One of my fondest childhood memories is running through the tall grass and wet mud with only the bottom of my bare foot to shield me from the germs my mother was yelling about. Despite her urging me to put shoes on, deep down I longed to walk barefoot, and now I am glad I did!
While shoes do protect our feet they also prevent our feet from sending messages to our brains. This according to one researcher basically stunts brain development in that area. Dr. Kacie Flegal is a chiropractor and member of the ICPA. She says spending some time barefoot as a child is important and seemingly crucial.
I recently came across an article on Natural Child Magazine that Flegal wrote and in it, she really broke things down. The article was titled ‘Barefoot Babies’ and went over everything you’d imagine in regards. She begins by going over our sensory system and our five basic senses. Those being touch, sight, taste, hearing, and smell.
These are the things babies use to create neurological connections. While we do think about our babies and try to make sure they’re getting all they need to we might be leaving out an important part of their development all because in this day and age we’re too afraid to let them run around without shoes on. Sure, shoes should be worn when needed, but they shouldn’t be on most of the time.
Two equally important sensory systems, which aren’t as commonly recognized, begin to take on a dominant role as babies begin to coordinate movements and have greater interactions with the world. These two systems are known as the proprioceptive system and the vestibular system.
Proprioception is the ability to perceive the motion and position of our bodies in space and is generated by receptors located within our joints, connective tissue, and muscles. When activated by pressure and movement, proprioceptors send direct signaling to the brain telling it how the body is oriented.
The vestibular system is the creation of balance and coordination as changes in center of gravity, posture, and head position shift. As babies gain awareness through the five primary senses, they begin generating deliberate movements and gradually learn to hold up their heads, roll over, sit up, crawl, and eventually start walking.
Encouraging enjoyable activities that stimulate the basic senses is, of course, important, yet we may underestimate the value in supporting proprioceptive and vestibular activities as well. One of the simplest ways to motivate proprioceptive and vestibular development is to let our babies be barefoot as much as possible!
You see, our feet are one of the most sensory-rich parts of our bodies. They are sensitive to touch and are very ‘impressionable.’ Should we really be limiting the stimulation of our own and our children’s proprioceptors? Could allowing our children to go barefoot prove to be more beneficial? Shoes prevent proper toe spreading and can make children more susceptible to foot and leg injury in many cases according to TWP.
TWP actually says that while we should pay attention and keep our children from stepping on things like glass or other sharp objects, we shouldn’t keep them from being barefoot sometimes. There is not anywhere near as much of a chance as your child picking up any kind of serious illness or disease by going barefoot and that by allowing them to go barefoot we are also strengthening their feet and allowing them to become more agile. Children already love going barefoot so why not let them have at it?