With summer fast approaching here in the UK and Europe it is time to kick off your shoes and socks. Your feet are a fascinating feet-ure of the human body that often get forgotten. But did you realise they are designed to grip, twist, expand, sense the world and take you places. Being barefoot outside is beneficial for the health of your feet and your brain and body, so let’s look at why building healthy feet is important and some tips to get you started.
First, take a moment and look at the sole of your foot, or your kid’s feet. You’ll notice that the skin on your palms is different to the rest of your body, and so is the skin on your feet. Firstly, you won’t find any hairs (did you just check?) and secondly, have you ever noticed after a long soak in the bath your hands and feet are the only parts of your body that seem to wrinkle like prunes?
I hadn’t really thought much about why they end up like prunes until writing my book……why write a book about feet? because I’m passionate about building health feet from the very beginning!
Here’s an excerpt from my book…
“You’ll notice there are no hairs as soles and palms have what’s called ‘glabrous’ skin. This is a thick layer of skin swimming with thousands of nerve endings, and is considered a major organ for sensing the external environment. Now take a closer look and you will see ridges or lines that make that cute, unique footprint. Beyond predicting love and life expectancy (according to some), the undulating surface allows for movement and increases the surface area of their foot, thus increasing their ability to grip and twist, and for the foot to expand.
Taking a bath adds years to me!
Have you ever thought about why feet get all wrinkly after a long bath or soak in the hot tub? There’s one popular theory about absorbing water and the outer layer of our skin swelling, but a more likely reason is thanks to our self-regulating body and the spontaneous reflex to increase our surface area for gripping when wet. You might have seen racing cars changing their tyres to suit the conditions, slicks for dry weather and rain (anti-hydroplaning) ones for the wet. How amazing is our body that it does it automatically, with no need to change feet. (Care still needs to be taken when there is water on the kitchen or bathroom floor.)
The skin itself is also an amazing barrier, designed to protect. So, if you are worried about dirt and the germs or disease your bare foot could be exposed to, stop a moment and think about the environment created in the shoe. With more sweat glands (250,000) in the feet than anywhere else on your body, there is more risk of fungal and bacterial infections from wearing shoes (just ask any mum of a teenage son!). You’re also more likely to get sick from hand–mouth contact. Think about what kids touch in a day: playground equipment, rails, toilets. And given the world’s recent pandemic, we are all now experts on hand hygiene.”
Allowing your feet to be free is one way of building healthy feet. Think about those sweat glands, nothing worse than stinky smelly feet, so combat the sweat by increasing barefoot time.
The feet are a major sensing organ
Wearing shoes can act as ear muffs for the feet because the create a barrier between the sole and the ground. The brain needs input to help with knowing where the feet are, balance and moving. Building healthy feet builds a healthy brain.
- Have a shoe/sock/slipper free zone at home and for more stimulation head outside or create texture trails from nature and manufactured materials.
The feet (and hands) are designed to grip
Whilst most shoes try to replicate the gripping pattern of the foot nothing beats the natural grip and use of the toes. Moving the body in different ways and on different terrains is important for physical development of you body. Building healthy feet builds a healthy body.
- Trees and slides are great places to challenge the soles of the feet, defy gravity and go up! Get the kids involved by building obstacle courses with slopping planks to go up and down.
The feet should twist and expand
The foot twists in response to the movement of the 26 bones in each foot and if a shoe can’t twist neither can the foot. Exploring the finer motor skills of the feet provides challenges and learning for the brain.
- Draw or paint with the feet to increase movement, awareness and motor skills. Lay out some large sheets of paper or plastic and go for it! Can they draw a smiley face and write their name? Take it outdoors and write in the sand or mud with the feet.
And when we walk and run our foot expands under our weight (and when they’re hot) to absorb the impact. Being barefoot allows for this to happen, when shoes are needed ensure they are wide, flexible and flat, remember shoes were first invented to protect the feet.
- Jumping, playing hopskotch, skipping and hopping are great ways to fully use the absorption design of the feet but make sure the feet can expand!
If you don’t use them…..
Allowing for all the unique feet-ures of the foot to be used is key to building healthy feet. It could be said – if you don’t use it you’ll loose it. I’ve seen this too many times in adult clients who have lost balance, agility and a sense of their feet so don’t let it happen to yours or your children’s feet. For more help on keeping your adult feet healthy follow this link to download my ‘5 Minute Foot Blasts’ https://bernielandels.com/resources-for-you/
Give the feet in your world a summer to remember full of fun, freedom and fitness. Happy Little Soles https://www.happylittlesoles.co.uk/blog/post/bring-your-feet-out-of-hibernation can help you out with a pair of cool ‘barefoot’ sandals or shoes to protect the all your family’s feet and if you want to learn more about little feet grab a copy of my book ‘Finding Their Feet – Every parents guide to milestones and movement’ and join me on a journey from womb to walking, why the feet are important for both physical and cognitive development.