1. Feet stay connected to the brain
Our feet have over 200,000 neuro-transmitters – as many as our hands do – so the more our feet can feel, the more sensory messages go whizzing to growing brains.
Feet that wear padded, cushioned shoes lose out on this vital sensory feedback, dulling the senses and stifling this vital sensorial feedback. Keeping kids’ growing feet bare keeps them connected to their brains. We think this is why babies and toddlers the world over always find a way to pull their shoes off.
2. Builds strong and flexible feet, tendons and ankles
Several academic studies from universities in China, India and Germany conclude unshod feet grow stronger, and present with fewer injuries and less flat-feet.
Feet that grow without being compromised by traditional shoes are stronger and wider so they splay and recoil properly, as well as developing stronger arches, ankles and tendons. Strong, flexible feet are healthy feet – so keep your kids’ feet as bare as possible!
3. Keeps perfect running and walking gait
Luckily, most kids are born with perfect, natural walking and running gait.
Watch how kids kick off their shoes and race off across a field or a beach: upright posture (head over hips over feet), quick cadence (lots of small steps), and relaxed, laughing and just having fun. But growing up in shoes that act like ‘mini-casts’ on kids’ feet wrecks this.
Join us: let’s keep kids as barefoot as possible to help them keep the running and walking gait they’re lucky enough to be born with!
4. Keeps perfect posture
Just like kids are built to run and walk with natural ease, it’s the same with standing posture. Perfect posture – head over hips over feet – is easily wrecked with our sitting, slouching and sedentary lifestyle. (Plus the all-new head-down, shoulder-slumped, ‘mobile device hunch’!)
Let’s let kids play free and barefoot to make sure their feet – the foundation for perfect posture – grow strong and flexible and able to support the rest of the body when sitting starts encroaching on daily life.
5. Improves proprioception
Pro-prio-cep-tion (say it slowly!) is how our senses detect our own bodies’ motion through the sensory feedback of our muscles, tendons and joints. Being barefoot helps children develop this kind of body awareness because it allows our sensory feedback system to develop more acutely.
Clumsy, uncoordinated movement and motor control with an inability to control our limb movements is proprioceptive disorder, and it is an increasing problem for today’s kids.
6. Strong Big Toe and flexible arch
As well as a strong, flexible foot, bare feet allow for the Big Tie to grow strong and (somewhat) separated from the other toes. This small but powerful digit serves as an anchor and pivot for the whole body. Big Toe’s flexibility and strength is crucial for locomotion, as the human foot is designed to push off from the ball and Big Toe, the axis of leverage. With a strong Big Toe comes a flexible arch and strong ankle.
This is exactly the opposite of what so-called ‘foot support’ and orthotics does, weaken the Big Toe and arch, wrecking the foot’s natural capability.
In a case of ‘use it or lose it’ – by adulthood, a lot of people have already lost it: Big Toe just isn’t strong enough.
7. Improves flexibility, ability to squat
Strong, wide flexible feet with a proper Big Toe and flexible ankles helps the flexibility of the whole body – especially helping our ability to squat. And squatting is an important indicator of the whole body’s fitness and strength.
Again, this is a skill most kids just have, they do it repeatedly and effortlessly as they play – but slouching, sitting and screens kills off our ability to squat as we age. Most adults really struggle to hold a proper, full squat. So ditch the chairs along with the screens and ‘mini cast’ shoes and let your children play free and barefoot!
Try to outsquat your kids – and let us know if you can deep squat as long as them.
8. Shoes wreck the foot’s natural form and function – they protect only from climate and terrain!
Shoes as we know them today are based on designs from a couple of hundred years ago created to ride horses. Padded, stiff and narrow to fit into a stirrup. So, unless you’re a cowboy, it makes no sense whatsoever.
Our feet have been evolving over hundreds of thousands of years to run and walk barefoot in all sorts of extreme climates and terrains. So why don’t we protect kids’ feet from just that – climate and terrain – and let their own awesome, small bodies do the rest? Keeping your kids’ feet as bare as possible is the ideal way for them to grow strong, flexible and agile – and where feet go, bodies and brains follow!
Share your top tips for letting your kids go wild in the comments below – even if you live in a city.