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The bestseller Born To Run changed the way we think about traditional running shoes and how they interfere with the body's natural wisdom. Nearly ten years later, despite the popularity of barefoot running and minimalist running shoes, we still haven't heard much about the negative effects of shoes on children, despite the fact that research supported barefoot-style shoes for children as early as 1991.

According to that landmark study, optimum foot development occurs in the absence of shoes. Additionally, stiff and compressive shoes may cause deformities, weakness and restricted mobility. That study went so far as to say that the term “corrective shoe" is a misnomer and that such a shoe is “harmful to the child, expensive for the family and a discredit to the medical profession."

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Subsequent research reinforced those findings.

  • A 1992 Bone and Joint Journal study found shoe-wearing in early childhood to be detrimental to the development of a normal arch. Specifically, the authors found a positive relationship between wearing shoes in early childhood and the subsequent development of flat-footedness.
  • A 2008 Gait and Posture study found that slimmer and more flexible shoes interfered with children's natural foot motion far less than conventional shoes did. Based on detailed analyses of children's movement patterns in barefoot-style shoes versus traditional shoes, the authors recommended all children wear barefoot-style shoes.
  • In 2008, Foot and Ankle Surgery published a review recommending small children wear a sports shoe, which is as flexible as their own foot. It stated that the impact forces affecting a child's foot during sports are small enough that extra cushioning is unnecessary. The authors argue that although the hard indoor surfaces on which children play increase the need for cushioning, as the child's foot grows there is an increasing need for sufficient mechanical stimuli to facilitate healthy development of the bones and muscles. Because cushioned shoes interfere with the foot's natural movement, they can cause poor positioning in the flex zone, thereby causing harmful stress on the foot.
  • A 2011, Journal of Foot and Ankle Research found shoes alter children's gait patterns. One notable finding was that wearing shoes decreased the movement of the intrinsic muscles of the foot, possibly contributing to weakness in those muscles. In fact, eight of the nine range of motion variables measuring foot motion were decreased in subjects who wore shoes versus the control group.

There's no doubt about it, the foot is complex and amazing. Each foot has 200,000 nerve endings in the sole alone. Additionally, the foot and ankle are home to 26 bones, 33 joints, and over 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments. It's not hard to imagine that altering the movement of this complex web of structures would create a ripple of changes.

Jessi Stensland, founder of FeetFreex and a self-proclaimed “natural mover." She puts it in no uncertain terms, “From the moment kids are putting on shoes, they're walking wrong." Stensland explains that the foot is designed to process an immense amount of sensory input and that it's designed to move in varied, complex ways. When you put a child as young as 18 months in a supportive shoe, you're depriving them of the chance to use their feet properly, potentially for life.

“We are meant to have a raging river of information coming to [our brains and spinal cords] through our feet to help us move our bodies through space and we have slowed it to a trickle… the moment we put [on] shoes." In contrast, when we walk barefoot on a variety of surfaces, our feet adapt by developing musculature and fatty padding to protect our feet and to fully support healthy movement in all planes. It is a classic case of “use it or lose it," Stensland says.

There is no shortage of research to indicate the many specific ways in which shoes interfere with the foot's ability to do its job, potentially triggering a variety of negative long-term effects. For example, a shoe with even a slight heel lift (e.g., almost any athletic shoe) shortens the Achilles tendon and the plantar fascia, limiting ankle range of motion. This affects the angle of pelvic tilt, which can then lead to low back pain and posture issues.

That's just the tip of the iceberg. A 2002 paper published in Podiatry Management details the many ways in which typical shoes interfere with children's gait and development.

