Starting from the moment babies learn to walk, most parents put shoes on their kids. While this sounds perfectly logical and straightforward, a study reveals that walking barefoot instead is actually beneficial for the development of children, and it offers plenty of health benefits for adults as well.
During the early years of a child’s life, the sensory system is in full development and allows the brain to learn, adapt and to grow.
Our five senses – touch, vision, hearing, smell, and taste – allow for that to happen. However, touch seems to be somewhat undervalued and underestimated.
Dr. Kacie Flegal works as a vitalistic chiropractor and is also a member of the ICPA, the International Chiropractic Pediatrics Association. She writes that two sensory systems, in particular, the proprioceptive system and the vestibular system, are easily overlooked yet are important. Walking barefoot more often helps improve the development of these systems and boosts brain function.
Proprioception is a term for the ability to understand the motion and positioning of the human body. Receptors in your joints, muscles and other tissue all work together and send signals to your brain. The vestibular system, on the other hand, is responsible for balance and coordination changes in space. A person’s center of gravity and posture, for example, are determined by this vestibular system.
In order for these systems to develop as best as possible, it’s necessary to ‘provide’ them with sensory input.
In other words, it’s not a great idea to always let your children walk with shoes on, as walking barefoot provides sensory input to these systems, and in turn, to the brain. The doctor says that feet are absolutely perfect for this because they’re equipped with strong neurological connections and many sensory cells.
However, walking with shoes prevents that tactile feedback from being sent to the body as the sensors simply aren’t being stimulated. We’re usually worried that our children’s feet will get injured or will get infected with some kind of nasty disease, but the chances of that are fairly low.
According to the doctor, allowing and motivating your children to walk barefoot results in better neuromuscular strength, and it also greatly improves your balancing, coördination as well as your spatial orientation skills. Stimulating the feet results in a higher development of brain centers.
“It is obvious that when our little ones are playing in cold or harsher environments, we want to protect them and keep them safe, but with guidance and a soft patch or grass, dirt, or wet leaves available, encourage babies to discover how great it feels to tromp around with naked feet! As a result, you will permit them a great platform for the development of higher brain centers responsible for emotional control, problem-solving, language, social skills, and self-assurance,” the doctor wrote in an article.
Even though young children can clearly benefit the most from walking without shoes, most of the benefits still apply to adults as well.
These two sensory systems can still be stimulated by walking barefoot and new neural connections can still develop, regardless of your age. In other words, if you’re having orientation and balance issues – walking without shoes on from time to time might help you with that.
“When was the last time you took off your shoes and walked barefoot in the dirt, the grass, or a puddle of water? Encourage yourself along with your children to explore, play, and be free to let the world tickle your senses! Not only does it feel amazing to intimately connect with the earth beneath your feet, but walking barefoot can whisk you back to your own childhood, where you can re-experience the world as a new and exhilarating place…just as babies do!” the doctor concludes.
In other words, kicking those shoes off is definitely something you can do more often.
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