Bare feet are happy feet
Reasons to resist the lure of those too-cute baby shoes.
When shopping for the perfect baby shower gift it’s always those cute little size 1 shoes with the tiny laces or the little floral detail that makes many a heart just melt in an ‘aahhh’ or an ‘ooooh’… How could anyone resist the temptation?

The truth however is that babies do not need shoes, especially not before they walk, and then only for special occasions or due to cold or wet weather. A bare foot is a healthy foot, as every leading orthopaedic surgeon will tell you empathically.

Flat-foot (a condition where the arch of the foot collapses) occurs more often in children from more affluent communities, where shoe-wearing is encouraged, than in children from poorer or more rural communities where shoes aren’t often worn, claims a 1992 study published in The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery conducted by Udaya Bhaskara Rao and Benjamin Joseph. 

Encourage healthy feet

Dr Simon J. Winkler, author of Take Your Shoes off and Walk, suggests that just as you work on your child’s pincer grasp when it comes to holding a pencil or opening a bottle, you should also allow their feet the freedom, literally, for optimal development.

This means no shoes for a baby who is not walking – yes, really. It also means letting your baby crawl for as long as possible so that they don’t walk before their feet are developmentally ready.

When it comes to the winter chills, your child’s feet actually need less protection than you’d think. In fact, feet need no more protection than hands do, and you don’t put your child in gloves permanently do you? This common notion of covering up a child’s feet stems from parents who have their feet covered all the time, while babies actually thrive on this exposure.
Steer clear of socks that are too tight as well and when your baby wears their first shoes - if you simply gotta do it - ensure that they are flexible, soft-soled, roomy and simple. You don’t want your child’s feet to have any restrictions to natural growth.

South Africa’s barefoot culture

Our country has a very proud Afrikaans barefoot culture where many a primary school child can still be seen today walking to and from school sans-shoes… Rewind a couple of hundred years to the indigenous San people, and you will find they never needed a shoe to help them traverse the African terrain.

Going barefoot is not only fun and developmentally appropriate, it is our natural state of being – ask any toddler who has perfected the art of habitually escaping their shoes and socks at every possible moment.

My kids like to throw theirs over the balcony, much to our dogs’ absolute pleasure…

Would you let your toddler run around barefoot?

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