Despite the continual efforts by the medical community to educate the public on the dangers of poorly designed and ill fitting shoes, adults still tend to succumb to fashion trends and cause further harm. Adults that wish to damage their bodies are certainly capable of making an informed decision to do so.
Children, especially young children, are not capable of such informed decisions. They are dependant upon their parents to protect their health and well being. Yet many parents subject their young children to a lifetime of suffering by forcing them to wear bad shoes. Forcing is the appropriate word in this context. Most very young children remove shoes as quickly as possible. They aren’t playing games or doing it to be contrary. They have very good reasons for removing them. It is too bad adults are not as smart.
When learning to walk, babies are better off barefoot. They develop stronger foot muscles when those muscles are allowed to work unimpeded. Growth and muscle development does not end there, but continues throughout childhood. Wearing shoes that restrict movement restricts that development. All shoes restrict movement at least to some extent. These are not my opinions alone.
The latest professional opinion I have read is What Are the Best Shoes for Children? (the answer may surprise you) by Dr. Michael Nirenberg of America’s Podiatrist. Dr. Nirenberg describes infant foot development in clear terms. He doesn’t beat around the bush when he tells us what not to put on their feet. This article is brief, yet complete enough to get the message across – barefoot as much as possible is best for growth and development.
Children’s Footwear: Launching Site for Adult Foot Ills is an article by Dr. William Rossi, a podiatrist who spent his lifetime studying foot function and the effects of shoes. It is a more detailed article that delves into shoe design versus foot design, and the detrimental effects of the former on the latter. Dr. Rossi studied the feet of children and adults who never wore shoes and compared them to those who have worn shoes all their lives. Although his article is directed toward the podiatry profession, his message is for everyone – children should remain shoeless as much as possible to encourage proper foot development.
An older and very thorough writing is Dr. Simon J. Wikler’s book, “Take off your shoes and walk.” Dr Wikler, a doctor of surgical chiropody, spent a great deal of time explaining how to properly fit children’s shoes. According to Dr. Wikler, “Disorders of the foot are 100% preventable.” His book deals with adult as well as children’s feet. Like the others, his ultimate advice was to keep children barefoot as much as possible.
Baby shoes are everywhere. Surely the shoe manufacturers have our babies’ best interest at heart. No. Shoe manufacturers make and market shoes. There is no money to be made by shoe manufacturers that protect growing feet from the ills of shoes. It is up to us to protect our children’s feet from the detrimental effects of shoes.