Kevin Geary, parenting guru, teacher, and author of Revolutionary Parent, a site dedicated to raising physically and psychologically healthy kids, argues that shoes are actually quite bad for children. Shoes destroy feet, preventing proper toe spread, which interferes with the foot’s ability to function properly, and prevent proper movement development, which can make children be more susceptible to foot and lower leg injury. The benefits of going barefoot, however, are plentiful.
One major benefit of allowing a child to go barefoot is that it strengthens the feet and lower legs, making the body more agile and less prone to injury. It also enhances proprioception, the sense of the relative position of neighboring parts of the body and strength of effort being employed in movement. In other words, going barefoot helps a child develop body awareness. Geary explains that the nerves in our feet are sensitive (the sole of your foot has over 200,000 nerve endings– one of the highest concentrations in the entire body) for this very reason; they make us safer, more careful, and better able to adapt to the ground beneath us. When barefoot, we are better able to climb, cut, pivot, balance, and adjust rapidly when the ground shifts beneath us, as it does when we walk on uneven terrain, or anything besides concrete and pavement.