Most of us have probably been there: you walk into a public place, a barefooted babe perched on your hip, grinning the sweetest toothy smile.
Inevitably, the pointed questions begin to fly:
“Where are his shoes?”
“Why is she barefoot?”
“Shouldn’t they have something covering their feet?”
Maybe your kids detest shoes; maybe their favorite game is “Free the Piggies”; maybe you were in such a rush to get out the door that you forgot to throw shoes over those feet; or maybe—just maybe—your child isn’t wearing shoes because on a little one who has barely even taken his first steps, those extra layers just don’t seem necessary.
Whatever the reason, a barefooted baby is sure to attract unwanted commentary.
Sure, it’s our responsibility to make sure our little ones are warm enough. And yes, it’s true places such as stores and public restrooms aren’t the most sanitary places for a baby (or anyone, for that matter) to be collecting specimen samples on the bottoms of their feet.
But when the weather is warm, why shouldn’t our little ones be allowed to go barefoot in places such as parks, beaches, and splash pads, where there is no imminent threat to the safety of those sweet little toes?
The reality is, babies don’t always need to wear shoes. What’s more—there’s scientific evidence that backs the fact that being barefoot is actually beneficial to a child’s development.
Vitalistic Chiropractor Dr. Kacie Flegal, who is a member of the ICPA (International Chiropractic Pediatrics Association), points to two sensory systems that are essential to development: the proprioceptive (think, motion and joint positioning) and the vestibular (think, balance and coordination).
When we constantly cover our kids’ feet with shoes, we’re also covering up the many sensory receptors that contribute to developing these systems. On the flip side, allowing our kids to be barefoot exposes their feet to more stimulus, which helps to strengthen all of the above.
So let your kids kick off their shoes whenever possible, parents, and don’t you dare feel one iota of guilt about it. In fact, the benefits of walking barefoot don’t end in childhood, so go ahead and take off your own shoes to walk barefoot alongside them.
Your brains—and your bond—might just be better off for it.