Why kids should go barefoot more

Categories: Health & Nutrition


Dr. Kacie Flegal, who specializes in pediatrics, wrote about optimal brain and nervous system development of babies and toddlers, stating that being barefoot benefits a young child tremendously. “One of the simplest ways to motivate proprioceptive and vestibular development is to let our babies be barefoot as much as possible.” She goes on to say, “Another benefit to keeping babies barefoot is the encouragement of presence of mind and conscious awareness. As the little pads of babies’ feet feel, move, and balance on the surface that they are exploring, the information sent to the brain from tactile, proprioceptive, and vestibular pathways quiet, or inhibit, other extraneous sensory input. This creates focus and awareness of walking and moving through space; babies get more tuned in to their surroundings.”

Another benefit of going barefoot is that it encourages a natural, healthy gait. Adam Sternberg wrote about the topic for New York Magazine in 2008 and cited studies that reveal the damage shoes are doing to our feet; in particular, that we humans had far healthier feet prior to the advent of shoes. Sternberg further reported that despite these findings, people are still not actively encouraged to go barefoot outdoors. Podiatrist Dr. William A. Rossi said it all when he wrote, “It took 4 million years to develop our unique human foot and our consequent distinctive form of gait… in only a few thousand years, and with one carelessly designed instrument, our shoes, we have warped the pure anatomical form of human gait, obstructing its engineering efficiency, afflicting it with strains and stresses and denying it its natural grace of form and ease of movement head to foot.”

And finally, going barefoot is a joy to the senses, especially to young children who experience all the newness of the tactile world around them. Think of the relaxing feeling of walking on soft warm sand at the beach, the refreshing feeling of cool dewy grass in the early morning of a summer day, the feeling of slippery wet mud squishing between toes in the garden, the feeling of the rough bark of a climbing tree, the surprise at the splash of a puddle underfoot. All of these sensations are available when we allow our children to experience a bit of shoe-free time. Perhaps you should join us and kick off those shoes at the playground and in the back yard. Enjoy your feet and what they were made for.

Lauren Knight is a frequent contributor to On Parenting. She blogs at Crumb Bums. / via WashingtonPost

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