  • Despite their flexible soles, the natural flex point of a sneaker (toward the middle) is not aligned with the natural flex point of the foot (the ball). This problem is exaggerated further if, like most parents, you buy them with a little room to grow. Therefore, any flexibility the sole allows a child's foot is rendered moot. (To understand what I mean, just bend one of your kid's shoes in half.)
  • Lace-up shoes commonly worn by children are constrictive. When kids lace their shoes tightly, the excessive pressure limits the dorsalis pedis artery's ability to allow normal blood flow through the foot.
  • Sneakers have a high traction plastic or rubber outsole that causes the foot to forcefully “brake" with every step. Note that an active child takes 20,000 steps per day. This unnatural braking forces the foot to slide forward, jamming the toes against the shoe's front edge with every step. This is the equivalent of wearing shoes one has long outgrown.

Even if you're not ready to home school or move to a tropical, casual, shoe-optional locale, there are plenty of opportunities to foster your kids' healthy foot development.

Nutritious movement

Stensland likens healthy movement to a healthy diet – a variety of all kinds of foods, including fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, protein, and some Cheetos or Pop Tarts every now and then. Just as with our diets, the effects of any junk food are mitigated by nutrient dense foods. Similarly, while there will inevitably be times when your kid needs to wear shoes, including structured shoes with a heel (e.g. tap shoes or soccer cleats), you can offset the ill-effects of such shoes by adding in a healthy dose of “nutritious movement," a term coined by movement educator/author Katy Bowman. She recommends offering kids a chance to walk on natural surfaces like sand, gravel, rocks, or wood for at least 20 minutes a day. Even if you can't do this every single day, you can at least have them play barefoot inside.

Conscious shoe selection

Dr. Gangemi, chiropractor, elite triathlete, dad and barefoot enthusiast, recommends looking for these qualities in kids' shoes:

  • Low heel height
  • Minimal cushioning
  • Flexible throughout
  • Very lightweight

Stensland has compiled a list of approved shoes for nutritious movement here, including guidelines for DIY'ers wishing to make their own.

Lead by example

For better or for worse, our kids learn more from what we do than from what we say. We can encourage them to kick their shoes off when we do the same. While it might not make sense to walk into your office barefoot, you can set an example by taking your shoes off when you enter the house, while relaxing in your backyard, at the park, or on neighborhood walks in nice weather.

Check your fear

After researching the foot and how shoes impact its structure and functioning, I realized I was scared of all the wrong things when I insisted my kids leave their shoes on at the park. I was afraid they'd step on something sharp or that they'd contract a disease, both of which are, in fact, highly unlikely scenarios. (However, I do think I'm justified in my fear of letting them take their shoes off because it would make it even harder to get them to leave the park.)

On the other hand, the prospect of depriving my kids of healthy movement, potentially for life, is far scarier than anything a barefoot adventure could throw at me, including a tearful, forcible departure from the playground.

We all want to give our children a solid foundation. It turns out, we don't necessarily need to do anything fancy or complicated to do it—at least in the literal sense. While you might need a lot of therapy and soul searching to give your kids the best emotional foundation, creating a solid physical foundation is as simple as letting them be barefoot.

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As a mid-Spring holiday, we never knew exactly what to expect from the weather on Easter when I was growing up in Michigan: Would we get to wear our new Sunday dresses without coats? Or would we be hunting for eggs while wearing snowsuits?

Although what the temperature had in store was really anyone's guess, there were a few special traditions my sister and I could always depend on—and it won't come as a surprise to anyone who knows me that my favorite memories revolved around food. After all, experts say memories are strongest when they tie senses together, which certainly seems to be true when it comes to holiday meals that involve the sounds of laughter and the taste of amazing food.

Now that I'm a parent, I'm experiencing Easter anew as my children discover the small delights of chocolate, pre-church brunch and a multi-generational dinner. While I still look forward to the treats and feasting, I'm realizing now that the sweetest thing of all is how these traditions bring our family together around one table.

For us, the build-up to Easter eats is an extended event. Last year's prep work began weeks in advance when my 3-year-old and I sat down to plan the brunch menu, which involved the interesting suggestion of "green eggs and ham." When the big morning rolled around, his eyes grew to the size of Easter eggs out of pure joy when the dish was placed on the table.

