- Dr. Liz Homan
Barefeet or BEARFEET? :)
Our feet are the foundation for our entire body! We need to make sure that we treat them well, especially during the early developmental phase of life because the bones in our feet and ankles make up 25% of the total bones in our body! Each foot is made up of 26 bones and 33 joints!
One really good way to take care of your feet is to walk bare foot, or how we like to talk about it in our house: BEAR ‘RARRRR! FEET! And walking bare feet does so much more than improve your foot health! Let’s talk more about the benefits!
When we walk barefoot we typically land on the ball of our feet or walk toe first which results in the majority of the shock being absorbed into the arch compared to walking with shoes on, which results in most pressure being absorb through the heel. Beyond the positive effects of being barefoot on our body’s biomechanics, there are so many other amazing benefits!
When we feel the ground with our feet, we are increasing nerve stimulation which leads to higher neurological activation! When our nerve endings receive information from our surroundings it sends sensory information to the brain which is then used in muscle responses. This improves our proprioception (ability to perceive the motion and position of our body in space) and our mechanoception (ability to detect and respond to different stimuli, like touch and sound). So this true for all ages, but it is extremely crucial during childhood because during the first 6 years of life around 90% of the brain develops and is able to be molded the easiest. So when a child is walking and responding to their surrounding barefoot, they are creating more neural pathways in their brain which may lead to higher brain function later in life!
Some of you may not be aware, but the earth is negatively charged and when we put our feet directly on the earth it has been found that the body will absorb electrons from the earth. This has been suggested to be one of the most potent antioxidants available and some studies have also found it to have an effective anti-inflammatory effect as well!
So, what can you do to promote outdoor play with no shoes on? We tend to go to water play to get things started as Anna understands that we do not want to get shoes wet. Once we have shoes off, then we really encourage her to continue walking around even when we are done with water play. If your child is not up for being in the grass with no shoes on, you may want to look into building a sensory trail. This can be done by making a path with rock mats, mulch trails and then a grassy area. You can get creative and have your child help you create this trail to help build the excitement and also give them pride when using.
When shoes are needed, which they are needed, there are a few things to look for to allow proper foot development in our little ones. You want to make sure that the soles of the shoe is soft and flexible so that your kid can push off the balls of the feet correctly. It is also a good idea to make sure that the shoe is lightweight, breathable, has a deep and wide toe box and to make things easier on you, an adjustable closure like Velcro. You also need to make sure that the shoe fits properly! Having a shoe that is either too tight or too loose will change your child’s gait and possibly alter their foot development.
The weather has been great these last few weeks and we have been getting a lot of ‘bearfeet’ time in our house! I hope your entire family starts taking advantage of all of the amazing benefits of walking bare feet in our beautiful world!