When my eldest two were little, I was forever struggling to find them the right shoes.
Some designs were too heavy and cumbersome for their little legs to lift. Others were too long or too wide. Cheaper materials rubbed at their soft skin. My stoic boys persevered with their ill-fitting footwear, often enduring discomfort until I discovered the blisters.
It felt like I was forever trying to find the right fit for their little feet.
Despite these struggles, when my daughter came along I eagerly anticipated all the gorgeous boots and strappy sandals I could dress her up in. Girls’ shoes are adorable and since I’m quite partial to a cute pair of shoes myself, I thought it would be lots of fun.
Except for one major drawback: My daughter hates shoes. Correction. She loves shoes – she hates WEARING shoes.
Even her most favourite pairs are cast off at the first opportunity and the car floor in front of her booster seat has a collection of footwear that would do Imelda Marcos proud.
For the majority of the time she is either barefoot or, at a push, in thongs. Luckily we live in Queensland!
Having grown up with “You should have something on your feet” drilled into me, it has taken a while to embrace the barefooted habits of my little lady. However, I’m heartened to learn that experts actually recommend children go sans shoes whenever possible.
Here are some of the reason why barefoot is best:
- Shoes constrict growing feet and can actually cause developmental problems. Studies like this one have shown the prevalence of conditions such as flat feet are higher in children who predominantly wear shoes.
- Shoes can also affect the natural way we walk, including our gait and tread. With little people this can mean the way they learn to walk can be impaired by shoes. Bare feet help children develop better balance and coordination, as well as helping to program the right muscles, ligaments and tendons required when walking.
- Shoes interfere with a sensory process called proprioception. Our feet have hundreds of thousands of nerve endings that help tell our brain about the type of terrain we are walking on. All that sensory input from those nerve endings helps with the development of new neural pathways. Barefoot is good for the brain!
- Being barefoot play brings kids closer to nature and helps them connect with their natural environment.
- Feet that are confined in sweaty shoes all day can get fousty. Bacteria and fungi can fester and toenails can be impacted by tight shoes causing them become ingrown or infected.
The barefoot movement is starting to gain a lot of traction (see what I did there) in the running industry for many of these reasons. It’s believed to reduce common injuries in running, allowing a more natural gait. There are even special shoes designed to provide some protection while still allowing the foot to do its natural thing.
With all this in mind, I will let continue to let my wild child run barefoot as much as practicable, knowing that it’s the best thing for her development. I’ll also be grateful for money I’m saving not buying lots of pretty shoes!