My kids want to play in bare feet at the playground. It drives my wife crazy. Me, not so much. When I am out with them their shoes invariably come off and they take off running. I don’t love it to be contrary it is good for to play with bare feet. But when you look around the playground everyone is shod. I live on the corner of the playground so I usually let them run home with bare feet and you can’t imagine the responses I get—a mix of shock and dismay, and fear of disease and foreign objects.
Our feet are a complicated structure. They have twenty six bones each with the ability to move in thirty three different ways. They have three moveable arches meant to support the weight of the legs, head and trunk. They are meant to be malleable and adapt to surfaces as we move forward through space. Every little sensation from every little movement of the foot sends nerve impulses to the brain communicating about the terrain we are encountering. The more the feet move the more the muscles of the lower and upper legs work. The arches of the feet are dependent on the muscles of the lower leg for their successful function. The more the feet move with their great range of motion, the more active these muscles will be.
Many shoes don’t allow for this kind of movement of the feet. If sneakers have a stiff sole movement of the foot within the sneaker is not in response to the ground itself but always in response to the sole of the shoe. My daughter loves to climb the pole at the playground and in front of our house. She gets half as high with her shoes on as she does with bare feet and always asks to take her shoes off. Once they are off you can watch the toes and feet do things curling around the pole that they could never do in shoes.
While I believe in having bare feett I wear shoes when I am outside, most of the time. It just makes sense in our world. While I have no fear of getting disease from the city streets I have no need to walk barefoot everywhere. Also, I love shoes, lots of shoes. But little kids, mine are three and six, should be given the opportunity to develop their bodies is the best way possible and I have to say that playing with bare feet at the playground is a great opportunity for physical development.