This year, rather than letting the day come and go in a flash, we are creating traditions that span weeks and allow even the littlest members of the family to feel involved.

Still, as much as I love enlisting my children's help, I also relish the opportunity to create some magic of my own with their Easter baskets—even if the Easter Bunny gets the credit. This year, I'm excited to really personalize the baskets by getting an "adoptable" plush unicorn for my daughter and the Kinder Chocolate Mini Eggs that my son hasn't stopped talking about since seeing at the store. (You can bet this mama is stocking up on some for herself, too.)

At the same time, Easter as a parent has opened my eyes to how much effort can be required...

There is the selection of the right Easter outfits for picture-perfect moments.

There is the styling of custom Easter baskets.

There is the filling of plastic eggs and strategic placement of them throughout the yard.

But when the cameras are put away and we all join together around the table for the family dinner at the end of the day, I can finally take a deep breath and really enjoy—especially with the knowledge that doing the dishes is my husband's job.

This article was sponsored by Kinder. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


Our Partners

We don't doubt the importance of school and learning—whatsoever. I think most parents are feeling extra grateful for the teachers, aides and other school staff members in their children's lives these days.

But we also don't doubt the amount of emotional, physical and mental labor that is placed on mothers around the world right now due to the coronavirus pandemic. With many workplaces closed, no childcare, no school, no activities, mothers are being asked to not only continue maintaining their workload, but also to teach their child(ren), set up and maintain their Google classroom/FaceTime call schedule/Zoom meeting calendars, as well as cook, clean, do laundry, order groceries or go grocery shopping and attempt to care for ourselves on top of all that.

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Even if we are quarantined with partners to help at home—which not everyone is—the work and worry load piled on us right now is not normal, not okay and frankly, not all doable.

We're finding that some things have to go, or fall by the wayside to keep our families afloat.

This week, Sarah Parcak, mother, Egyptologist, professor and author of Archaeology From Space, announced that for her family, it was keeping up with her son's virtual classroom. She spoke the truth many moms are feeling—that survival and the well-being of their family members are paramount right now. And for many of us, that does not include keeping up with classwork.

She tweeted:

"We just wrote a hard email. I told our son's (lovely, kind, caring) teacher that, no, we will not be participating in her "virtual classroom", and that he was done with the 1st grade. We cannot cope with this insanity. Survival and protecting his well-being come first.

"Don't any of you dare offer help or resources. We both work full time, I also help run my non profit AND manage a complex project in Egypt AND am running a Covid-19 tracking platform. So, his happiness trumps crappy math worksheet management.

"ie, managing his education is a bridge too far right now. I also cook, manage cleaning, have a garden etc (husband does 50% of housework BTW, we are a team). The thought of homeschooling makes me want to barf. It's a f*cking joke.

"He reads a lot. Plays outside a lot. We read to him a lot and talk to him a lot. He gets history lessons. There is an app where he can choose books to be read to him. We watch a fun movie every night. He plays playmobile with my husband (mega imagination)

"Our goal is to have our son come out of this happy and not be long term emotionally scarred (lord knows life will do that anyways).

"PS You do what's right for your family and mental health. Obviously kids 10+ can cope better with independent work (sometimes). The littles cannot.

"I give you permission to Let It All Go. It doesn't matter. School doesn't matter right now. All your kids will remember is how they were loved. Promise."

Parents from all over the interwebs chimed in both agreeing and disagreeing with Parcak. Reasons for opting out of the virtual classroom (or maybe just relieving the pressure of it and doing what they can) ranged from not having a printer available to them in order to print the many worksheets, working full-time and not being able to manage all of the classwork with them, having children with special needs, having children in different grade and skill levels, not having access to laptops and other resources—the reasons ran the gamut.

Some parents are focusing mostly on life skills.


While other families are enjoying the focused time they are able to get their kids involved in the virtual classroom.

