Author: Cecilia Pulido
We all want what’s best for our children, especially in the developmental years of childhood. One of those really important things, whether we realize it or not, is simply allowing our kids to play barefoot. Admittedly, parents are usually concerned about how not wearing shoes could be dangerous and lead to dirty feet, and of course that is a valid concern. However, wearing shoes all of the time, especially as early as from learning to walk, could be more detrimental to a child’s overall development. Allowing children from an early age to move about and play barefoot yields an abundance of benefits.
1. Increased balance and stability
Children leading a predominantly barefoot lifestyle were shown to have stronger foot muscles. Strengthening the muscles of the feet facilitates better grip through the toes, that means better stability, balance, and reduced risk of trips and falls. Barefootedness also contributes to greater flexibility and better static balance due to a lower foot arch, which allows for a larger support surface. (Aibast et al., 2017).
Studies have repeatedly shown that development of balance control occurs during early childhood years. A study shows that “rapid improvements can be observed until the age of 9-10 years” (Zech et al., 2018) and that habitually barefoot children and adolescents seemed to have better motor performance in balance and jumping.
"With better control of the feet, movement is more stable and foot arches have a chance to fully develop"
With better control of the feet, movement is more stable and foot arches have a chance to fully develop when children are allowed to be barefoot for as long as possible. This makes perfect sense when you consider that feet are the foundation for a person’s entire body weight. Allowing for a distribution of weight evenly and efficiently across the entire foot and throughout the body develops a natural, healthy gait pattern (the ways in which we walk or move).
Habitually shod feet (wearing shoes) will actually dull down sensory information essential for brain growth, and increase the likelihood of abnormal foot development including flat feet, hallux valgus, morton’s toe, and plantar fasciitis. Research has also found reduced lower limb injury in children habitually barefoot (HB) 8%, versus habitually shod (HS) 61% (Aibast et al.,2017).
2. Better posture
Our feet are the beginning of the kinetic chain, and can have a profound effect on the spine. Being barefoot allows children to develop foot proprioception (the body's ability to sense movement, action, and location) which leads to improved sagittal plane foot placement (walking).
Postural control, gait biomechanics, and jumping movements can be directly changed by consistent barefootedness. Children who are habitually barefoot (HB) tended to have higher foot arches, wider feet, and smaller hallux angles and overall better foot muscle strength (Zech et al., 2018).
“The sensory receptors in the feet can affect posture”
The sensory receptors in the feet can affect posture from 3 pathways (proprioceptive entries): through the skin, muscles, and bones of the feet. Raising the big toe only by 1 millimeter, which is about the thickness of a business card, can dramatically reshape the spine over time, according to Posturologist Annette Verpillot. Changes in posture will in turn affect gait and stand.
3. Healthier sensory and brain development
Infancy to early childhood is the peak time when the nervous system gathers sensory information for brain growth and development. A leading international Posturologist, Annette Verpillot, asserts that “for healthy growth, a child’s foot needs to feel all the clues from the environment.”
Being barefoot is a sensory learning tool that helps children develop their curiosity and confidence to enter different environments but it also teaches them how to assess environmental situations and stay safe by adapting their movements accordingly. For example a rocky surface under feet will alert a child to walk more slowly and carefully. This translates into other areas of assessing situations in everyday life.
“Being barefoot is a sensory learning tool that helps children develop their curiosity and confidence to enter different environments”
Connecting to the natural environment by walking on grass, splashing in puddles, and climbing on sand hills promotes an affinity for nature. In an article by Nursery World (Russell, 2019), teachers discussed how they exposed the feet of children as young as 6-18 months old to different textures and sensations starting slowly, so as not to overstimulate them, but to awaken the sensory receptors in the feet.
What are kids saying?
