Children’s Footwear

The following quotes have been pulled from Dr. William Rossi’s article Children’s Footwear: The Launching Site for Adult Foot Ills.  Dr. Rossi’s article takes a look at the negative affects of shoes on children’s foot health.

“As a result, by the time the average shoe wearing child has reached the tender age of seven or eight, his or her feet clearly reveal a visible loss of anatomical or functional normality.  The medical practitioners are quick to attribute this to the wearing of “improper” or “ill-fitting” or out-grown shoes– not realizing there is no other kind because all (99 percent) of juvenile footwear, regardless or price or brand, is “improper” or “ill-fitting”.”

“For centuries, right to the present day, one of the most foot-negative features on the juvenile shoe has been the use of raised heels.  For infants and tots the shoe heel height begins at about 5/8ths of an inch.  By age five or six the heel height is 3/4ths of an inch, and by age eight a full inch– the same height as on a man’s shoe.  The heel heights are the same on sneakers as on conventional shoes.  Relative to body height, a one inch heel worn by a child of seven is equivalent of a two-inch heel worn by an adult.  So almost all children above age seven are wearing “high” heels the equivalent of two inches in height– and neither the shoe industry or the doctors has any idea of this absurdity occurring before their eyes.”

“Almost all lasts for children’s footwear, including sneakers, are “crooked” in contrast to the straight-axis alignment of the foot, heel-to-toes.  This has long been one of the chief causes of anatomical and functional foot deformity that begins in childhood and continues throughout all the adult years.”

“With those first steps the infant is now ready for prime time.  So onto its feet go it’s “first stepper” shoes.  And suddenly, the infant, having successfully launching its walking career barefoot, finds itself struggling to maintain balance and locomote with stiff, constrictive, alien objects on its feet.  It labors to take “normal” steps with shoes on– a physical and biomechanical impossibility because the “foot” steps and the “shoe” steps are two alien motions and opposing forces.”

“…the shoes soles, whether leather or other materials… automatically prevent 80 to 90 percent to the child’s normal flex angle, 55 to 65 degrees at the ball.  With shoes on there is very little heel-to-ball movement, thus denying the foot its normal step sequence.  The steps are pancake-like, seriously hampering the gait mechanics.”

To read Dr. Rossi’s article in its entirety click here.

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The Worlds Healthiest Feet are the Ones Without Shoes

In 1905, Phil Hoffman, M.D., traveled to numerous undeveloped countries to observe the foot and skeletal structures of people who lived barefoot. He noticed the differences between their feet, and those he had observed during his medical work in the US. These differences were subtle, such as toes being generally straight, in comparison to our upturned toes, and their wider toe-spread, versus ours, which are tapered. Time has shown these differences to be hugely significant.(1)

Studies have since shown that barefoot cultures have fewer foot and knee problems. For example, Rush Medical Center proved that going barefoot prevents the development of arthritis in the knee. Several other studies have recently been published directly linking the wearing of footwear with foot deformity and injury.(2,3)

This is important news for walkers. These studies demonstrate a path to foot health and injury prevention. That path is to be trod barefoot. For most American walkers, this is not possible.(4)

Fortunately, you do not have to give up your shoes and go barefoot to derive the benefits of a “barefoot” foot position. Those benefits can be had if you can find a walking shoe that allows your feet to position themselves as if they were bare inside the shoes.(4)

Unless you have a walking shoe custom made, or walk in footwear not specifically designed for fitness or race walking, this is nearly impossible.(4)

Take a look at your shoes, and note the following: Most walking shoes have the heel part elevated twice as high as the front part of the shoe. When barefoot, the heel always stays level with the whole front of the foot.

Walking shoes elevate the toes; this is called toe-spring. When barefoot, toes always touch the ground.

Walking shoes are built so that the widest part of the foot is forced to become the ball of the foot area. When barefoot, the widest end of the foot is at the end of the toes. Look at a baby’s toes: Ideally, an adult foot should look similar.

Most walkers will benefit from the addition of a metatarsal pad to their shoe. These are designed to pull the toes down from their artificially raised position. Silicone toe spacers can also spread the toes out wider than the ball of the foot.

While research proves there are significant benefits to walking in a barefoot position, the change cannot be made overnight. The transition should be made slowly, allowing for the feet and legs to become stronger. It can take as long as a year to adjust to walking with your feet in a new position.

Be patient with your body, and aware of your shoes.

-Written by Dr. Ray McClanahan

Original article can be found in Walk About Magazine.