Posted on Wednesday, March 8, 2017
Barefoot walking is a complex topic. This article will address the root and sole of the subject. Many raise this question: Is barefoot walking okay for my child?
Children’s soft feet should be exposed to healthy environments. Walking barefooted is absolutely essential for motor-sensory development. However, as with all things, too much of one thing can be detrimental. The right balance between these two factors – barefooted or with shoes – must be attained.
Walking without any form of protection for the feet subjects your child to potential lower limb problems such as:
Walking barefooted predisposes the child to sustaining an injury. The foot may then be more susceptible to developing infections, fractures and long-term joint overuse or trauma.
Singapore is known as a clean city but that does not eliminate the small particles of sharp gravel, glass or uneven surfaces waiting to pierce the soft skin of a child.
This city is also known to have hard floorings – marble indoors, concrete outdoors. This does not encourage good foot structure as our bodies are naturally designed for softer surfaces of sand and natural terrain. Western homes tend to have carpeted floors while the outdoor surfaces are often tarmac (spongy). A cultural prevalence of children playing outdoors and often on grass is also a contrast to the Singaporean lifestyle.
Young children do not require shoes with hard soles. Softer shoes will suffice for protective measures. At home, a pair of soft, cushioned shoes will offer the protection your baby needs. Paediatric lower limb specialists will help you with the correct footwear choices for your child’s current developmental stage.
Some children are also noted to toe-walk as part of habit and for comfort. It is good practice to encourage normal heel-to-toe walking which can be achieved by asking children to slow down when walking or by wearing a pair of supportive shoes as it encourages the heel to make ground contact first.
These small changes help children develop good and safe walking habits at home. Children whose feet are not developing adequately or display signs of early joint degeneration should be treated with preventative care rather than waiting for them to suffer or intervening only when they reach an age where their foot will no longer change in structure.
Author: Podiatrist Georgina Callaghan-Tay