When thinking about our childhood days, many of us reminisce about days on the beach, playing at the playground or walking through the grass in a backyard or park barefoot.
In these situations, you do not need convincing reasons to let your kids be barefoot! It just comes naturally, and truth be told, barefoot was the way we walked for a long period of time as a species.
However, modern day life and social norms has changed this and there are all kinds of shoes for kids to wear-even high heels!
There is a growing understanding amongst experts that wearing shoes as kids actually does more harm than good to not only their feet but their overall development, including brain development.
According to several studies and experts in podiatry, insisting your kids to wear shoes at too young an age can hinder their walking and cerebral development.
By wearing shoes, the foot is conformed to a shape and rather than being allowed to develop naturally, causing permanent damage in the construction of the foot which can cause serious issues later in life; amongst the damage incurred, you can expect to experience ingrown toenails, a higher susceptibility to athlete’s foot and the worst of all, deformation of the foot.
An infant’s foot consists of cartilage and only after a period of time – well into a person’s teen years-do the 28 bones found in an adult foot, form.
Therefore, choosing the correct shoes over your kid’s lifetime is crucial in how the feet develop. Ideally, shoes, when worn, should be ergonomic and flexible enough to bend the sole and allow kids to be kids-allowing them to climb trees, doing cartwheels etc.
When toddlers toddle around barefoot, they keep their heads up more as they get enough feedback from the ground, negating the need to look where they are going. The action of looking down is what causes instability and causes falls.
Walking barefoot develops the muscles in the foot and strengthens the foot arch, as well as contributing to a good, upright posture.
Research also shows that by practicing what is known as “earthing”, that is walking barefoot, can give kids (and adults) some serious health benefits.
Of course, there are instances when going barefoot is just not possible, and you should not allow a kid to walk barefoot where it is unsafe or uncomfortable for them to do so.
Need more convincing to let your kid go barefoot, more often? Perhaps these reasons below will be enough to convince you that you should be more encouraging towards letting them go barefoot, as long as it is safe for them, as it may be the more natural and a more beneficial way of doing things.
Convincing Reasons To Let Your Kids Be Barefoot
Reason 1 To Let Your Kids Be Barefoot
Aiding Growth And Development Of The Feet
Shoes have molded our feet to taper in towards the tip and the toes are pinched in- this is not how they should look at all.
As mentioned previously, the foot of a baby is made out of cartilage and when we force a kid’s feet into a shoe that is not ergonomic enough to give the correct space and support to the foot, our physical foundation that is the feet, do not develop properly.
This has a ripple effect to other areas of the body, just as with a house, if your foundation is poor or lacking in some ways, then the rest of the house will be affected.
Your ankles, knees, pelvis and hip joints all can be impacted by the way your foot is shaped and the way you walk – resulting in disastrous results like osteoarthritis later in life.
A poorly constructed foot can also alter the spine and core as the child develops and grows, which will lead to poor posture.
Walking barefoot will help maintain and develop the correct range of motion of the actual foot and the ankle joints.
Additionally, the toes will be able to spread to their natural width when going barefoot and, because there is a lack of cushioning or padding for the feet when they are bare, muscles and tendons will develop properly.
This is a very convincing reason to let your kids be barefoot and not put them in shoes too early.
Reason 2 To Let Your Kids Be Barefoot
Going shoeless, especially for developing feet, is a great way to strengthen and access full functionality of the feet and by extension, the body. As mentioned before, having strength in your feet is important because it allows other parts of your body to keep upright and strong.
The shape and density of bones and muscles in the feet are directly correlated to the load placed on your body, and being barefoot can help strengthen your muscles.
Letting your kids be barefoot will allow them to be able to grip on to surfaces, have more traction on they step and thus develop muscles.
By wearing shoes with toe springs and cushioned soles, the muscles in the feet and toes as well as the tendons and ligaments are not able to develop as well.
By feeling the ground on their bare feet, kids’ balance and stability is improved and, indirectly, allows them to be less clumsy and give them confidence in their stride with the aid of natural traction.
Reason 3 To Let Your Kids Be Barefoot
Development Of A Healthy Gait
If you let your kids be barefoot often, they become more skilled at using their feet and learn to walk more gently, putting far less pressure on the heels of their feet.
The pressure of impact or shock felt every time you take a step is absorbed by the knees and toes grip the earth and help us to propel forward.
When wearing shoes, the ability for the foot to walk correctly, is hindered. The hard soles of shoes, even cute sneakers for babies or toddlers, are too stiff to allow the foot to roll and exhibit enough flexibility to push or propel them forward.
Instead, they tend to rock forward onto the next step and so the wrong muscles are exercised which makes for an unnatural gait.
This puts undue pressure on all our joints, tendons and muscles and with age and time, these will atrophy and foot pain will become a daily occurrence.
Reason 4 To Let Your Kids Be Barefoot
Spatial And Kinesthetic Awareness
When we go barefoot, our brain is able to identify where our body is in space and how we move. This is called Kinesthetic awareness or muscle memory.
