When it comes to feet I believe we can get it right from the start.
I’ve recently invested in Vivobarefoot (via Crowd Cube) because I share their sentiments - to improve the very foundations of us as humans: our feet and our children.
So what's this article all about?
In a nutshell - protecting the natural function of my children's perfect feet.
It all started about 5 years ago.
I challenged myself.
CONFORM to expectation?
(turns out I did neither)
These are two actions I generally don’t adhere to; in life, work, parenting or in this case - my children’s feet. I’m an advocate of common sense so I sometimes end up doing things differently. This is why my children have never set foot in a high street shoe shop nor had their feet ‘formally’ measured.
I instead opted to buy my children foot-shaped shoes. It just seemed like common sense. Though what seemed like throwing caution to the wind and trusting my common sense for my first child took some courage.
I challenged the norm when I bid farewell to modern running shoes (and the latest technology). As a barefoot runner you kind of get used to those looks, perhaps you know the ones that I mean, like your some sort of freak as you run down the road with those ‘things’ on the end of your legs - your feet. Running around barefoot attracts attention (and even more if your children are with you….though nobody ever asks where’s the dog’s shoes!).
Playing barefoot – what could be more natural?
The question I’d like to put to you –
Have you ever wondered what effects modern shoe convention and ‘technology’ can have on children’s feet?
As I discovered (or indeed re-discovered) a connectivity with my feet, and realized (and regretted) the true deleterious effect of modern shoes on my feet, I wondered – ‘Can we get it right from the start?’ Let me explain…….
About 6 years ago two things happened that changed my life for the better. I started barefoot running and I had my first child. Little did I know that the two would combine to invoke a deep passion for natural foot development and Bear-Foot.
I am happy to tell you as I write, that I am a happy runner. On dry days I run barefoot on the road, any other you’ll find me in my Vivos or some form of hurache. I wasn’t always so happy. Having had serious IT band issues for years, I’d tried physio, stretching, strengthening, sports massage, orthotics and many, many pairs of shoes.
Seven long, injured and frustrated years went by. Then a chance article on running form and efficiency go me thinking.
‘Could it be the way that I run? How could that be?’,
‘I’ve always run like this.’
So I started forefoot striking (Boxing Day 2009 to be precise). My calves screamed to stop, but as I concentrated on not letting my heels anywhere near the ground my IT band began to thank me. The path faltered in places, but I all but was free of my IT band issues. It was all about the feet and form from now on.
My minimalist transition started in Vivobarefoot Evos (I still have them!). Probably like many of you, I started discarding all of my old running shoes like they were parasites in my life. It took about 2 years in all, to develop the foot strength and calf mobility to go truly barefoot and put skin on tarmac.
Around this rather epiphanous time my eldest daughter needed her first shoes. So I asked myself another question. If shoes can do this to my running form and injury – what on earth can they do to my daughter’s feet?
She already took her first steps barefoot – was she already a barefoot runner? (The answer is a definite YES!).
Even looking at her feet I could see my toes bent inwards and hers splayed beautifully outwards. We now rather fondly call this their ‘tribal’ feet.
After a lot of digging the main points I learned were really quite simple.
Children's feet are not miniature versions of adult feet
They are born with fewer bones (22 rather 26 as an adult) and more cartilage. This cartilage is softer than bone and far more susceptible to ill-fitting shoes. Naturally developed feet should be widest at the tip of the big toe.
Children's feet need to have freedom to move and feel the ground
Children's feet need to have freedom to move and feel the ground. There are an estimated 200,000 nerve endings in the feet – these are critical for sensory function.
Children's feet sweat twice as much as adult feet
Feet need to breath, there are up to 250,000 sweat glands per foot. Ever noticed how sweaty children’s feet are?
Therefore my checklist was:
A wide toe box.
A flexible sole.
Made from breathable material.
I identified brands that I thought would work. Measured her feet at home – no I didn’t go to Clarks! – and ordered the shoes. I used basic online resources and common sense to ensure a proper fit. People commented on how great the shoes looked whilst I educated them on basic barefoot shoe attributes. I soon realized I was waxing far more lyrically about my daughter’s shoes and feet than my own.
Hence, I believe we should invest in our children’s feet from the start, and by selecting shoes based on these 3 simple principles I believe I have done this.
So is the investment paying off?
My eldest daughter’s dance teacher is obsessed with her feet in the way that ‘she has such flexibility and control of her feet and toes’. It’s the alignment of her toes and metatarsals, she has a natural and full range of movement in her feet that I already [sadly] see compromised in her peers – even at 6 years of age.
My son’s rugby coach compliments him on how he moves. In this case he’s in his Vivobarefoot Neos. I explained his advantage is cadence. He is still 90+ strides per minute, his unfortunate peers have clumpy trainers and plod. Even as early as 4 years of age, poor shoe choice results in a lower cadence, a greater forced foot strike and impaired lower limb movement – I see it every week. Why do 4 years olds need a 10-12mm heel on their shoes?
Wherever and whenever possible my children will remove their shoes. Unless it’s a really daft idea I invariably never stop them. They want to explore the world around them. I believe this learning is enhanced in bare feet.
If you liked this, take a look at the other posts on my blog. And the cool thing is, we were all children once (some seemingly remaining so mentally!) so it’s applicable. Interested? Take a look - http://bear-foot.co.uk/blogs/bear-foot-adventures
For now that’s all. Perhaps we’ll chat again soon.