healthy feet to explore the world!
How can I adopt a happy barefoot lifestyle?
Transitioning your little one to a barefoot lifestyle is easier than you think. Here are some of our top tips:
- Start in very safe areas like indoors or in your garden and then progress to more complex environments like concrete or the forest
- Consider the environment and any potential hazards like glass or dog poo
- Check out minimalist shoes from brands such as Merrell or Vibram that have soles thin enough to be puncture-resistant but allows your child to feel the terrain beneath their feet.