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Why You Should Encourage Your Children to Go Barefoot!



When you child starts to crawl and then to walk, don't be in too much of a hurry to put him or her into shoes.

For example, many parents will buy children their first pair of shoes before they are even walking.  However, research has shown that wearing shoes may actually be doing more damage than good.  While parents may feel that children need a good pair of shoes to protect their feet and ankles as they grow, the shoes themselves can actual hinder muscle development - even causing problems for muscle development from toes right up to hips.  

And then there are the poor fitting or supporting shoes such as flipflops that are often the cause of accidents, trips and slips for children as well as potentially causing damage to the soft bones that young children have. 

There are so many benefits for your child to gain as they grow and develop if they spend as much time as possible barefoot.

And you can join them too by going barefoot yourself!

When a child goes barefoot

  • Their feet can feel, helping with sensory development – allowing children to directly feel what they are walking on mean stronger messages can be sent to the brain about exactly how is best to walk on certain types of surfaces.  When shoes are worn all the time, it could be that these messages become clouded and even lead to more accidents. 
  • This habit fuels proprioception and balance.  Proprioception is perception or awareness of the position and movement of the body.
  • Toes grow straighter allowing children to better spread and push whilst walking improving balance and movement.
  • Their muscles grow strong and flexible improving many gross motor skills while the muscles in the feet also become stronger.
  • A wider range of hip movement develops.
  • The habit helps to maintain a natural walking and running gait.  The improved flexibility in the legs creates and improves a child's natural manner of walking.
  • Barefoot children have wider, stronger feet - and fewer fallen arches.
  • Barefoot children also have better balance and motor skills.

Barefoot children could even be happier. In a study by Natural Child Magazine, Dr. Kacie Flegal, D.C. suggests that when children are barefoot, it allows a development of higher brain centers, which can lead to better problem-solving skills, language skills, social skills, regulation of emotions - and confidence.

When it is best not to go barefoot

Here are some things to keep in mind when considering whether to let your child go barefoot:

  • Your child should wear something on their feet when when walking around swimming pools, change rooms and other public places with a wet environment.  This is because such warm, moist environments can promote the growth of nail fungus, athletes foot and plantar warts.
  • Bear in mind the temperature on a hot day, sand or asphalt could lead to burns on the feet.  Unsafe situations would of course also warrant the wearing of shoes such as being close to a campfire or walking in areas where there are insects, parasites, snakes and plants that can sting.


Efficacy of ankle foot orthoses types on walking in children with cerebral palsy: A systematic review - PubMed (nih.gov)

Growing-up (habitually) barefoot influences the development of foot and arch morphology in children and adolescents - PMC (nih.gov)

The effects of being habitually barefoot on foot mechanics and motor performance in children and adolescents aged 6–18 years: study protocol for a multicenter cross-sectional study (Barefoot LIFE project) - PMC (nih.gov)