Wondering what shoes to get for your active baby? The best shoes for them are -- drum roll, please -- none at all! Yes, going barefoot can benefit your child in many ways.
“Toddlers keep their heads up more when they are walking barefoot,” Dr. Tracy Byrne, a podiatrist specializing in podopediatrics, told The Guardian. Being able to feel the ground beneath means there is less need for a toddler to look down. “[Looking down] puts them off balance and causes them to fall down,” explained Dr. Bryne.
One of the major benefits of letting your child go barefoot is it strengthens her feet and lower legs, Kevin Geary, a parenting coach and author of Revolutionary Parent,told The Washington Post. Strong feet and legs, coupled with being able to feel the incline and surface of the ground, make your little one more agile and less prone to injury.
Shoes, said Geary, can prevent proper movement development and restricts toe spreading, making it harder for your tot to wobble. Stiff, ill-fitting shoes are not just at times uncomfortable. They can also hinder your child from learning how to walk properly. Prolonged use of constricting shoes can also lead to posture issues and back pain.
A lot of shoes for children sold in shops are not all suitable for feet that are just learning to walk, said Dr. Bryne. “They are too stiff, too rigid, with no flexibility at the sole and too much heel raise. It is of particular concern with toddlers learning to walk because it causes them to bounce and tip forward.”
“We are meant to have a raging river of information coming to [our brains and spinal cords] through our feet to help us move our bodies through space, and we have slowed it to a trickle…the moment we put [on] shoes,” Jessi Stensland, founder of FeetFreex, a global community for healthy feet, told Parent.co.
Some may argue that walking without shoes on can be dangerous for children. But just like how an infant’s brain needs a wide variety of stimulation to reach its potential, the immune system needs exposure to all sorts of everyday germs and bacteria to grow healthy. There are parasites on the ground that can enter your child through the skin of his feet. However, these parasites, namely roundworms and hookworms, live in soil that’s contaminated by feces. Play mats for kids and even the clean floor of your home should lessen this worry.
For the times your child does need to wear shoes, make sure that the shoe is very flexible, so it allows for movement, and is very lightweight. Shoes made from canvas, cloth or soft leather are great options. Look for ones with a low heel height, too. Check out our article here to read more shoe shopping for your toddler.