Children and shoes is something I get quite passionate about in an introverted way – which means I spend a lot of time thinking that more people need to know the importance of what they put on their children’s feet – especially newly walking toddlers.
It’s more important than teaching them numbers, alphabet and colours and as equally as important as ensuring they have a diet of fresh fruit and veg. The cost is worth it for your child’s future health.
I am a huge, huge fan of barefoot shoes on toddlers and children. Putting them in traditional hard soled shoes can have significant impact on their development.
Being barefoot for as long as possible and using barefoot or foot friendly shoes will help development of feet, knees, hips, back. It will help them develop a correct walking pattern. Barefoot even helps brain development.
Being barefoot helps develop strong ligaments and builds arches which help with balance, posture and co-ordination.
We have thousands of sensors on our feet which help with balance and being able to detect ground as it becomes uneven so they don’t fall over. Covered up with thick soles deprives them of these sensors and they develop the stiff legged , flat footed walk, start to fall over more and struggle with climbing and balancing.
If you create a bit of an obstacle course in your home – cushions to walk on, something to balance along, something to jump on and off, something to climb – you can see how much your child uses their toes and how their feet can mould and adapt to the surface or task that they are doing, then it makes more sense why you would need to make it as easy for them to use their feet as much as possible when they have shoes on.
A lot of children’s shoes also have heels, even though they look really low in comparison to the child’s height they through a child’s alignment really out of whack. This causes issues with pelvis, knees, hips and back – it might not notice straight away but is likely to be a cause of nagging pain or recurring injury in adult life.
Giving children the opportunity to develop their natural strength, balance, proprioception and cognition is the greatest gift you can give them.
However, barefoot shoes can often be the more expensive option but it is possible to find barefoot shoes in mainstream shops – you just need to know what to look for. There are also great second hand groups on facebook like this one
So what makes a barefoot shoe?
Can you bend your child’s shoe all along it’s surface?
No heel – at all – ever.
Wide toe box – so that there is space for their toes to move and they aren’t squished together. Check if your child’s shoe is the correct width for their feet by drawing round their feet on a piece of paper and then putting the shoes on top and drawing round them to see that they are foot shaped and the feet aren’t developing into shoe shapes.
They attach to the foot – shoes like flip flops, clogs or crocs that don’t fit securely on to the foot cause a toe grip to keep the shoe falling off during walking.
Non- moulded sole – some shoes have an inside sole that is moulded with a ‘foot arch support’ this actually misshapes the foot – the foot arch is created by correct alignment – it really doesn’t need to be supported and this can create issues of it’s own. These act very much like an orthotic and you can see how they limit the foot’s movement in this video
It’s important to note that some barefoot shoe companies also produce shoes that are not barefoot friendly – so worth looking at reviews before you buy, I have also found some that have removable insoles that are shaped like an orthotic so well worth checking for that too.
The rules of a barefoot shoe
- Flexible sole
- Wide toe box
- No heel
- Attaches to foot
- Non-moulded sole
If you are looking for shoe brands that are barefoot look for vivobarefoot, plae, vibrams, pediped, See Kai Run,. For new walkers look at Kinderfeet, Inch Blue, Stonz (this list is not exhaustive but ones that we have used)
www.happylittlesolesco.uk is the site I tend to use for my sons shoes
Rosie Dhoopun is a Movement Teacher, with a specialism in foot health. She runs workshops and classes in Ipswich on Natural Movement, Birth preparation, Foot health, and is a consultant for pelvic floor and diastasis recti rehabilitation.