Jul 25, 2023

Why being barefoot is best for babies

Jane Magnani
Jane Magnani
Why being barefoot is best for babies

As your baby grows, so does their wardrobe! There are many lovely, adorable pieces of clothing to buy for your little one, and shoes are no exception.

Nowadays, there are so many styles of baby's and children's shoes you can buy; you can even find mini versions of your favourite boots or trainers, and the temptation to buy them is too great!

However, research shows it is good to keep your baby and older children barefoot as much as possible. That does not mean they will not need shoes; they will, of course, but use them only when going places that are not barefoot friendly, such as the supermarket, the woods, etc. When indoors, leave your little one's feet free of shoes and socks.

What are the benefits of being barefoot?

At birth, your baby's feet are not a tiny version of an adult foot; it contains no bones and consists of a mass of cartilage that, over the years, become the 28 bones found in an adult foot!

Your little one's feet will not form completely until their late teens. That is why it is so important for them to spend lots of time not wearing footwear, and when worn, shoes need to be well chosen. 

Walking barefoot

Enriches sensory experiences promoting awareness

Your baby learns through the world around them and themselves through their sense of touch and tactile experiences. Your baby's feet contain a web of nerves that carry messages about the temperature, texture, and thickness of what they touch! Ultimately, they use those nerves and senses to check the stability and other physical properties of the surface they are walking on.

Your baby is learning about their physical self by exploring their body:

  • For example, when lying on the floor, your baby begins moving their legs and arms, discovering their body parts, and having fun as they learn to grab and play with them.

  • Barefoot playing gives them freedom of movement and the chance to feel their feet and toes and begin playing with them as they explore them.

  • In addition to this, being barefoot aids their sensorimotor development and gross motor skills as they learn to balance and figure out their reflexes.

As you leave your baby on different surfaces—their cot, their carpet, their baby gym, the grass, etc.— they have plenty of opportunities to feel the different textures and temperatures and learn about their surroundings and stimulating environments.

As your baby grows and begins practising barefoot walking, their brain gets better at understanding and organising the mixture of sensory inputs received from their feet. On the other hand, shoes create an artificial barrier between surfaces and the feet with their sensory receptors.

Encourage your little one to walk on different surfaces like carpet, tiles, floorboards; sand; mud; grass; and water, inviting them to enjoy the tickly sensation of tiny grass shoots under their feet or splashing through puddles.

These opportunities to feel their world enhance their sensory skills and experiences and support brain development. The sensory inputs sent by the feet to the brain will help your little one feel more confident in their natural environment as they learn about the physical characteristics of surfaces, teaching them which surfaces to avoid, like prickly or slippery ones.

Parent holding baby's feet

Parent holding baby's feet

Supports development, coordination, and agility

As your little one uses their feet to negotiate physical spaces and explore their world, they get better at developing spatial awareness; knowing where their body is in a space, around objects or other people. Shoes interrupt this natural process by constricting movement, and they also artificially mould your little one's tender feet into shoe shapes.

Barefoot exploring and walking help develop a natural pace along with promoting balance, postural stability, and coordination.

  • When your little one is barefoot, they use the information sent from their feet to their brain, boosting their confidence to move around without looking forward or down. When they wear shoes, the opposite happens.

  • They can't feel their surroundings as shoes block important information, making them look down so much more, losing their coordination and falling down.

  • In addition, shoes constrict toe movement, especially toe spread, which helps your little one stay balanced.


Helps with soothing

Barefoot learning also supports your little one's emotional regulation:

  • When your little one is feeling upset, rubbing and massaging their feet has great soothing effects.

  • As your little one gets older and they begin feeling anxious or angry and need to calm down, digging their feet deep into different textures, such as a soft carpet or sand, can also be very soothing.

Buying your little one's first shoes

There's no need to rush your little one into shoes, but when you feel your child's feet need protection, it's probably a good time for the first pair of shoes.

As tempting as it seems, don't shop for their first shoes online! Look for your nearest trusted shoe shop and take your little one for a fitting instead. Your fitter will measure your little one's feet width and length, and they will give you their shoe size. Now it's time to get shopping!

  • Look for a flexible, flat sole that grips the ground firmly—check that the sole can bend near the toe.

  • Look for adjustable fastenings; velcro shoes will be your best friend! Not only are they easy to adjust and save time when putting them on when in a rush, but they will also support your little one's independence, encouraging them to put on their shoes and take them off independently when they're ready.

  • Avoid high-tops as they restrict ankle movement.

  • Look for shoes with padded ankles for support and protection.

  • Your little one's shoes should always have space at the front to allow those tiny toes to wiggle and spread, so check that they have this. 

Why not check out some shoes for your little one from Pip & Henry's?

Pip & Henry Booties

They are made from high-quality, luxurious sustainable materials, such as LWG gold-certified leathers and sheep fur.

  • They are podiatrist-approved to support correct bone development and foot growth.

  • They have removable insoles to allow correct bone development, support foot growth, and increase the lifespan of the shoe.

  • The shoes are sustainably made, so when your child outgrows them, we will recycle them and give you money off your next pair.  It's our way of doing our bit for the environment as well as helping parents keep up with those fast-growing feet.

  • Each gift set comes with a pair of booties, a wooden Henry (dinosaur) teather, and a Pip and Henry storybook.

Pip & Henry Gift Set


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