Is barefoot the better type of shoe for children? Most of us give the side-eye to a parent whose kid is walking or running shoeless. After all, what if the child steps on a sharp stone or, worse, pieces of broken glass? But before being too judgmental, consider the potential benefits that kids who regularly go without shoes enjoy.
Benefits of going barefoot for kids
Improves perception and awareness
Wearing shoes at an early age (babies, toddlers) can adversely affect your child’s walking and cerebral development. Kids keep their heads up as they walk, and the feedback they get from their bare feet gives them no reason to look down. This explains why children often lose balance and fall down when wearing shoes.
Nonetheless, walking without shoes helps develop a kid’s muscles and ligaments. It also enhances the strength of their foot arch, contributes to good posture, and improves their awareness, particularly in relation to their surroundings.
Why is barefoot the best type of shoe for children? It improves balance!
Kids who often run or walk barefoot have better balance and jumping ability than those who wear shoes, according to Stellenbosch University research.
The research further shows that doing regular physical activities without wearing shoes can improve balance and jumping skills for kids, particularly those aged between 6 and 10 years.
Kids who often stay barefoot have higher foot arches than those who never stay or walk while shoe-less. For this reason, barefoot children can jump further.
Strengthens feet and legs
Today, heels and supportive running shoes are trendy, but experts warn that they could be causing more harm than good.
Cushioned and supportive shoes tend to encourage individuals to land on the heel when running or walking because the shoe absorbs the impact. Consequently, these shoes alter your natural step and posture. It may even create a new walking pattern and style.
Cushioned and supportive shoes can also limit your kid’s natural moving pattern. In fact, it may cause their muscles to atrophy in the long run. This also explains why children find it easy to squat down while maintaining a neutral spine than most adults.
Improves walking posture
In his book, Born to Run, Christopher McDougall found that a person can run great distances in minimalist shoes or while barefoot.
His findings also agreed with a Harvard Study, which reported that people who grow up walking or running barefoot run differently than those who regularly wear shoes.
Therefore, running or walking barefoot, or in barefoot shoes, may be a great way to improve your kid’s walking posture. In fact, it can help them avoid joint issues.
Severe damages for wearing shoes early
The more you understand the structure of your kid’s feet, the more you can take preventive measures against footwear-related damages.
Structural and functional changes can occur when the foot conforms to the constriction and shape of a shoe, instead of being allowed to grow naturally. And young feet are more susceptible to greater damages.
Podiatrist recommended shoes
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that shoes shouldn’t be too big or too small (one inch of space in front is fine, check this shoe size guide to find the right size). Similarly, airtight or stiff shoes are not good for children.
Kids’ shoes should, therefore, be made of a soft material that allows the feet to breathe. In addition, most podiatrists advise that shoes for toddlers should have a rigid middle and a stiff heel.
What are barefoot shoes for toddlers?
Barefoot shoes for toddlers are shoes that can offer an experience close to walking barefoot by reflecting the natural design and shape of your feet while preserving their sensory feedback and alignment.
For shoes to be classified as “barefoot shoes” they should:
- Have no raised heel: The shoes must be flat and have equal thickness from heel to toe.
- Allow toes to move freely: Most shoes today have thin or pointed toe beds that constrain the toes. Barefoot shoes must, therefore, allow the toes to move freely or be open.
- Offer a simple protective barrier between the ground and the foot.
What are non-slip socks for kids?
Non-slip socks for kids are a special type of sock that has a gripping sole. Podiatrists recommend non-skid socks for kids because they prevent them from falling while also keeping their feet warm. These socks also allow kids to visit the bathroom without wearing slippers.
What are minimalist shoes?
These are hybrid shoes that closely resemble sneakers and barefoot shoes. Minimalist shoes are, therefore, lightweight, flexible, thin, and have a low heel and no frills.
Minimalist shoes have become popular due to an increase in fast-paced lifestyles, the need to save space, and a strong desire to walk or run in a more natural state.
What’s better for toddlers, going barefoot or wearing shoes?
Being barefoot is good for toddlers when possible. But when that isn’t an option, barefoot shoes and non-slip socks come in handy.
The type of shoe your kid wears has a significant effect on how their feet develop. So if staying barefoot is not an option, consider having barefoot shoes and non-slip socks for your kid.