So as most of you know, I have a lovely 21 month old son. He started “cruising” around our furniture at about 8 months and walked at 14 months. The day he took his first steps we were made up. However I had not foreseen the parental angst that followed that happy day; now I had to take him for his first pair of shoes.
Why all the stress? Why not just take him to mothercare and get him measured up?
The reason for my hesitation was difficult to describe. As a chiropractor and now a Mother I occasionally get a niggly feeling that something I’m “supposed” to be doing just doesn’t feel right. When friends asked me if I’d forgotten to bring my child’s shoes along to play dates/park visits/groups I found it difficult to explain why I didn’t yet want to buy him any shoes.
After having a look and a feel of the shoes on offer I felt deflated, they were thick soled and totally rigid. Being the proud owner of a well used pair of vibram five finger shoes (these ones HERE LINK if you’ve never seen them) I really believe that they are the healthiest shoe choice for me. But what about a little foot that is still developing in strength?
Regarding health choices for my family, when faced with a challenge I ask myself, what would enable our bodies to function effectively? When it comes to feet- will a hard, thick-soled, built up shoe help my son to develop a natural strong gait? I was unsure.
After discussing it with a friend she mentioned a recent guardian article that might interest me. (LINK)
Tracy Byrne, a podiatrist specialising in podopaediatrics, believes that wearing shoes at too young an age can hamper a child’s walking and even their cerebral development. She says it is knows that when toddlers are barefoot they keep their posture more upright because they don’t need to look down (they can feel with their feet what they are stepping on) and it improves their balance. Parents who put their children in shoes even before they are walking or crawling may also be holding back their child’s development. Byrne worries that they may hinder a babies ability to crawl, which can be associated with an increased difficulty in reading and writing skills in later life (due to the development of convergence of vision). She believes crawling is much more difficult when babies are wearing shoes.
So I am totally sold on that logic, it fits with my health philosophy perfectly. However, living in Aberdeenshire it is not really appropriate to hang out in your bare feet for most of the year. There are also the additional hazards of glass/gravel/mud/puddles to be aware of. So what to do? After some research I have found quite a comprehensive list of UK creators and suppliers of infant and child barefoot shoes!
See list below:
- Shoo shoos
- Daisy roots
- Jack and Lily
- Livie and Luca
- Joe nimble
- See Kai Run
- Soft Star
Have you seen a pair of shoes and wondering if they are “barefoot” enough? The Barefoot Shoe Facebook page gives the following information and pictures on testing shoes for their barefoot capabilities:
Ideally the shoe will pass all if not at least 3
? The Flexibility Tests
• Bend or roll the shoe from heel to toe to meet with minimal effort. A ‘C’ or ‘O’ shape is very barefoot friendly. A ‘J’, ‘L’ or ‘U’ shape bend is not really.
• Try to twist the shoe as tight as possible with little effort
? Check Toe Box – is nice and wide with room for toes to splay and wiggle. If it’s a pointy shoe, most likely is not barefoot friendly
? Check Heels – are they rigid or high? Then they aren’t barefoot friendly.
? Check the Outer and Inner Soles – are they very thick, angled or curved? Do they have structured arch or heel support? Do they have multiple layers or shaped pieces of rubber/plastic? Then they are unlikely to be barefoot friendly. The foot bed should be flat and soft ideally, thin-pillowed leather or foam is usually ok. Outer sole should be as minimal and flat as possible, thus allowing the foot fall to be natural and using the whole foot. Not just toe or heel striking.
? Check Width – Clarks F is the narrowest of any barefoot shoe brand and should only be used for narrow feet. Most Barefoot shoes will be G+ width fittings and a clarks measurement of width is irrelevant really unless on the higher or lower sections of the widths (.e.g. E fitting will go in a barefoot F type shoe like Pediped, H fitting will fit in most but probably not in a F, but because of the way barefoot are structured possibly a G type shoe).
So there you have it. There is method to my madness!
Have you joined the barefoot club? Share your experience with us!