Benefits of barefoot walking

You probably know the feeling of walking barefoot on the sand or in the grass. Although it is a very enjoyable experience, you will feel more tired at the end of the walk than with your normal walking shoes. An explanation for this is so simple! Whenever you step on a surface that wraps around the foot, such as sand, tiny stones or grass, your foot has to work much harder than when walking on a flat surface. 

A healthy child’s foot needs to be free sometimes, for the nerve endings (proprioceptors) and the small foot muscles to be activated. The question is the quality of the terrain and the intensity of the barefoot walking. If children run on various surfaces, e.g. cooler tiles, then a rough carpet, and then a soft carpet, the foot will benefit from it. It is wrong to let the child walk constantly on the same, let alone, straight and smooth surface. Ideally you should have them walk barefoot on the grass, sand or small stones. 

The soles of our feet have over 200,000 nerve endings which transmit to our brain information about the ground we walk on. This activity is called proprioception, the body’s awareness of itself in its surroundings. Allowing these nerve endings to feel the ground helps children develop better balance and coordination. Barefoot walking strengthens the muscles, tendons, and ligaments of the foot.
Barefoot walking helps us maintain appropriate range of motion in our foot and ankle joints. Watch a baby or small child squat down and try to imitate their stance. Children can squat with butt to heels while maintaining a neutral spine. Most adults can’t.

Are there any risks of barefoot walking?

You will be susceptible to injury from the terrain (like rough or wet surfaces or issues with temperature, glass, or other sharp objects on the ground). You also take the chance of exposing your feet to harmful bacteria or infections. Both risks can be prevented, if you choose maintained surfaces like beaches, parks, or your own garden. Do not walk barefoot if you have a foot injury, and wash your feet when you reach home.

Barefoot Shoes: a Healthy Compromise?

Being barefoot some part of the day is definitely healthy. When that isn’t an option, then you can go for barefoot shoes that provide similar benefits. In general, shoes can be considered “barefoot shoes” if they:
1.    Do not have a raised heel. The shoe should be flat and all the same thickness from heel to toe.
2.    Allow free movement of the toes. Many shoes have thin or even pointy toe beds and constrain the toes. A barefoot shoe should be open or allow free toe movement.

Barefoot shoes provide a basic protective barrier between the foot and the ground while not restricting the natural movement of the foot. 

In 2018, Protetika started to produce a children's shoe line called Flexi, alongside with its orthopedic core production. Flexi is a style of shoe where all the barefoot footwear qualities are met. However, also in this type of shoes you will find the arch support. The insole is removable, to allow checking the shoe size properly. Flexible sole with a thickness of 3-6 mm protects the foot from mechanical damage and dirt. Thanks to the thin and flexible sole that adapts to the foot, it is possible to perceive maximum surface information. Anatomically shaped toe box provides toes with freedom. The shoes allow the child to engage all the muscles, tendons and foot bones just like walking barefoot, thus helping to optimally develop the foot. There is a zero incline between the tip and the heel (no heel). This line of shoes lacks the solid heel counter. Orthopedists recommend to use this type of shoes only for children whose heels do not move to the sides and foot arches are developing nicely.Barefoot or flexible sole sneakers for toddlers
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