Kids and Feet

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Let me start out by saying that kids are just small adults in many ways so things that are good for kids are also good for adults for the most part. Let’s think of some — sleep? learning how to use the toilet? good hygiene? having a pet rock? getting your taxes done on time?

OK, obviously there are things that don’t go both ways, but hopefully you see my point.

Let’s talk about feet.

Did you know roughly 25% of your body’s bones and muscles are all located BELOW THE ANKLE? Think about that. There are 430 skeletal muscles and 206 bones (more for tiny babies since they have some that will eventually fuse together).

A fourth of them…one quarter of them…one in four…25% of them are BELOW THE ANKLE. What does that tell us about the feet? There is a reason so much detail went into our foot design.

If something takes up a quarter of your investment portfolio, I’d say that was a pretty important investment. If you had to sit in a port-a-potty for one day out of every four, you’d feel like you were sitting in a port-a-potty most of your life. If you had four quarters, you’d have one dollar.

25% is a large chunk. Especially in such a small space.

Your feet also contain some of the most nerve-dense tissue in the body. Your lips and hands are the other biggies.

You have as much motor skill (dexterity) potential in your feet than you do in your hands. Ever seen someone born with no arms playing the guitar or the piano? It happens — google it. And they weren’t blessed with amazing foot skills. They have just tapped into their foot skill potential because they have no other choice.

All that leading up to this point: if our feet are so important, then why do we enclose them in  huge, cloddy barriers most of the time?

Your feet are where bio-mechanics start. If you’re not on a proper foundation, the rest of the scaffolding (your skeletal and muscular system) won’t function at its potential and you’ll be riddled with joint issues and pain.

If I have to climb a ladder to the top of my roof, you can be dern sure that I’m making certain the ladder has both legs planted firmly in the firm ground and not sitting cockeyed or on a soft surface.

Maybe the reason so many of us adults are suffering from debilitating hip, knee, back, ankle, foot and low back pain is because the feet we’re standing on can’t handle the pressure. Which is sad because our feet WERE DESIGNED to handle a lifetime of standing, walking, running, and moving around. But as kids many of us were put into big, thick, heeled shoes which sends the wrong message to our brain about what our feet should be doing.

You know how you get strong bones, ligaments, tendons, and joints? YOU MOVE. You use the joints and bones and ligaments and your body responds by reinforcing the areas being used the most.

It’s common knowledge that astronauts in space come back to Earth with muscle and bone atrophy. Why?

Because the way your body makes more bone, muscle, and connective tissue is by strengthening the areas that are being used. Your brain is efficient and wired for survival. If something isn’t being used, it’s not going to waste precious resources on maintaining those things whether it be muscle tissue, tendons, ligaments, or memory.

Ever wonder why you ladies wearing high heels get those nasty calluses in weird places on the feet? It’s not because you’re a troll, although some of you may be (JOKES!!).

It’s because your weight is being distributed in a place that it is not designed to be distributed and your poor body is trying to compensate and make that area stronger by building tissue. Then we go and cut off all the work our bodies are doing to try and help us.

If you sit hunched over all day and never open up your chest or shoulders, you’re going to have issues breathing fully and shoulder problems. Same goes for your feet.

ESPECIALLY KIDS FEET.

The same way kids need a solid nutritional foundation in order to set up a long, healthy, happy life, kids need a physical, literal solid foundation (i.e. their skeletal system) which starts with the feet.

So what are some things that you and your kids can start doing to help strengthen your feet?

  1. Go barefoot as much as humanly possible.
  2. Make the home a “shoe free zone” (socks are OK but the sensitive nerves on the bottoms of the feet need to be getting feedback from their surroundings and not just the inside of your socks or your kids footie pajamas).
  3. Wear these a few times a week for several minutes.
  4. If you can’t go barefoot try getting some no-heel or very small heel-drop shoes like Chuck Taylors, Bobux, swim shoes, ballet slippers (for your little princesses), NewBalance minimus, Vibram FiveFingers — anything with a zero drop is best, but a near zero drop is OK to start off with.
  5. Practice identifying different objects with your feet without looking. Kids love this and is a great way to tap into that motor skill potential that we were born with.
  6. Roll a golf or lacrosse ball under your feet whenever you can — helps break up fascial tissue adhesions.
  7. Walk — preferably with a zero drop shoe or barefoot if possible.
  8. Walk a lot.
  9. Walk some more.
  10. Stand a lot.

Your feet are important. Start giving them the attention and treatment they deserve and pick one or two of the things listed above to start trying out. 25% of your muscles and bones will thank you for it.

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Comments

  1. says

    Thanks! I’ve been trying to get my sister in law to take off her son’s extremely stiff shoes… at least I won’t make the same mistake with my kids!

  2. NRC says

    This is very helpful. Thanks.

    I actually just went through the process of trying to find my kids minimalist, or at least more minimalist-like shoes. Finding decent shoes or helpful sales people proved to be pretty tough.

    New Balance, apparently, no longer makes their Minimus line of shoes for kids.

    Merrell also makes (or made) two minimalist shoes: the Trail Glove and Flux Glove. Complicating matters, however, is that Merrell apparently no longer sells their kids shoes and appears to have sold their kids line to Stride Rite. The Flux Glove appears to have been discontinued leaving only the Trail Glove and it only comes in one color – – yellow – – which my six year old called “Pee yellow” and refused to let me buy them. I actually don’t blame them. They’re ugly.

    In the end, I bought a pair of Vivobarefoot Ultra Kids (think Crocs but, hopefully, much better for kids’ feet). I could not find them at any store and sizes are limited online but I got one boys size and had to get a little larger size for my other boy. Nothing is easy. I also just got both kids a pair of Nike Free 5.0s. No, they’re not technically minimalist sneakers, but they seem pretty minimal and flexible and come in colors other than “Pee Yellow.”

    Hope that helps.

    • Rebecca says

      I have spent a lot of time looking at kids shoes but don’t want to break the bank. We went with Robeez for a while, but they last maybe a month before getting holes in them. No bueno. We now stick with Pedi-peds. They provide a lot of mobility and sensation, but are sturdy enough to last a while. We also tend to look at water shoes/sandals as they also provide a lot of motion and are pretty durable. Sometimes we have to pull out the inserts though.

  3. Liv says

    Great article! My husband and I converted to barefoot/minimalist shoes 4 or 5 years ago. We now have a son who is almost 3 with very wide feet (T9 XX-Wide). Robeez were great early on but we had to go with Crocs when he busted out of those. I happened across a pair of Kenneth Cole Reaction shoes for boys and they are terrific! They don’t come in super wide sizes but the material and footbed are so supple that he has no problems wearing them. I check his feet often for stitching imprints or hotspots and he has had neither with them. Maybe when his feet narrow out some we can get him a pair of Chucks, but he still has happy, well fed, chunky toddler feet :). Thanks for the other comments and suggestions!

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