There are hundreds of thousands of nerve endings in the soles of our feet and when they are directly on the ground, they send a lot more information to our brains about the environment. This is also known as proprioception.
This means that the brain gets more accustomed to different sensations experienced by our joints and muscles and allows our internal systems to instinctively know where one foot is in relation to the other and where the feet are in relation to the other parts of the body.
So if one had to take away the sense of sight, with good proprioception, a kid would be able to instinctively know where they are in space.
When you let your kids be barefoot from a young age, not only is there an increase in kinesthetic intelligence or awareness, there is also an increase in knowing what the surroundings feel like which in turn helps kids develop a refined sense of coordination and will help them move more accurately and mindfully (without even being mindful) through their every day life.
Reason 5 To Let Your Kids Be Barefoot
When wearing shoes, balance and sensory information coming to the brain is limited. This means that vestibular development is decreased.
This system works alongside other sensory systems in our body, including those discussed above, allowing our eyes and brains to process information accurately. Think of it as the brain’s traffic control for sensory stimuli.
This of course has a huge impact on things like balance, fine motor skills and visual tracking as well as muscle tone.
When a child goes barefoot, the brain receives a lot more information and will tell the body how to stay balanced on an uneven surface and mitigate feelings of clumsiness.
Head-eye-coordination is also improved, which helps with external things like being able to read effortlessly and look up and down from a whiteboard in the classroom, as well as being able to play sports like soccer effectively.
Reason 6 To Let Your Kids Be Barefoot
Connection With The Outside World
As their senses are heightened when going barefoot, and they are more spatially aware, they are inherently paying more attention to the world around them and with that, an innate appreciation for nature.
They are able to connect with nature and feel the squelch of mud under their feet or sand between their toes as well as the different textures the earth brings, be it soft grass, crunchy leaves or even the hardness of stones and rocks.
While their brains are engaged in receiving information from the environment through their feet, kids can look around and watch the leaves rustle in the wind or listen to the birdsong in the trees, allowing them to absorb all the earth and mother nature has to offer.
Reason 7 To Let Your Kids Be Barefoot
Decreases Stress And Better Health
Psychologically and scientifically speaking, a child that is barefoot outside is benefiting from the sunshine and getting high doses of vitamin D3, which provides a sense of well-being.
Invariably, they are also going to be running, playing and jumping which will release endorphins which will make kids feel happy.
It also gives kids a sense of freedom in the outside world, and so they feel less encumbered with life.
Additionally, when children are walking around barefoot, there are several pressure points that are stimulated, otherwise known as reflexology points.
These can help with stimulating the proper functioning of other organs in the body. The differences in textures of surfaces also give the foot a nice little massage– and who wouldn’t want that?
Furthermore, when kids walk around on the earth with their bare feet, they come into contact with negative electrons present in the Earth.
This phenomenon was discussed briefly above and what is known as earthing or grounding. Earthing or grounding refers to having contact with the Earth’s surface electrons which are negatively charged.
These negatively charged electrons are then transferred to the body from the earth.
The more negative electrons in the body, the greater the physiological changes. These included, reduced pain, an anti-inflammatory effect, improved sleeping patterns, a noticeable shift from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system as well as a blood-thinning effects.
These scientific research studies highlighted the importance of grounding for stress reduction, reduction in symptoms for autoimmune and chronic diseases, pain and any general fatigue.
This is thought to be due to the elimination of free radicals in the body (or the control thereof) because of the increase in negative electrons in the body, coming from the Earth’s surface.
Reason 8 To Let Your Kids Be Barefoot
Healthy Feet And Shoes That Last Longer
Recent studies have shown that people who spent more time going barefoot had healthier feet, in general.
This is because shoes, especially those worn in cooler climates, provide a warm and often damp environment which creates a hot bed for any microorganisms such as trapped fungus and bacteria to remain on the foot, causing a whole host of problems.
When kids wear tight shoes growing up, their toenails can frequently become ingrown and can result in broken skin around the toenail bed, causing infection and pain.
Financially speaking, you may spend less money on replacing shoes because, for one, the kids will not be wearing shoes as often as they maybe used to. This is a great reason to let your kids be barefoot!
Secondly, there is less opportunity for wear and tear on their current shoes. If they want to play soccer outside, or even tag, on a regular basis, then shoes can wear thin and get really scuffed up and dirty. Going barefoot avoids all this.
Final Thoughts – Convincing Reasons To Let Your Kids Be Barefoot
Of course, there are occasions and times where wearing shoes are an absolute must.
However, if you must have them wear shoes, make it shoes that feature flexible soles and softer materials that give your kid’s feet the room they need to develop, and, as soon as you feel like it is safe for them to do so, let your kids kick those toe prisons off and run around barefoot.
Allowing kids (and even yourself) to go barefoot as regularly as possible has many physiological and psychological benefits.
In this article, we have discussed 8 convincing reasons to let your kids be barefoot and how this can improve their health and happiness – and who doesn’t want that?
And, above all else, it is what nature intended! So go let your kids be barefoot and enjoy the freedom and benefits.
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