One of the most common questions I get asked by parents is “what shoes do you recommend for my baby?”
The vast majority of parents are quite surprised when I tell them “no shoes at all”. Let me tell why barefoot is best…
1. Allows for natural foot growth
Growing feet need lots of freedom for muscles to strengthen, toes to spread and learn to grip and for bones to form in a natural position. We therefore need to avoid anything that would restrict this such as tight bedding, bootees, leggings or stiff foot coverings. Our children’s feet are not miniature versions of adult feet; their bones have not yet ossified and the cartilage is very pliable. Their adorable squishy feet are growing at a very fast pace and are very susceptible to change; so while Teeny high-tops and sparkly ballet flats are adorable they're more of a hindrance than help when it comes to foot growth.
2. Sensory Input
When babies are learning to crawl, pull themselves up or take their first unaided steps, they need as much sensory input as possible to know where their feet are in relation to their body (this is known as proprioception)
When children are able to feel the surfaces of the ground, they activate those proprioceptors and overtime help develop neuromuscular strength, spatial orientation, balance, and coordination.
3. Strengthen Intrinsic musculature
Barefoot walking on a multitude of surfaces allows every small muscle of the foot to strengthen, contributing to a strong arch and overall improved posture.
4. Remove the barriers for natural gait
Have you ever tried to bend a shoe? Tried to see how it moves? So many shoes either
1) don’t bend
2) Don’t bend where they should.
They are too heavy, too rigid, too stiff and with no flexibility at the sole. When children are learning to walk this can make them bounce and tip forward causing falls and affects the natural gait pattern. Furthermore many shoes marketed towards children are purely aesthetic and could cause serious issues such as baby thongs, (flip-flops) or toddler heels.
Allowing a child to be barefoot removes all these issues and allows a child to develop how nature intended
5. Prevent shoe related pathology
Both structural and functional changes can occur when feet have to conform to the shape and constriction of a shoe, rather than being allowed to develop naturally, this is especially true when our little ones have such pliable and vulnerable feet. The development of corns, ingrown toenails, bunions and hammertoes can all occur from inappropriate and unnecessary footwear.
So what does this all mean?
At this age the only real purpose of a shoe is to protect our little one’s tiny feet from the environment (unhygienic surfaces, hot pavements, cold or wet surfaces), but this footwear should mimic bare feet.
It should be light, flexible, soft-soled, made from natural breathable fibers and allow complete freedom of movement. It should also only be used when absolutely necessary.
When barefoot, allow them to feel all sorts of surfaces, wiggle their toes between the sand, grass, carpet or tiles and allow their feet to strengthen and flourish.
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