Friday, 24 February 2012

If the shoe fits...

I mentioned before that one of the slightly more alternative decisions Alt.Father and I made was to keep our first daughter barefoot.  By which I don't mean she was always running about urchin-like with no shoes on, although to be fair, she did and still does do a fair bit of that!  In fact, we choose "barefoot shoes", designed to be as unobtrusive as possible, to give her feet the best possible chances in their development.

The first time I saw Alt.D1, when she was just born and being looked over by the medics, all I could see were her little feet, poking up from the rescusitaire.  I love those little feet, they are so cute, they were unbelievably tiny and soft, never having taken a single step.  I want to help keep them in as good condition as possible.

Foot health is something often overlooked by society.  Here in the West we are prone to far more problems with our feet than other cultures where bare feet are the norm.  It makes good sense then, to consider going barefoot.  For those just starting to learn about walking and gaining their balance, bare feet give the greatest amount of information to the brain, enhancing that learning experience.

Bare feet are best loved in the Ctrl.Alt. household!
"But what about support?" I hear you cry;
"Your feet need support when you're learning to walk..."
Um, well, actually, no they don't.  They will be strong and well balanced without stiff soles, and there is evidence to suggest that there are fewer ankle breaks and injuries among those who do not wear shoes. Pro-barefoot research here

The problem we faced as parents was the lack of available soft soled shoes in the shops.  To start with, we embraced the little leather slippers given by a family member when Alt.D1 was born.  They were brilliant, and she took her first tentative steps wearing them.  Easily available online, they were more than adequate for the first few months, both indoors and out.  This type has been a firm favourite, and since they are available in sizes up to a UK9, they have been useful house shoes even until very recently.

Then came the more adventurous days!   Something with a little more cushioning was required, so we moved on to the spotty pair pictured here.  They have slightly padded soles, two layers of leather rather than just one.  The ground is still easily recognised by the feet.  Alt.D1 would go scampering about on gravel with or without her shoes, sometimes confused as to why her friends would not follow!

The evolution of Alt.D1's shoes continued according to her development.  We had her feet measured in the ubiquitous high street shoe shop, but instead of falling foul of the proffered array of glitter and pastels, we sought out online suppliers of soft soled footwear.  Surprisingly, this came out far more gently on the pocket than the high street, and gave us so much more to choose from in the way of designs.

Ordering the shoes online was not as intimidating as you might think.  The high street shoe retailers place a huge emphasis on the width fitting of their shoes, and in the stiffer soles they offer, this is of course important.  However, with soft-soled flexible shoes and a large toe-box for developing feet, the width is less important.  We are looking to let the feet grow, rather than to mould them into shape.  I just order the right size, and off she goes.  

It does run in the family, apparently...
Saying this, I'm not yet tempted by the slightly bizarre Vibram Five Fingers for myself!  There are other options available for grown-up barefoot walkers, although not so easily obtainable in the UK.  If you're interested in keeping your babies barefoot, drop me a line or post a comment and I would be more than happy to give you the details of the shoe suppliers we use.  Alternatively, you can probably find what you're looking for via google.  Many of them are priced competitively with the high street, and in some cases, half the price.

So, how does Alt.D1 like her shoes?  She seems to have developed something of an Imelda Marcos tendency, to the extent that I have to magic the old shoes away overnight, or we would have stacks of them round the house!  However I think the best testament is the way she takes them off. Shoes are optional to her.  If it's cold or wet, yes please, shoes are great, but if she's indoors or it's summer time, the shoes are whipped off as soon as she is given the nod (and often without).  As you can probably guess from the photos, we wash feet more often than we wear out shoe leather round here!

Barefoot Brands: Robeez, Pedipeds, Bobux, Little Blue Lamb, Oxxy, Livi & Luca, Stonz, See Kai Run, Riley Roos, Hop n Squeak, Soft Star Shoes (also for adults)


bahamamama said...

Great post :-) So pleased to see my daughter isn't the only one who 'scampers' across gravel barefoot! Will be doing some online shopping for grammy & grandpa to bring when they visit!

stoneageparent said...

Another great post on a topic which is little explored or known about.

As you know I've recently written and had accepted an article called 'Barefoot babies' for 'The Mother' magazine. This article will be published in the May June edition of the magazine. It is an excellent, alternative parenting magazine which I'm sure this blog readership would find stimulating reading.

Here's the link to their website;

Thanks so much for educating us about barefoot babies and toddlers, the whole concept was pretty new to us at the time, without your help I don't think we'd have chosen to go down that route at all, as we all need support and advice over something outside of the norm. Ewan is now 21 months old, he wears a combitnation of the soft slippers, wellies for practicalities sake, and flexible, minimalist squeeky shoes, although our mantra is to allow him to go shoeless as much as is possible. This was easier in the summer than it is now, although spring is just around the corner again, so hopefully lots of shoefree days to come.

My husband and I have also started to consider what we wear on our feet. My husband recently bought a pair of minimalist smart work shoes, and he also runs in minimalist trainers. my next pair of running shoes and smart shoes will follow suit. I try to walk around shoeless a lot more myself too, after all the reading I've done which indicates how much healthier our feet are when we do.

There is so much more I could write about on this subject, but it is all in the article, so buy or acquire a copy if you're interested, plus have a look at my blog, in which I write about similar themes to this one;

Keep up the good work spreading the word with this blog. It is through education, support and awareness building that more parents will start to question how we live our lives in the UK and how we can change and adapt for the better, for our own health and our children's health, both emotional and physical.