Get out that cell phone parents, baby may be taking that first step! Their baby walking is a milestone parent’s crow about. So no wonder parents feel they must make sure baby feet have the best support to prevent falls, give baby confidence, and assure happy feet. But those traditional high topped white leather baby shoes that are adorable, bronzed, precious mementos, are yesterday’s shoes. Current research says “Barefoot is Better.”
Dr. Diana Blythe, a pediatrician, says, “Not only are shoes not needed, but restrictive shoes can also be harmful, cause stiffness and even deformity. Even flexible flat feet are no cause for concern as the arch will naturally form on its own around age 6 or 7. Let them strengthen the muscles and increase the flexibility of their feet by allowing free movement.”
Podiatrist Dr. Alan Lechan agrees. “Baby bones are soft and malleable. I’ve seen little kids with a curly little toe from wearing shoes without proper room for toes. When the foot is in direct contact with the ground the brain receives the best information to know where the feet are, to give that information to the body to adjust for balance and position of the joints that are most effective for the baby and toddler.” Lechan adds, “Shoes add a layer of padding to the feet so your brain can’t perceive where they are.” Lechan’s scientific assessment echoes, Eastern practitioners who describe walking barefoot as a connection of the body to the energy flow of the earth. In such cultures, the belief is you must be able to feel the subtleties of the earth’s essence in order to achieve balance, movement, and posture.
It’s a Question of Balance
Podopediatric specialist Tracy Byrne agrees that walking barefoot helps children develop good posture, and improves their awareness of their surroundings. “Toddlers keep their heads up more when they are walking barefoot. The feedback they get from the ground means there is less need to look down, which is what puts them off balance and causes them to fall down.”
In fact, Dr. Lynn Staheli, orthopedic director at Children’s Hospital and medical center in Seattle concluded that “children with the healthiest and most supple feet are those who habitually go barefoot.”
Studies have shown that in cultures where toddlers and children under age of 6 wear no shoes or rarely wear shoes, that they have a lower occurrence of flat feet and have stronger arches and ankles than in our western culture.
Parents have often worried that toddlers “flat feet” can inhibit walking or foot development and rush out to buy supportive shoes, or arch supports. The truth is that there is very little evidence that shows this is beneficial or helpful. In fact, the opposite is true. Professionals agree that flat feel–no visible arch when standing–is normal for toddlers and young children. As they grow, and strength in the foot and ankle improves, the arch naturally develops.
So save those baby and toddler shoes as foot covers only for the cold outdoors, rocky surfaces and decoration and let your little ones do some barefootin’