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!)
We're all familiar with the five standard senses, which include Vision, Hearing, Smell, Taste and Touch - especially so in our own children. The idea that there are only five of them has been rooted in our minds since the time of Aristotle (a fairly clever Greek philosopher.....turns out he missed #6 though). For centuries scientists have seriously entertained the idea of a sixth sense that allows us to perceive our bodies, because lets face it - that first challenge was easy so there's something in it.
There remains a lot of debate whether proprioception can be considered an additional sense, regardless it allows us to understand our physical place within the world. And to that extent it is important to my children and yours too.
FEET: THE FOUNDATION
At Bear-Foot we're super passionate about natural foot development, I bang on about how great the human foot is a lot (I'm a barefoot runner and mad about it). In the context of this ramble I would like to stress that the feet are the foundation of proper balance and posture because they are loaded with proprioceptive sensors. These sensors are constantly sending signals to thebrain, which then sends signals back down the spinal column to the muscles telling them when to contract and when to relax. Every movement from standing to walking, running and jumping are controlled by this system.
SO WHAT ABOUT SHOES?
The foot has evolved over millions of years to a dextrous and sensitivemasterpiece – by patronising it with thick soles and supportive padding we’re limiting its potential and risking injury throughout the body.
But here’s the catch: if the bare foot is so wonderful, why did humans invent shoes? Although the human foot is a marvel of evolutionary engineering it has one serious design flaw: a lack of protection from the environment.
Even If we accept that barefoot is best, we must also accept that footwear is essential to protect our children's feet.
FOOTWEAR THAT MAKES SENSE!
The perfect shoe allows the foot to behave exactly as it would if bare, whilst also providing protection from the environment.......and if they can look great too - then all the better!
Whatever shoe you pick for your child we recommend the following criteria:
1. THE SHOES MUST ALLOW FOR SENSORY FEEDBACK
Your body and brain need to receive feedback from your senses in order to know how to move. The sole of your foot is packed with sensory receptors, so the sole of your running shoe must allow feedback from the terrain you’re moving on in order to create a natural running style.
2. THE FOOT SHOULD NOT BE RESTRICTED BY THE SHOE (OR IT'S SHAPE)
When their foot hits the ground, your child's toes splay outwards to help balance their stride. The toe box should be wide enough to accommodate this spread without any restriction. The shape of the shoe should represent the natural shape of the foot (see a previous article about this).
3. THE SHOE'S DESIGN MUST NOT UNBALANCE THE FOOT'S NATURAL POSITION
During standing and walking there is a fairly balanced distribution of weight on the forefoot and heel. Raising the heel (through the shoe) potentially shifts the weight distribution towards the forefoot which can lead to developmental and foot problems in the future.
.....AND DID I SAY IF THEY LOOK COOL TOO THEN ALL THE BETTER.