As parents, we always want what's best for our children – from the food they eat to the clothes they wear. So, when it comes to footwear, comfort, and functionality top the list.
But experts argue that most shoes are not optimal for children's developing feet as they restrict movement and compromise natural foot development. However, barefoot shoes may just have them rewriting their rules.
Designed to work with your child's natural foot structure, barefoot shoes allow for a more natural range of motion and protect the feet from unnecessary pressure and strain.
Let's learn the mechanics behind this innovative footwear and explore the benefits of barefoot shoes for kids.
The Concept Behind Barefoot Shoes
A child's feet are still developing and need the freedom to move and grow naturally. Unfortunately, most traditional shoes in the market limit this movement, with some experts saying it can hamper a child's walking.
In an interview with The Guardian, Tracy Byrne, a podiatrist specializing in podopaediatrics, explains that toddlers walk with their heads up more when barefoot. This is because the sensory feedback they receive from the ground reduces the need to constantly look down, which can throw off their balance and cause falls.
Walking barefoot, Byrne explains, supports muscle and ligament development, strengthens the foot's arch, improves proprioception (our sense of where we are in space), and promotes good posture.
However, going completely barefoot can be tough on children's feet, especially in urban areas with rough or dirty surfaces.
Enter barefoot shoes – designed to mimic the benefits of walking barefoot while protecting your child's little feet. Also called minimalist footwear, these shoes offer a thinner sole and less arch support, allowing the feet to move more naturally.
Physical Benefits of Barefoot Shoes for Kids
Apart from supporting proper foot development, barefoot shoes provide several physical benefits for kids. These include:
Improved Balance and Stability
Many conventional shoes have excessive padding and a toe drop design, with a higher heel than the toe. This disrupts a child's natural walking pattern, making it more challenging to maintain balance and stability in their movements.
Children's minimalist footwear offers a thinner, more flexible sole and a wider toe box. This allows children to receive vital sensory feedback from the ground, enhancing their balance and coordination by enabling more precise foot movements.
Enhanced Sensory Feedback
Our feet are equipped with thousands of nerve endings that provide vital sensory information to the brain. This helps us navigate our surroundings and make sense of different surfaces under our feet.
Wearing stiff shoes can dull this feedback, as the thick padding and rigid soles absorb much of it. When this happens, our brain has to work harder to understand where our feet are in space and how much force we need to apply for a specific movement.
A study published in the Journal of Sports and Science Medicine found that individuals who opted for barefoot shoes had better proprioception, or body awareness, than those who wore traditional shoes.
For toddlers learning to walk and run, improved sensory feedback is crucial in developing their motor skills and coordination.
Better Foot Strength
In addition to improved balance and sensory feedback, children's minimalist footwear strengthens the muscles in the feet and lower legs.
According to a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, individuals who opted for minimalist shoes exhibited higher levels of foot muscle strength than those who wore traditional shoes.
The researchers propose that this enhanced strength could be attributed to the added requirement for foot muscles to stabilize the body during movement.
Promotes Healthy Foot Mechanics
Children's feet are not fully developed until age 6; before this time, they are still creating their natural gait pattern. Wearing traditional shoes with stiff soles or elevated heels can alter this process and lead to problems such as poor posture, back pain, and structural issues in the feet.
Barefoot shoes promote a natural gait, encouraging children to land on the ball of their foot and use their toes to grip while walking and running.
Your child will be saved from developing common foot issues such as flat feet, pronation (where the heel bone angles inward), and supination (where it tilts outwards). This helps them maintain their natural arch and promotes good posture.
Establish Good Posture Habits
The zero-drop sole on barefoot shoes offers a flat sole, with the heel perfectly aligned to the ball of the foot. This keeps the body and skeletomuscular system in proper alignment, with the body weight evenly distributed throughout the feet.
In contrast, regular shoes with high heel-to-toe drops force the feet into an unnatural position, leading to increased stress on the back and neck and causing permanent postural changes over time.
Considerations When Choosing Barefoot Shoes for Kids
Proper fit is essential to reap the full benefits of barefoot shoes for kids. Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing the best for your child:
- Ample Toe Space: The shoe should offer enough room for your child's toes to spread out naturally and be able to wiggle comfortably.
- Flexibility: Barefoot shoes should be flexible, allowing for a full range of motion in the foot. This helps maintain proper foot mechanics and strengthens the muscles.
- Zero Drop: Look for shoes with no heel-to-toe drop, meaning the sole is flat and does not slope down towards the heel. This allows for a more natural foot strike when walking or running.
- Breathability: Choose shoes made from breathable materials such as leather or mesh to prevent fungal infections and keep your child's feet dry.
Durability: Kids are known to be rough on footwear, so opt for sturdy barefoot shoes with reinforced stitching and durable materials.
- Lightweight Materials: For added comfort, choose lightweight materials that do not weigh down on your child's feet and allow for more natural movements.
Transitioning Your Kids to Barefoot Shoes
Slow and steady is the name of the game when transitioning your child to barefoot shoes. Here are some tips for a smooth and comfortable switch:
Start With Short Periods: Begin by having your child wear their barefoot shoes for short periods, such as 15-30 minutes, and gradually increase the duration over several weeks.
Allow Time for Adaptation: Wearing traditional shoes can weaken the muscles in the feet, and transitioning to barefoot shoes will require those muscles to work harder. Give your child's feet enough time to adapt and strengthen.
Monitor for Any Discomfort: If your child is experiencing discomfort, reduce the duration of wear until their feet adjust.
- Choose Appropriate Activities: Start with less demanding activities such as walking and gradually introduce more challenging movements like running or playing sports.
Choose Comfort and Style at Every Step With Origo Shoes
With the many benefits that barefoot shoes offer kids, they're becoming a popular choice among parents, and only rightfully so.
Origo Shoes' line of minimalist footwear for kids is designed to provide ultimate comfort, support natural foot mechanics, and encourage proper posture. An easy hook and loop design allows for a secure fit and easy on/off, making them perfect for active kids.
Choose the best for your child's feet with our barefoot shoe collection. Shop now at Origo Shoes and give your child the gift of happy, healthy feet.