Head Over Heels for Barefooting - Barefooting + Kids

Author // Bill Ades

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Barefooting + Kids

Barefooting is especially recommended for children! Keeping children’s feet free to move and breathe without the confines of shoes is a healthy choice with lasting effects. Walking barefoot helps build arches and strengthens the muscles and ligaments in the feet and ankles. Even walking on uneven ground, such as sand and grass, is good for an infant’s feet, since it makes the muscles work harder and actually strengthens and structurally develops the feet.

Tracy Byrne, a U.K.-based podiatrist specializing in podopediatrics, notes, “The more parents know about the structure of children’s feet, the more we can prevent footwear-related damage being done.” In 2007, the podiatry journal The Foot published research showing that when young, developing feet are forced to conform to shoes, significant unnatural structural and functional changes result.

“Toddlers keep their heads up more when they are walking barefoot,” says Byrne. “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.”

Doctors of chiropractic agree. Children keeping their heads up improves their posture, spinal balance and overall nerve system function. Additionally, there is evidence that the natural motion of bare feet positively affects overall neurological function and brain development. Other than the spine, the foot is the anatomical region which contains the most proprioceptive sensory receptors, distinctive nerve circuits that pertain to spatial relationships and affect numerous aspects of brain and neurological development. Because of the magnitude of this sensory input, natural, unrestricted movement of the feet is vital for overall neurological well-being. These factors have lifelong consequences for a healthy, functional nervous system.

When choosing footwear for your children, barefoot is best, and appropriate far more often than we normally allow. When shoes are absolutely needed, soft-soled, comfortable shoes are best. They might cost a bit more, and they might not fit in with the trendy styles that flash and shine the latest cartoon hero, but they permit maximum movement, and the imperative flexibility with that motion. This will support the healthiest development of the feet…and of the baby’s developing brain and nerve system.

About the Author:

Jeanne Ohm, D.C., is an author, instructor and practicing chiropractor whose special emphasis is on chiropractic for children and in pregnancy. She is the executive director of the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association and can be reached on Facebook.

Pathways Issue 29 CoverThis article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #29.

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