One of the hardest things about being a parent is the idea that you might not be providing your kids with all the tools they are going to need in the future in order to live a good life. I want to give you a hand on this by tackling a quite underestimated aspect related to their upbringing, i.e. foot development, and then show you why minimalist shoes for kids are a must for any caring parent.
Taking care of kids from head to.. Toes!
We all know how wonderful it is for kids to grow up. We see them learn, smile, make new friends, discover new interests and we can’t help but feeling very happy for them. We do our best to provide them with all the psychological and physical tools to help them become even better people than we are. These are tools they will certainly need in the future when it won’t be our job to follow them step by step anymore. Make sure, though, that they’ll be able to take every single step in their life pain-free, literally. The best and most effective solution for this to happen is to act early. Just like learning how to play an instrument at age 5 is easier than doing it at age 50, setting the foundation for proper foot development is better if done when feet are still 100% capable to do so.
The crucial aspects of foot development
Adult feet are hard and bony. On the other hand, during the first year of life, feet don’t contain any bone yet but just spongy cartilage (this is why they almost feel like soft balls). As years go by, more and more bone structures start forming in response to mechanical and physiological stimuli which also leads to an impressive growth (on average 2 sizes a year from 0-5 years old and 1 size a year till age 12-14 when most bone structures, tendons and ligament have developed to the adult version). Such a rapid development underlies another important aspect to keep in mind, that is, during this initial years feet are extremely sensitive to external factors. If you aren’t too squeamish, I recommend check out the so-called “foot binding”, an old custom, quite common in Asia till a century ago consisting of applying tight binding to the feet of young girls to alter the shape and size of their feet. Just like soft clay, not-fully-developed feet respond to external factors very well. This represents a double-edge sword as the result can vary enormously depending on the way the kid’s feet are treated as (s)he grows.
In my opinion, kids should be barefoot as much as possible, as this is the best conditions feet can be in (providing it’s safe). Did you notice there is nothing that make kids happier than running around barefoot, on the beach, on the grass, at home, etc.? Have you ever wondered where that feeling of joy and freedom they display so clearly come from? It comes from the fact that in those situations their brain is literally flooded with sensory stimuli.
Hands and feet, with their hundreds of thousands of receptors, can now explore the world to the fullest.
The whole body responds to these stimuli adapting to them, strengthening muscles and bones in the way evolution wants, and forming a well-balanced and healthy body. To support all this, there is even some scientific evidence showing that scoliosis and other spine issues, so common among kids nowadays, can be caused and/or worsened by modern shoes. Why should that be the case? Well, if you prevent the foundation of your body, i.e. your feet, from sending incorrect or incomplete sensory feedback to the rest of it for years then, it makes complete sense that you can encounter more-or-less serious developmental defects.
Today’s world and the feat of letting feet develop properly
You might have never thought about it but the word comfort contains the word -fort, which derives from the Latin fortis meaning strong. Therefore, in theory, real comfort should lead to strength. Yet, I have the impression that in today’s world there often seems to be a large gap between what we consider comfortable and what actually makes us strong(er). Modern shoes are the perfect example. Here is process: 1) take kid’s feet, 2) put them in modern shoes thinking that having lots of padding under their feet must be comfortable for them (because it is for us, right?), 3) have them wear these kinds of shoes till they are teenagers and 4) voilá, barely functional, injury-prone and padded shoe-addicted feet are served, along with premature back- and knee-pain.
This all started from that initial idea of comfort. If the logic holds, something truly comfortable should naturally create something strong. But, as far as it seems, it doesn’t. Don’t you think that this very idea of comfort is a bit artificial? If so, why is that? My answer to this question is the following: the lobby of (running) shoes.
There is no better marketing strategies than getting millions and millions of kids used to wearing modern, ultra-padded, reinforced shoes, starting as early as possible in life. The outcome is that when they are grown-ups, their brain will be perfectly rewired to associate comfort to those kinds of shoes. Plus, the feet will be so underdeveloped to be able to function properly without highly technological oddly-shaped, spongy insoles. It’s so ironical that instead of making our feet fortis (= strong), we created shoes that really look like armors, ready to be sent to a deadly war with the unaware soldier who wears them.
The secret lies in using the right tools: minimalist shoes
Fortunately, nowadays people have found a way to reverse the trend that is turning our kids into adults with underdeveloped feet. I am talking about minimalist shoes. Even though they are becoming more and more trendy among adults, the fact that kids need them (and need them even more than adults) is not well-understood among parents yet. The reason for this probably has to do with the proven fact that minimalist shoes help your old, broken feet to get back to life (check this post). Therefore, if we assume (wrongly) that kids must have perfect feet because… they’re kids, then why give them minimalist shoes? Well, needless to say that prevention is the best cure. Feet develop into perfect feet in the right conditions. The best conditions possible are created with lots of barefoot time and with minimalist shoes that offer the right amount of protection and at the same time an experience as close as possible to being barefoot.
If a healthy diet, lots of outdoor activities and nurturing their mind are among the top priorities for your kids, maybe it’s time to add minimalist shoes too. You won’t regret it.
Live wise. Live in motion.
PPS Please share your thoughts with me.