Benefits of Barefoot Stimulation for Children

Life is a sensory playground.

From the vibration of impact forces to the sound of our favorite song, sensory stimulation shapes our cognition, emotional flexibility and motor control. If we think back to when we were children, many of us may recall instinctively preferring to be without shoes. We intuitively knew that that things felt “different” in this sensory rich environment we call barefoot.

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The Importance of Barefoot Stimulation for Kids

No matter how adorable kids' shoes are, walking and playing barefoot allows access to the thousands of nerves in the bottom of the feet. This direct contact between the feet and the ground has incredible benefits. Below are some of the top benefits chidden can expect from going sans footwear.

Barefoot Stimulation Allows Healthy Foot Development

Over the past 30 years, studies have shown that wearing shoes can have a negative effect on foot development. Premature supportive footwear can slow the natural intrinsic muscle strengthening that is required for future arch development and dynamic foot function.

study in the Bone and Joint Journal suggested that children who wear close-toe supportive shoes are more likely to have flat feet than children who wear sandals or walk barefoot.

Since children are going through so much growth and motor programming, the impact of footwear can potentially be greater for children than adults. For instance, children develop a foot arch between the ages of 3 and 9 which mean that the need for arch support in children may not be necessary and actually deleterious.

Barefoot Stimulation Benefits the Brain

Feeling the ground beneath the feet increases foot nerve stimulation which leads to overall higher neuro-activation.

Kids' (like adult’s) receive information about the surfaces they walk on. The sole of the foot is rich in nerve endings which are designed to send sensory information to the brain. This information is then used to prepare accurate muscle responses.

Barefoot stimulation enhances the connection between the foot and the brain. This means that it increases proprioception and mechanoception. Proprioception is the ability to perceive the motion and position of our body in space. These receptors in the body are activated by movement and pressure. Then they communicate the body's position and orientation to the brain.

Sensorial stimulation of the feet is important throughout one's life, however early childhood is a particularly crucial period for stimulation due to it being a peak window of neuroplasticity, or a period of neurodevelopment. About 90 percent of the brain develops during the first six years of life. It's during this period that a child's neural pathways form and change in response to stimuli, including that from the foot.

Barefoot Stimulation Promotes Better Walking Posture

Barefoot stimulation increases body awareness which translates to how we learn to walk and carry ourselves.

Without shoes the brain learns the pattern of normal movement from the way the muscles contract and relax, and how the joints work. This forms neurological patterns in the brain — a kind of "walking memories." Premature use of shoes can distort the natural walking pattern due to compromised sensory stimulation.

For healthy growth, a child's foot needs to feel all the clues from the environment. Foot stimulation is best when the foot touches the ground without the barrier of footwear. This promotes the natural movement needed for a proper posture, better balance and coordination.

When kids have more control of their feet, their movement is more stable. So, walking, running, climbing, and playing become safer.

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Barefoot Stimulation Tips for Kids

As well as benefiting the brain, nerves, and muscles, barefoot walking and playing is fun for kids. So let's take a look at some barefoot activities for children. Then, we'll discover what they should wear when they can't go around unshod.

Barefoot Activities for Kids

It's good for your kid to walk or play barefoot at least 20 minutes a day, according to an article on Motherly. Having a no-shoes household policy helps.

Walk Barefoot. Allow your child to go without shoes anywhere that it's safe enough to walk barefoot. As kids imitate grown-ups, take your shoes off, too. Choose to walk on surfaces with a mix of textures, like a sandy and gravel beach. Or, walk barefoot along a forest path. It's even better if it has grass, mud, dry leaves, rocks, and wood. All these textures train your kids' bare feet to adapt to various surfaces they tread. In doing so, they stimulate the nervous system.

Play Barefoot. When kids play barefoot, running around, skipping rope, jumping in a mud pool, and climbing trees become more enjoyable. In addition exploring their environment with bare feet helps their muscle and brain development.

Build a Barefoot Sensory Trail for Kids.To boost kids' bare feet stimulation, you can create a sensory walking path in your yard. From rock mats and the Naboso Mat to dirt and grass, all different surfaces create. a unique stimulating environment for children’s feet.

Minimalist Shoes and Naboso Insoles Keep Kids' Feet Stimulated

Choosing the right footwear for tiny feet is crucial to avoid foot problems in childhood and later. Stiff shoes can cause deformities, like bunions. Or, they may even cause injury or foot pain. This is the conclusion of a research study published in The Foot in 2007.

So what are the best shoes for children?

The ideal shoes for kids are:

•         flat

•         flexible

•         lightweight

•         breathable

They have:

•         a deep and wide toe box

•         no arch support

•         an adjustable closure like Velcro or laces at the top

•         a puncture-resistant sole

We recently did a blog post on our favorite barefoot shoes for kids. You can read that HERE

As mentioned above, nothing is better for children than walking barefoot. But minimalist, or "barefoot," shoes come close. And if you pair them with Naboso insoles, you've got the next best thing to walking in bare feet. They help improve balance, foot strength, mobility, as well as ankle function.

These textured insoles stimulate the nervous system. This improves children's motor and cognitive development. You can trim the insoles to match any type of children's shoes. Visit the Naboso shop to find out more about Naboso Technology products.

Conclusion

The best way to stimulate your kids' bare feet is to let them go unshod. Foot stimulation through barefoot walking has amazing benefits. It helps their motor skills, brain, nerves, and muscles. When kids need footwear, choose minimalist shoes with Naboso insoles. The young ones will reap most of the benefits of barefoot walking with the added protection that footwear provides. With the right footwear, your children will go places — safely.