Ditch The Baby Shoes This Summer: Why Barefoot Is Best For Toddlersby Elizabeth MacDonald
Those baby shoes you received at your baby shower would have been better as a gift card. If there’s still time, go ahead and exchange them for one! While the sweet little shoes are ridiculously cute, they aren’t great for your baby’s development.
Even before your baby is walking, shoes are covering her ability to use her feet to feel the ground as she is playing, kicking, rolling, crawling, and bouncing. The shoes become a more serious problem just as your baby is ready to start pulling up, cruising around the furniture, and walking on her own. Experts are now saying that babies should learn to walk and run barefoot to aid balance and foot development.
The human foot is made up of 26 bones, 33 joints, and over 100 muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Shoes effect how a toddler uses these muscles and bones. Along with rapid height and weight growth, your baby’s brain development and motor development are each progressing rapidly within the first year. Experts are now understanding that babies learn to use their bodies best when there are no objects that interfere with the process - including shoes.
A podiatrist specializing in podopaediatrics, Tracy Byrone, recorded, “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”. More than just preventing falling, letting your toddler go barefoot allows her body to grow and develop in the ways that it should.
Why Barefoot is Best
It Allows for Optimal Development
Toddler shoes tend to be narrow, stiff, and snug. As a baby grows into toddlerhood, her feet are still soft. They start hardening, and then the joints, ligaments, and muscles continue to develop. Shoes interfere with this development because the feet will conform to the shoes especially when any weight is put on the feet.
It Improves Motor Development
Being barefoot teaches a baby about her surroundings. It doesn’t matter what is being touched, but the feet have close to 200,000 nerve endings in them - meaning that they may have a greater purpose than just walking. When your baby’s feet touch her blanket, car seat, bouncer, or your lap, they are being exposed to different textures and temperatures. Your baby’s body is understanding the world and allowing its toes to be used properly to push, roll, and feel the earth. Even when she is on her tummy, her barefeet allow her to push over or learn to crawl in a more freeing motion than if shoes were on her feet.
It Enhances Agility
The nerves in the feet send a message to the brain telling her when she should look down to see the ground. Shoes prohibit this action from taking place, as they absorb the friction of the earth below them. A shoe-wearing toddler is constantly looking down to make sure she does not trip and fall, but one who is barefoot feels grounded and safe with her steps. Being barefoot allows her to stay balanced with her toes naturally spread as she toddles around. Being barefoot also boosts coordination because the feet send messages to the toddler’s brain about how to organize her movement patterns and effectively navigate her body through space.
It Promotes Awareness
When a toddler has been free of shoes, she understands and trusts her feet’s responses to touch. Her feet understand texture and how to navigate the world beneath her. Researchers believe that the habit of being barefoot helps to prevent injury, too.