South African children are accustomed to walking barefoot. This simple action has many health benefits. Read on, courtesy of Montessori @ Home, to see why we should allow our children to walk with bare feet.
Shoes prevent one of the most nerve-rich parts of the body, to send important messages to our brains. This stunts brain development, argues Dr. Kacie Flegal, a chiropractor and member of the International Chiropractic Pediatrics Association.
Babies use the five basic senses: touch, taste, sight, hearing, and smell. The information from their environment, is sent to their brains. This develops their neural pathways. There are two other sensory systems, rarely talked about; the proprioceptive system and the vestibular system.
Proprioception helps us to understand the motion and position of our bodies in space. The vestibular system is responsible for balance and coordination.
The brain relies heavily for sensory input from both these senses. Bare feet, especially during infancy and early childhood, send information to the brain. Pressure and movement, felt by proprioceptors in the feet, activate these nerve endings. These nerves send signals to the brain, orientating it to the position of the body. This is how being barefoot benefits brain development.
Bare feet are important to optimal nervous system and brain development.
The information gained from proprioceptors protects the foot itself from injury by making subtle adjustments in your gait to protect bones and joints. This happens throughout the body and maximizes the efficiency of your movements, explains author of The Barefoot Book Dr. Daniel Howell.
Shoes prevent receptors to feel the surface we walk on. This stops the development of strong neurological pathways and connections.
Parents put shoes on their babies, often before they start walking or as soon as they learn to walk, Flegal notes. By doing this, they are preventing stimulation of the proprioceptors. This limits their child’s movement, and impairs balance and coordination, this occurs because the little muscles and joints in the feet cannot adjust to the changing terrain.
“When a child walks barefoot, her tactile pathways feel the surface of the ground. Proprioceptors respond to pressure, and the terrain creates slight imbalances, creating neuromuscular strength, spatial orientation, balance, and coordination,” Flegal writes.
Of course we want to protect our children’s feet from harsher environments, but let them run shoe-free on a variety of natural surfaces; such as grass, dirt, sand or wet leaves, as often as possible. “(This) will permit them a great platform for the development of higher brain centers responsible for emotional control, problem solving, language, social skills, and self-assurance,” Flegal say.
Let us know if you have any experiences relating to your proprioceptors and balance? How do you feel about allowing children to walk with bare feet?