But many families don't have access to laptops or desktop computers, which is unfair and problematic.

And many teachers are saying take note, Moms and Dads—the pressure is on them, too.

Countless teachers and counselors chimed in to let parents know that they understand and they support them in doing what's best for their families.




After reading messages accusing Parcak of not appreciating teachers, she took to Twitter again to clarify the fact that she is very appreciative of them, stating in fact that she "cannot do what they do."

Same, Sarah. Same.

I think it's safe to say that none of us really know what we're doing right now. We're sort of flying by the seat of our pants, and that's kind of all we can do.

We're doing the best we can in a really weird, busy and scary time—parents, teachers and most especially, our kiddos, too.

Life

We're used to seeing Dove crank out ad campaigns celebrating body acceptance but this week the company launched a new ad that celebrates something so deserving of attention: The beautiful courage of our front line health care workers.

The new video shows health care workers' selfies, taken when their faces where dented and bruised from their masks, when their eyes were sad and tired and their hearts clearly heavy. These are the people keeping us safe right now, and we need to see them.

Dove | Courage is Beautiful www.youtube.com

The short, now-viral video debuted in the U.S. this week but follows an earlier version that launched in Canada on April 5. The American version of the video notes how Dove is donating to Direct Relief to help health care workers in the U.S.

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As the New York Times reports, doctors, nurses and other health care workers are facing extreme risks right now, and those speaking out about the lack of personal protective equipment and other safeguards are risking their livelihoods. These health care professionals are making extraordinary sacrifices, even separating from their own children to care for other families.

Courage www.youtube.com

This week an ER clerk, a 34-year-old mother of twin 8-year-old boys, died after contracting COVID-19 at work. In Staten Island, a nurse lost her life to COVID-19 this week. And this week reports emerged about the first American doctor to die from COVID-19 and how he had to reuse his masks.

We need to face the courage of these front line workers and Dove's new ad campaign is helping us do that. Women represent 70% of workers in the health care industry. Our fellow mothers are fighting for us and these videos remind us to fight for them.

News

Among the many little things we truly miss from #lifebeforecoronavirus it's devouring the tasty treats from Disney. But it turns out you can create that same Disney magic at home.

The Disney Parks blog and app recently shared popular recipes as its parks continue to remain closed and the Dole Whip and churros are the exact sweets we need to get us through this challenging time.

For the unfamiliar, the Dole Whip is a creamy, frozen pineapple treat that melts in your mouth. It's so refreshing and can be vegan and dairy-free, depending on the ingredients you use.

Or, if you're into baking, you'll love the traditional Spanish and Portuguese churro that the park sells more than 5.5 million of each year. That's a huge hit for the park, and we're hoping it's a winner for families, too.

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Here's the Dole Whip recipe for a single serving according to the Disneyland app:


Ingredients:

  • 1 big scoop of ice cream
  • 4 oz of pineapple juice
  • 2 cups of frozen pineapple

Instructions:

  • Add all ingredients to a blender until it's a thick drink.
  • Add your swirl and then you're done.

And, here's the churro recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup water
  • 8 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable or canola oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided

Instructions:

  1. Combine water, butter, salt, and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon in 1 1/2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Bring pot to rolling boil.
  2. Reduce heat to low.
  3. Add flour and stir vigorously until mix forms a ball. Remove from heat and let rest for 5 to 7 minutes.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, and stir until combined. Set aside.
  5. Heat oil in medium skillet or one-quart saucepan over medium-high heat or until temperature reaches 350 degrees.
  6. Spoon dough into piping bag fitted with large star tip. Pipe one-inch strip of dough over saucepan, cut with knife, and drop into hot oil. Repeat until churro bites fill saucepan with room to fry.
  7. Fry churro bites until golden brown. Remove with slotted spoon or mesh spider strainer.
  8. Drain churro bites on paper towel.
  9. Mix sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in medium bowl. Toss in churro bites until coated. Place on serving plate and serve with favorite dipping sauce.
News

Shelter in place is here and will likely be for a while. As we get more settled into our new life, we're finding our kiddo's new wardrobes are pajamas. Gone are the days of wearing jeans, real pants and shirts—their new wardrobe (and frankly, yours too) consists of day and night pajamas.

