When Joshi first started walking I was in no hurry to get him shoes. It felt right to be ensuring that he got 3 months of running around totally barefoot, mostly on the grass and down at the beach. So three months passed before I went shoe shopping. Somehow, when he reached 14 months the need for protective shoes seemed to get a little urgent because suddenly he was running everywhere, including over some really rough surfaces.
After a few weeks of procrastination I impulsively went to Target and bought a $20 pair of shoes for him. I chose the shoes because they were super cute and I liked the colors. In retrospect, it wasn’t a great reason. As soon as he had them on he started walking really weirdly. He lifted his knees all the way up to his waistline and then stepped down emphatically. It didn’t occur to me at the time that the reason for his funny little walk was because of the inflexibility of those shoes. His little feet just had no chance of being able to work properly. At the time I just thought it was because he wasn’t used to shoes. Over the next week Joshi did a lot of stumbling whenever he had them on.
The following week I went to visit a friend of mine, Meg. Her little boy was wearing these really great shoes called Baby Paws. She had a spare pair and offered for Joshi to use them for the day. He moved around in them so effortlessly. The soles, unlike the cute Target shoes, were very light, ultra flexible and just as soft as the rest of the shoe. This meant Joshi’s feet could work easily and properly. I was sold – on my way home I bought him a pair. (By the way, I’ve since found some similar soft-soled leather shoes on ebay which are heaps cheaper and look pretty good too.
I’ve since done my research, which reiterates how super important it is for a toddler to have soft flexible shoes while their feet are developing. I spoke to a chiropractor, Shalom Drimer. I wanted to find out whether he thought it was important for toddlers to wear good shoes. He got me to imagine what it would be like trying to write a letter wearing very thick gloves. Similarly, when a toddler wears thick-soled shoes, the muscles in their feet can’t work properly. He emphasized the importance of barefoot time or for the feet to be able to feel the ground when walking. The information that comes from their feet is really important for the neurological activation of their spine and brain. Bad shoes on a toddler can cause flat feet, affect the way their knees and pelvis develop and develop into health issues with their feet in the long-term.
He also put me onto a book called ‘Earthing,’ by pediatrician, Clinton Ober. Ober believes shoes are the worst invention in history and advocates the importance of walking barefoot directly on the earth. He explains that this neutralizes the free radicals in the body, reducing inflammation which helps prevent many common diseases. It’s food for thought. Gotta run … barefoot.