The concept of enhanced neuromuscular control in footwear was first introduced by the advance in minimal footwear. From Vibram FiveFingers to VivoBarefoot shoe companies and footwear are now acknowledging more and more natural foot function than ever before.
With minimal shoes featuring minimal cushion, no shank or mid-sole and no heel toe drop, this is one of the best categories of footwear for optimal foot function.
However, despite these great features and hypotheses, one thing that is still lacking in minimal footwear is the stimulation or utilization of all possible proprioceptive input to the feet.
Who can benefit?
Feeling the ground beneath the feet increases foot nerve stimulation which leads to overall higher neuro-activation.
Kids' (like adult’s) receive information about the surfaces they walk on. The sole of the foot is rich in nerve endings which are designed to send sensory information to the brain. This information is then used to prepare accurate muscle responses.
Barefoot stimulation enhances the connection between the foot and the brain. This means that it increases proprioception and mechanoception. Proprioception is the ability to perceive the motion and position of our body in space. These receptors in the body are activated by movement and pressure. Then they communicate the body's position and orientation to the brain.
Sensory stimulation of the feet is important throughout one's life, however early childhood is a particularly crucial period for stimulation due to it being a peak window of neuroplasticity, or a period of neurodevelopment. About 90 percent of the brain develops during the first six years of life. It's during this period that a child's neural pathways form and change in response to stimuli, including that from the foot.
Barefoot stimulation promotes better walking posture
Barefoot stimulation increases body awareness which translates to how we learn to walk and carry ourselves.
Without shoes the brain learns the pattern of normal movement from the way the muscles contract and relax, and how the joints work. This forms neurological patterns in the brain — a kind of "walking memories." Premature use of shoes can distort the natural walking pattern due to compromised sensory stimulation.
For healthy growth, a child's foot needs to feel all the clues from the environment. Foot stimulation is best when the foot touches the ground without the barrier of footwear. This promotes the natural movement needed for a proper posture, better balance and coordination.
When kids have more control of their feet, their movement is more stable. So, walking, running, climbing, and playing become safer. As well as benefiting the brain, nerves, and muscles, barefoot walking and playing is fun for kids. So let's take a look at some barefoot activities for children. Then, we'll discover what they should wear when they can't go around unshod.
Barefoot activities for kids
It's good for your kid to walk or play barefoot at least 20 minutes a day, according to an article on Motherly. Having a no-shoes household policy helps.
Allow your child to go without shoes anywhere that it's safe enough to walk barefoot. As kids imitate grown-ups, take your shoes off, too. Choose to walk on surfaces with a mix of textures, like a sandy and gravel beach. Or, walk barefoot along a forest path. It's even better if it has grass, mud, dry leaves, rocks, and wood. All these textures train your kids' bare feet to adapt to various surfaces they tread. In doing so, they stimulate the nervous system.
When kids play barefoot, running around, skipping rope, jumping in a mud pool, and climbing trees become more enjoyable. In addition exploring their environment with bare feet helps their muscle and brain development.
Build a Barefoot Sensory Trail for Kids.
To boost kids' bare feet stimulation,