In a recent poll, 6-9 year olds answered the question What do you think about being barefoot and why? Our research correlates to a few of the responses:
“I feel, like, sort of free”, “I love the beach… because the sand feels so nice on my feet”, “I’m careful when I walk outside”, and “...sometimes the ground is hot”. These responses reflect the level of confidence in movement and exploring the world around them while activating proprioception to assess their environmental surroundings, and adapting their movements accordingly.
Are you worried about the safety of bare feet?
When it comes to our kids’ feet, do we want peace of mind that their tootsies are safe? Or do we want them to experience and learn from the world around them?
How about both! Tucketts is the solution!
Your kids can wear a pair of Tucketts and play in a myriad of environments in a fun and safe way!
Tucketts’ patented toeless grip socks allow the toes to have complete sensory contact with the floor, stimulating the foot-brain connection. They are made from a moisture wicking fabric, which is 100% machine washable and dries quickly. The open toe design, lightweight knit, and superior grips of Tucketts socks support postural alignment & optimal walking biomechanics by providing a symmetrical protective barrier across the sole of the foot, and allowing freedom of toes.
Tucketts helps the development of strong feet, good proprioception, and encourages natural foot development, while also helping parents feel more at ease and knowing that they’re doing the best for their children. Keep your kids safe, healthy, and happy with Tucketts’ fun bright colors and groovy patterns.
So let them go barefoot…kind of
Tucketts is thinking ahead to our children’s future
SUSTAINABILITY IS OUR PASSION. COMFORT, STYLE AND QUALITY. Tucketts socks are made in Colombia with a blend of 70% recycled cotton, 29% nylon, and 1% spandex making them one of the most comfortable and eco friendly socks you will ever have on your feet. Since day one, it’s been our goal to cause the least amount of harm to the environment as possible, while positively impacting communities and disrupting old industry norms. With tree-free packaging and reduced water consumption through recycled yarns, we continue to make improvements in our supply chain each year. The Allegro kids version is made with recycled cotton!
Aibast, H., Okutoyi, P., Sigei, T., Adero, W., Chemjor, D., Ongaro, N., Fuku, N., Konstabel, K., Clark, C., Lieberman, D. E., & Pitsiladis, Y. (2017). Foot structure and function in habitually barefoot and shod adolescents in Kenya. Curr Sports Med Rep, 16(6), 448-458. doi: 10.1249/JSR.0000000000000431. PMID: 29135646.
Hollander, K., de Villiers, J. E., Venter, R., Sehner, S., Wegscheider, K., Braumann, K. M., & Zech, A. (2018). Foot strike patterns differ between children and adolescents growing up barefoot vs. shod. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 39(2), 97–103. https://doi.org/10.1055/s-0043-120344
Hollander, K., de Villiers, J. E., Sehner, S. et al. (2017). Growing-up (habitually) barefoot influences the development of foot and arch morphology in children and adolescents. Sci Rep 7(8079), 1-9. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-07868-4
Kelly, L. A., Lichtwark, G. A., Farris, D. J. & Cresswell, A. (2016). Shoes alter the spring-like function of the human foot during running. J R Soc Interface 13, doi:10.1098/rsif.2016.0174
Kojić, M., Protić Gava, B., Bajin, M., Vasiljević, M., Bašić, J., Stojaković, D., & Ilić, M. P. (2021) The relationship between foot status and motor status in preschool children: A simple, comparative observational study. Healthcare (Basel), 9(936), 1-12. doi: 10.3390/healthcare9080936. PMID: 34442073; PMCID: PMC8392265.
Russell, M. J. (2019). Bare all? NurseryWorld, 19 August-1 September 2019, 16-17. https://www.nurseryworld.co.uk/media/98940/016_nw_health-wellbeing_barefoot.pdf
Zech, A., Venter, R., de Villiers, J. E., Sehner, S., Wegscheider, K., & Hollander, K. (2018). Motor skills of children and adolescents are influenced by growing up barefoot or shod. Front Pediatr, 6(115), 1-5. doi: 10.3389/fped.2018.00115. PMID: 29922637; PMCID: PMC5996942.