Barefoot or Soft Sole is Best: Encouraging Natural Foot Development

By Hannah Schenker

You wouldn’t put your kids in high heels – but what about sneakers or sandals? Most of us wouldn’t think twice about putting our little ones in some super cute trainers – but are they actually good for their feet? Podiatrists say no!

Wearing restrictive shoes at too young an age can actually damage a child’s foot development, hampering their ability to walk and even their cerebral development, as podiatrist Tracy Byrne told The Guardian:

“Toddlers keep their heads up more when they are walking barefoot,” she says. “The feedback they get from the ground means there is less need to look down, which is what puts them off balance and causes them to fall down.”

She says walking barefoot actually increases the strength of the arch of the foot and also improves proprioception (awareness of where we are in relation to space around us) and helps you to develop good posture.

Our feet are made up of a complicated system of 28 bones, interlaced with ligaments, blood vessels, nerves and muscles. However, children’s feet are not quite there yet, instead they are soft and pliable because the cartilage has not yet ossified into bone, usually by about 5 years of age. Whatever happens to them in these early years will set them up for life, and abnormal pressure can easily cause ongoing issues later on in life (source).

As humans, it’s really only a relatively short time since we began spending all our waking hours wearing shoes on our precious feet. We now regard this as normal and natural, but from a podiatry point of view, it’s not. When you think about putting shoes on your children – what you choose to do at this stage will have far-reaching consequences for them throughout their lives.

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1 Comment

  • There is nothing natural about shoes for children. Barefoot is best! for children until they reach their teen years. If you introduce shoes to your child as cold weathe clothing that goes with a hat and gloves, then you will be rewarded with a child who wants and expects to go barefoot everywhere. All that barefoot time will give your child tough leathery soles and a thick protective fat layer that is nature’s own “shoes” for your child. The body adapts to bare feet or to shoes — and if you put your child in shoes, your child’s feet will soon so adapt to shoes as to require them. A child’s toes are for squishing in mud, running in the grass, and gripping the bark of a climbing tree. But letting them go barefoot once a week for an hour in the park means weak, confused, delicate little feet ill prepared for nature. But barefoot everywhere — the grocery store, the library, even church — and your child will soon have happy feet ready to explore the world.

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