I Raised a Barefoot Baby. Here's Why You Should, Too!
In our house, rushing outside to greet the morning air and warm sunshine is a ritual, but shoes sure as heck aren't. My grom's feet are caked in dirt or sand, the little scratches on their toes telling a story of adventure, growth, and newfound knowledge of the world. Life couldn't be better.
Aside from when they're ripping on their killer little grom skateboard at the park, my groms were all (and currently still are!) raised a barefoot baby.
With the plethora of benefits derived from something so simple yet so powerful in connection to the Earth, spirituality, and early childhood development, perhaps you should, too!
The Principles of Grounding
I don't wear shoes often, either, and the reasoning behind my passion for raising barefoot kids circles back to a potent therapeutic practice known as 'grounding', sometimes called 'earthing'.
The Earth is alive, and there's a constant flow of energy in the form of electrical charges rushing through the crust. As bioelectrical beings, when we connect ourselves to this energy, we absorb it into our bodies in the form of free electrons, a unique type of antioxidant derived solely from, well, the soles of our feet!
By conducting these electrons into your body through physical touch to the Earth's surface, these antioxidants protect you against the free radicals that play a leading role in inflammation and disease. In doing so, this physically grounded electrical state makes you feel grounded as an emotional state, as in mentally and emotionally stable with a strong, balanced, and stress-free aura.
A barefoot baby will reap the same holistic benefits of grounding while they grow to understand this vital connection, becoming an innate part of who they are, and will carry this practice with them long into their lives.
I don't want my groms spending their childhood wrapped in a barrier of rubber insulating shoes. I want them to feel the Earth, love the grass and sand between their toes, and crave the feeling when your legs step out the house and make contact with the sweet dew.
That's enough reason alone to raise barefoot kids, but what do ya' know; there's still so much more to it.
The Inspiring Benefits of Growing Up a Barefoot Baby
There's more to barefoot babies than just grounding. Keeping the shoes off your kids' feet will enhance multiple aspects of critical development as they grow into their skin, and there's more than enough science to back this up!
1. The Development of a Normal Longitudinal Arch in Early Childhood
A barefoot baby has a much higher chance of developing a normal longitudinal arch than those who consistently wear shoes, as proven by The Bone and Joint Journal.
Wearing shoes was shown to increase the prevalence of 'flat feet', which can lead to pain, swelling, and even numbness in the ankles and feet. To massively lessen the chance of this occurrence, avoid closed-toed shoes whenever possible. Sandals and open toe sleds are a close second, but nothin' beats going barefoot.
2. Natural Foot Development in Babies
Shoes are tight. They're stiff, non-flexible, and create a narrow passageway that keeps your feet planted firmly in place. The feet of a baby who wears shoes will conform to the shoe's shape due to this tight constriction on their soft bones and freshly developing muscles.
A barefoot baby's feet, on the other hand, will develop far more naturally than those confined in shoes.
In fact, a study titled "Shod versus unshod: The emergence of forefoot pathology in modern humans?" compared the feet of 180 modern humans to those of a 2,000-year-old skeleton. Sure enough, it proved that our feet were wayyy healthier before shoes existed and that shoes are a leading cause of improper walking posture and poor foot development leading to chronic pain/spine issues.
So basically, it's a big freakin' deal to keep the shoes off your kid's feet, primarily during these beginning stages of bone, ligament, and muscle growth, but also long-term as adolescents and adults.
3. Being Barefoot is Best for Agility
Considering they spend most of their time on skateboards, surfboards, or running free on sun-caked Australian sand, agility is a big deal!
If you have a toddler fresh into taking their first steps, then you would notice two very different walking scenarios when wearing shoes versus going barefoot.
During this developmental stage, your toddler is receiving the information that allows them to feel secure in their balance and orientation through their feet, allowing them to look up and visualize their forward paths while absorbing all other external information/stimulation.
Put shoes on them, and a layer of rubber blocks this information. Now, in an attempt to gather this information from a source other than their feet, their heads are down.
They look at the ground, stumble, and fall, and this seriously hinders agility levels as they grow into their legs.
4. Barefoot Babies & Critical Sensory Experiences
Proprioceptive and vestibular development refers to your child's ability to interact with their environment via sensory experience. Proprioceptive development (summarized as general bodily awareness) and vestibular development (summarized as spatial orientation and balance) are keystone elements to your child's motor skills and how they interact their body and mind with the world outside our bellies.
We generally focus on the five senses of touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing as the gateway to sensory experience and the connections that follow, yet proprioceptive and vestibular development are in themselves a sixth and seventh sense that often fall unnoticed. To enhance these critical aspects of sensory development, it's literally as simple as allowing them to run barefoot and free!
They need to feel the 20,000+ nerve endings in the foot being put into work as they pass over various surfaces or step on something sharp or soft, as this allows them to understand their body's relationship with the outside world and better teaches them how to react to the various situations/stimulations life is sure to throw their way.
How will they know not to walk on rocks if they've never experienced it first-hand (okay, fine; first-feet) for themselves!
5. A Barefoot Kid is Less Prone to Injury
Relating to sensory development and motor skills, a barefoot kid is less prone to injury than those raised in shoes! They understand the changing feelings derived from pressure on various surfaces; they can feel the bark under their feet and know to adjust as they climb the branches of a tree. They know not to run fast on rock or kick it full gear in the sand, and they are more willing to place themselves in new and unfamiliar experiences.
Growing up barefoot allows you to learn how to react, and it helps your kid become a more aware individual. Instead of looking at the ground to make up for the lack of sensation caused by tight-fitted shoes, they can look up and navigate themselves far more safely.
When Your Grom Shouldn't Go Barefoot
As with anything, there will always be exceptions. Your barefoot baby will have to wear shoes at some point, and that's inevitable. When deciding if it's a good time for your kid to go barefoot, keep a few simple things in mind:
- The Environment: Stick to natural environments for your barefoot kid. The great outdoors is ideal, the city streets are not. Besides, there's no grounding to be done on a concrete slab. Is sun blazing on the sand? Don't let them burn their feet. An area known for snakes or poison ivy? Tie the shoes on. Common sense will go a long way when debating if your child should go barefoot.
- Sunscreen: Feet get sunburnt! Ensuring that feet are protected from the sun is equally critical to the nose and cheeks, so lather them up for a barefoot day.
- Blistered and Cauliced Feet: A sure sign that your grom's bare feet might need a break.
- Developmental and Posture Concerns: If your child suffers from certain developmental issues in the feet, legs, or spine, such as tippy-toeing, knees knocking together, or feet pointed drastically inward/outward; then they might need specialized shoes and soles. Talk to your primary to figure out the details!
- A Nasty Cut: If your barefoot baby suffers a nasty cut, it's always a good idea to get it checked by a doctor.
- Warm, Moist Environments & Still Water: These environments allow for the growth of bacteria and are therefore best approached with the shoes on!
A Final Word on The Benefits of Bare Feet
There are so many benefits of going barefoot, but you have to act consciously to ensure your (and your babies!) feet feel the ground and see the sunshine. If shoes are commonplace, try to avoid them when you can and when the situation is ideal. Be diligent in ensuring your family doesn’t go a day without feeling the ground for at least a moment.
Barefoot is best, loose sandals are a close second, and shoes fall in last. If you do have to put shoes on your kid, opt for loose-fitting at the toes with support on the ankles with a flexible material to negate the negative effect of shoes on development.
Besides, our vast collection of cute, surf-inspired baby clothes (also for toddlers, adolescents, and adults) look best when paired with bare feet, so there's really all to gain and not much to lose when you raise a barefoot baby!
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