It's important to have comfortable clothes that help little ones relax and make them feel, well, at home. Whether they're spending most of their days doing homework or running around begging you for more snacks, these comfortable, soft pajamas will help make things a little easier for them—and you too, mama.

Here are our favorite PJs for newborns, new walkers and preschoolers:

aden + anais cotton pajamas

aden + anais cotton pajamas

How cute is this set? This cotton top and bottom comes in a variety of colors, but we're into vintage cars. Your little speedster will love the comfortable cuffs and an elastic waistband that makes it a little easier to take the bottoms on and off. The blue car print is available in sizes 12 months to 4T.

$25

Primary rainbow heart footie

Primary rainbow heart footie

Inspire vibrant dreams of rainbows and hearts with these cotton pajamas. You'll love the zip closure and the non-skid soles means you can rest assured your baby will be safe as they crawl/walk through the house. There's one thing we know for sure—they'll never want to take this supremely soft jammie off.

$19.50

Tea collection printed tank pajamas

Tea collection printed tank pajamas

These warm weather inspired jammies will make your little one feel like they're on a mini vacation.Tailored from breathable cotton, the short sleeves and bottoms will keep them cool and content. But here herein lies the magic—Tea collection gives back a portion of its profits to charities to ensure a better world for kids everywhere.

$39.50

Hanna Anderson night night sleeper

Hanna Anderson night night sleeper

Because your kid is lounging around all day, it's important that their pjs have flatlock seams and are made of combed cotton rib knit so they're as comfortable as possible. These not only check those boxes, but they wash beautifully so you can throw them in the washer 10 times a week and the colors won't fade. We're obsessed with the multicultural mermaid print because we can all use a little mythological creature to brighten our days.

$21

Hatley nightdress

Hatley nightdress

Prepare for long hours of coziness with this nightdress. It gathers at the front which makes it easy for kids to freely move around. And, the neckline is super wide for easy removal. Seriously, getting ready for bed has never been easier.

$32

Leveret matching doll + girls pajamas

Leveret matching doll + girls pajamas

What fun is it if baby dolls can't be comfortable, too? Your kid will love to share their favorite pajamas with their best friend. The set fits 18-inch dolls and is available in tons of fun prints, including ballerinas, bumble bees, stars and owls.

$14.98

Tucker + Tate glow in the dark pajamas

Tucker + Tate glow in the dark pajamas

We were huge fans of just the alligator print, but these incredibly soft cotton jammies are even cooler when the lights are off because they glow in the dark. Pro tip: The pajamas are slightly large so size down if you want a more snug fit.

$29

Lewis inverse parsnip pajama set

Lewis inverse parsnip pajama set

There's one major requirement for kid pajamas: They must be durable enough for play. We love that these are not only well-made with interlocking knit cotton, but it also fits true to size after washing and shrinking. And if your kid is drawn to nature, they'll love the muted pink parsnip print, too.

$48

Boden twin pack short pajamas

Boden twin pack short pajamas

We're obsessed with these pajamas that are made of stretchy ribbed cotton jersey that's been brushed on the inside to make them soft against the skin. It's perfect for little ones with sensitive skin. And, what better than two sets for the price of one?

$48

The Children's Place cotton pajamas

The Children's Place cotton pajamas

Going on a family vacation might not happen soon, but a girl can dream, right? This tagless shirt pajamas with a pull-on elasticized waistband is exactly what she needs for the sweetest dreams.

$7.98

Little English jammies

little english jammies

Who doesn't love biting into a juicy watermelon? Take your kid's love for their favorite fruit to bed with them with these 100% cotton pajamas that are available up to size 8.

$39.20

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