The bird song.
The tranquility at 7am.
Our children don’t spend enough time outdoors these days - FACT!
If I had to define Bogs this might be what I'd say -
Bogs : foot friendly facilitators of exploration and enjoyment of the great outdoors.
Let me share my own checklist of aspirations for my kids -
Grow...Thrive...Be happy & fulfilled!
When is a size 10 not a size 10?
Turns out most of the time.
As many people know there is a massive variation between manufacturers for sizing as I showed in my former business. Some manfacuters even size different styles differently! (as you will see below).
This article come from a series of informal discussions with various friends and customers on natural foot development. As children's feet grow little consideration appears to be given by the mainstream shoe manufacturers to natural foot development. I wonder, have these shoes designers actually looked at children feet? As such, I felt compelled and inspired to write this article.
When it comes to feet I believe we can get it right from the start.
I’m an advocate of common sense so I sometimes end up doing things differently. This is why my children have never set foot in a high street shoe shop nor had their feet ‘formally’ measured.
I instead opted to buy my children foot-shaped shoes. It just seemed like common sense. Though what seemed like throwing caution to the wind and trusting my common sense for my first child took some courage.
I was going to try come up with some witty title (this one almost sounds like a dodgy dance. I've just read the Kitchen Disco to children #1 & #2 and I think that might have something to do with it).
I failed (at the title not the reading!).
The bottom line is - there is no place for tapering toe boxes in barefoot shoes for kids nor adults!
Have you ever noticed the shape of your child's foot?
Children naturally possess a forefoot that is wider than the rest of the foot - i.e. the widest part of the foot is at the tips of the toes. There is space between the toes of the child's barefoot.
#crazythirdchild's beautiful little feet with compulsory 2 year old chipped nail varnish (safe to say Dad does not approve!)
Your child's feet have potential.
Your feet have potential!
Spread or splayed toes offer natural grasping and balancing functions that are significantly inhibited when we choose to push our feet into unnaturally shaped shoes.
Almost all modern shoes have a tapered toe box meaning the shoe is not widest at the toes. In fact far from it.
The fact that all shoes look like this means we don't question it.....well some of us do!
Using my Barefoot Bandit #3 #crazythirdchild, I've demonstrated the potential ill-effects of a tapered toe box on the wonder of nature's engineering - the human foot.
Quick, easy and obvious. I've even chopped up some shoes to show you!
Check it out - a fairly 'normal looking shoe' -
Even rolls up. It's still no good - let me show you.
I measured #crazythirdchild prior to this as a UK7 E. So a narrow foot - giving the shoe it's best chance (I'm generous like that).
I first opened up the top but left the 'up stand' of the sole in place. That way we can see just how the toes are being effected....or should I say squished!
The big toe has changed direction. It's now pointing toward the other toes Gone is the space between the toes. The toes are now in an unnatural alignment.
Why is this important?
Children's feet are not miniature versions of adult feet! Babies are born with fewer bones. At birth there are 22 bones in fact (rather 26 as an adult). By school age, this number will increase to 45.
There is significantly more cartilage in children's feet, this cartilage acts as a precursor to the process bone forming process (ossification).
...but I don't hear them complaining
Cartilage is more malleable than bone! So jamming a child's foot into an non-foot-shaped shoe will not cause the same discomfort as it would in your or my foot.
Right, back to the butchery
Next I removed the 'up stand' this then left the shape of the sole below but freed #crazythirdchild's toes! And guess what?.....
With toes free, they naturally splay outside of the sole beneath! (Remember with an E width measurement this foot is narrower...or at least has less girth..... than the majority of children's feet).
Therefore to preserve the natural form of the foot we must avoid tapered toes boxes!
We need foot-shaped shoes
These open sandals shoe the benefit of a wider forefoot in the shoe, giving the feet space to align naturally
The toes are critical for our sense of balance - especially the big toe which I have discussed here. When our toes are not properly aligned our legs and upper bodies compensate for this.
Trust me, I was a busted runner for years.
I spent thousands on shoes, orthotics and physio.
You know what fixed me?
And I mean like instantly?
I ditched the shoes!
So what does the future hold when you do the toe box taper?
Well, (I know this is a bit mean but it's for the good of our children damn it!) on a sunny day take a look an old person's feet....you know when we all think, 'Let's wear our sandals'.
Wearers of ill-fitting shoes, such as shoes with tapered toe boxes can bag themselves a good chance of -
Bunions, Hammer toes, Calluses, Corns, Athlete's Foot and all sorts of foot and lower-limb pain.
I only select shoes that have a natural foot shape. I also offer support and advice to help achieve a good fit depending on the shape and width of your child's feet.
I'm here, willing and able to help should you not wish to do the Toe Box Taper.
The more parents I talk to, the more I see how much 'myth' surrounds children shoes. Parents fear getting it wrong, yet unknowingly by selecting mainstream shoes the damage is inevitable.
Give it a try.......no one's looking.
If everything is working properly, this should be easy because your brain can sense your body, as well as its position and movement through space. This is called Proprioception, sometimes also referred to as our Sixth Sense(!).
The Sixth Sense (no not the movie!)
When it's on their foot!!!!!!
You can't see inside them, all you have is a thumb/finger to prod about with, and perhaps some feedback (depending on age and speech). So how to chose the right shoe and know what's truly happening to their foot?
In this post along with the help of Team Bear-Foot we'd like to show you what goes on when the foot is inside various shoes, to highlight why fact #1 in our Foot Health info is so important (that's why it's #1!).
So what is fact #1?
- CHILDREN'S FEET ARE NOT MINIATURE VERSIONS OF ADULT FEET -
Test #1 - Popsy
Popsy then put her foot over the outlined shoes (in the same place). So left to right;
1. Flamencos - we can see rather extreme interference with the big toe, the little toe and the arch of the foot.
2. Converse All-Stars - less interference, mainly around the tip of the big toe.
3. Livie & Luca 'Millie' - no interference, a wide toe box = wriggle room!
Test #1 - Chewey
We did the same with Chewey, though his thug-like approach meant the paper got a bit twisted and we had about 20 takes to complete the job!
Looking at Chewey's feet - his are wide (and sweaty!).
1. Standard Gap shoes - there is barely enough room for his foot yet he can get these on and no doubt a lot of people (unknowingly) would do the same. His big toe, little toe and the width of the foot would be compressed if pushed into this shoe.
2. Converse All-Stars - they are tight and there is interference with the big toe.
3. Livie & Luca 'turf' sole - there is plenty of room for his wide feet, lateral and longitudinal wriggle room. The space also allows the feet to breath.
For the geeks - a bit of science!
Babies are born with fewer bones. At birth there are 22 bones in fact (rather 26 as an adult). By school age, this number will increase to 45. It is a concerning fact that many children suffer foot problems by their early teens, often associated with ill-fitting shoes.
Since so much of the foot is cartilage, they are malleable and impressionable. The foot is subject to external influences – one of those influences is the shoe itself. Naturally developed feet should be widest at the tip of the big toe (just like our logo....or my children's feet).......toes need wriggle room!
So, there you go. I hope that demonstrates the importance of what it we're trying to achieve with Bear-Foot. Look at the shoes - they look cool, but see above, they'll also allow your children's feet to develop naturally, without interference and restriction.
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Thanks for reading.
-Phil (Store owner, barefoot runner, Dad)