TIPS When You Have to 4-go Barefoot Goodness: Soft Soles = Healthy Development

Adapted excerpts from Eady's keynote to the Florida Naturopathic Physicians Association Annual Meeting, May 8th, 2010 in Delray Beach, FL. On Oct 1, Eady discussed the topic more directly about engaging Special Needs Youth in stimulating out-of-classroom activity at the Kids Included Together National Ctr for Inclusivity Trng Conference.

FL Naturopathic Physicians Annual Mtg, Red Tent, Delray Beach, FL

There's a deep, primal connection between the earth and naturopathic medicine. So it's no stretch to think about the vital importance our main instrument of contact with the ground (our feet) has with the natural surroundings that influence the practice of this medical form.

“The best therapeutic environment is said to be a place of great natural beauty,” the ancient Tibetan medical treatise, Gyu-Zhi, states unequivocally. If we label as “beauty” the reflecting process which simultaneously induces harmonious states of wholeness, healing and health, we can suggest that non-harmonious reflections, or the removal from or distortion of these positively reflecting elements generates negative emotions such as anxiety, fear, rage and grief.

Healthy foot development is at the core of movement and exploration in a natural environment...
Bottom-line (pun intended): Shoes should be designed specifically for natural movement--with flexible, ample-wide, soft soles and breathable, natural materials. Balance, strength and flexibility are maximized when feet are allowed to develop naturally. When you or your child can't go barefoot, a soft sole that mimics barefoot conditions is ideal. Soft soled shoes are critical for healthy feet.

Shoes that meet all these qualities are adored by adults and children alike for they align with the basics of bare-foot like, comfortable feel.
Toddlers and children are easily mal-adapted to the wrong shoe choices provided them. This can influence bone development and balance. Caring for a child's feet will benefit their health, mobility and well-being throughout their entire lives.
~ According to the Society of Chiropodists (and Pedorthists), the 26 bones in our feet are not fully hardened until age 18 ~
  • Children's feet are composed of relatively soft and flexible cartilage which gradually converts to bone with age.
  • While children's feet are developing, the soft cartilage centers are fusing together. As such, the foot is at risk from injury and deformity due to ill-fitting footwear.
  • Any postural foot abnormality can have an effect further up the body, permanently altering posture and walking style.

Healthy Footwear Tips:

· Barefoot is best for healthy foot development. In countries where footwear is not used, studies show an almost total absence of adult foot problems. Obviously it's not always practical to be barefoot - which is where good shoe design comes in for warmth and protection while simulating barefoot conditions as much as possible for natural foot development.

· Allow plenty of room for toes to wiggle and reflexively respond~spread. This means not only your shoes, but care should also be taken to make sure that socks are loose and sleep suits do not cram the toes. (Yes, that goes for adults who sleep with "footies", too!)

· When buying for children - find shoes from reputable companies designed specifically for toddlers and young children. A young child's foot is a different shape from that of an adult or teenager, requiring a correspondingly much bigger toe area than the shape of an adult shoe. Many shoe manufacturers children's shoes are simply scaled down versions of adult shoes.
· Soling material for outdoor shoes on hard surfaces such as sidewalks should be slip resistant, shock absorbing and flexible. The best soles are protective while simulating barefoot conditions, meaning no heels, and negligible arch support or other "molding" features.
· Upper materials should be made of breathable material such as leather or cloth. Children's feet sweat more than adults, up to 1 cup of moisture per day. Avoid synthetic nylons or plastic materials. Sheepskin lining is an ideal material as it wicks moisture away from the foot.
"Research conducted at the University of Vermont concluded that toddlers stumble and fall more often in thick soled sneakers than in soft, flexible soled shoes. Children wearing soft, flexible soled shoes fell less and walked more naturally. The study showed babies trip five times more often in sneakers on carpeting and three times more often on tiles when wearing sneakers."

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Comment by Randy Eady on December 7, 2010 at 9:47am
Remember Benefits of going Barefoot (especially important for wee ones)

1 Strengthens the muscles in your feet.

2 Realigns your natural posture.

3 Feeling: the ground, stimulates sensory perception.

4 Flexes your feet as nature designed.

Comment by Randy Eady on October 30, 2010 at 4:54am
Is foot pain also related to falls?

Since falls are a leading cause of injury among older adults, and gait and balance problems have been associated with falls, a research team in Australia wanted to discover if foot pain was associated with risk of falls.

FINDINGS: People who fell had a significantly higher prevalence of foot pain (57.9%) compared to people who did not fall (42.1%). People who fell also showed higher plantar pressures when they walked.

COMMENT: “High pressures are influenced by several factors, in particular the amount of soft tissue cushioning the foot,” corresponding author Karen Mickle at the University of Wollongong.

SOURCE: Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 58(1):1936-1940 (...October 2010)

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