5 Reasons to Let Your Children Go Barefoot

Did you know there are lots of good reasons to encourage your child to go barefoot? Not just occasionally, but as often as possible? It's true! And the reasons may surprise you...

Post by contributor Kathleen Quiring

Walking barefoot through the warm summer grass. Who doesn’t feel a bit nostalgic remembering the childhood pleasure of going around barefoot? Almost anyone would agree that it’s enjoyable to kick off one’s shoes every once in a while and feel the earth beneath your feet.

But did you know there are lots of good reasons to encourage your child to go barefoot? Not just occasionally, but as often as possible?

It’s good for all of us, but little ones — whose bodies are growing rapidly — can especially benefit from going without shoes.

Now that the weather’s warmer, I encourage my three-year-old daughter to be barefoot pretty much all the time, as I am. We keep a pair of sandals for each of us in the van, to slip on before entering a store or restaurant (It can be annoying to get hassled by a store manager for being barefoot).

Otherwise, we’re almost always completely unshod, weather permitting.

Here are 5 reasons I try to keep shoes off my little one:

1. To Allow Feet to Grow and Develop the Way They Were Meant To


You may never have noticed this, but shoes actually change the shape of our feet over the course of our lives.

At birth, the human foot gets wider as it progresses to the ends of the toes. (If you take a look at a newborn’s footprint, you might notice this feature). But the average adult’s foot is widest at the ball, and the toes pinch inward. Why is that? Because a lifetime of wearing shoes has actually altered the shape of the foot!

father and son feet - Benjamin Gettinger

Photo via Flickr CC.

People who live in cultures where going barefoot is the norm don’t have feet like ours. The toes remain spread apart, like a newborn baby’s.

But in our culture, we like the appearance of a tapered toe on our shoes. We’ve actually become conditioned to believe that that’s what a foot should look like. So we don’t create shoes that follow the shape of the foot; instead, we create shoes that our feet have to fit into. Even if it means permanently changing the shape of our feet.

Beginning in infancy — when bones are still forming — we start putting our children’s feet into shoes that look the way we think they should look, ultimately changing the shape of their feet. And changing the shape will, of course, alter how effectively they work.

Leonardo DaVinci once said, “The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.”

I tend to agree. I don’t want to mess with that. That’s why I let my daughter go barefoot as much as possible: to protect her feet, and to let them grow the way they were supposed to!

2. To Encourage Children to Learn a Natural, Healthy Gait

Wearing shoes changes the way we walk. And it isn’t for the better.

When we’re barefoot, we naturally walk more gently, with a shorter stride, putting less pressure on our heels. Our knees bend to cushion the shock of each step. Our toes grip the floor and help propel us forward.

Shoes change all that.

The cushioning on our soles encourages us to slam our heels into the ground, which is harder on our knees. The stiffness of our soles prevents our feet from rolling flexibly forward, so shoes are given an upward-curved toe — called a toe spring — to allow them to rock forward onto the next step. This toe spring lifts our toes off the ground, so they can’t help propel the foot forward as they’re meant to. Our feet get trained to use the wrong muscles to move us forward.

All of these things together mean an unnatural gait that is harder on all of our joints.

If you consistently put shoes on your children right from infancy, they learn this unnatural gait from the start. They never get the chance to strengthen their toes and the tendons in their feet that are supposed to do the bulk of the work. These muscles atrophy, so that when kids finally do take off their shoes and try to run around, it hurts.

Give your kids a chance to learn the right way to walk by letting them go barefoot as much as possible.

3. Improved Safety

Playing barefoot

I know, I know, I know. The number one reason most people put shoes on their kids is for their safety. To protect their feet from hard, sharp surfaces. But it’s my opinion that in most situations, wearing shoes is actually more dangerous than going barefoot.

In my personal observations, children are much more likely to trip and fall when they’re wearing shoes – especially flip-flops and Crocs. (In my opinion, flip-flops are the most dangerous thing you can put on your kid’s feet, and he’d definitely be better off barefoot).

Many skinned knees and broken bones might be prevented if kids didn’t have pieces of foam dangling precariously from their feet as they climb monkey bars and run along uneven sidewalks. Almost every time my daughter has fallen and hurt herself, she was wearing her doggone Crocs.

Most shoes in general, but especially the slip-on variety, tend to make kids clumsier because they make the wearer less alert to his/her surroundings. They require effort to keep on, and they shift and slide under their soles as they move, making their footing less stable.

I haven’t seen any studies done on children and footwear, but a  1991 paper entitled “Athletic Footwear: Unsafe Due to Perceptual Illusions,” published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, noted that athletes who wore fancy, expensive athletic shoes are actually more prone to injury: “Wearers of expensive running shoes that are promoted as having additional features that protect (e.g., more cushioning, ‘pronation correction’) are injured significantly more frequently than runners wearing inexpensive shoes (costing less than $40).”

According to another study, people in expensive cushioned running shoes were twice as likely to suffer an injury than were people who went running in hard-soled shoes. Because we think we’re protected, we move in ways that aren’t safe for our bodies.

If I had to put shoes on my kid while she played for some reason, I would try to get flexible-soled shoes that strapped on securely, like leather moccasins, so that she could still feel the ground under her feet, but they wouldn’t slip out from under her as she played.

But what about sharp objects? you might ask. Don’t feet need protection from them?

That’s a valid question. But it’s been my experience that kids (and adults) who are used to going barefoot have a heightened awareness of their surroundings. When we go barefoot, we instinctively pay attention to where we’re putting our sensitive feet. We watch the ground in front of us. And because we step more gently when we’re barefoot, we’re apt to notice if we’re starting to put our foot down on something sharp and quickly lift it, avoiding injury.

I have been going almost exclusively barefoot for the last five years, and my daughter for the last three (except in the winter of course), and neither of us has suffered any kind of injury from a sharp object yet. I recently walked all over Toronto and Montreal without incident.

My daughter and I regularly walk all over town and the local parks, and walk to and from the library weekly. We’re never gotten anything worse than a nettle thorn in our feet.

4. Less Wear and Tear on Shoes

My daughter has only owned a few pairs of shoes in her short lifetime (all second-hand). All have gotten so little use, they’ll easily be able to be used by a younger sibling (or two).

This would probably be a silly reason to go barefoot if it was the only one, but it’s a really nice side-effect.

5. Healthier Feet

Playing barefoot

Shoes trap fungus and bacteria and hold them against your feet. They also provide a lovely, warm, damp environment for them to grow in, inviting things like athlete’s foot and toe fungus and encouraging ingrown toenails.

So keep your kid’s feet healthy by keeping them bare! Sunshine and fresh air are great for feet, too!

Resources for Further Reading/Learning

You Walk Wrong by Adam Sternbergh
The Foot Film (trailer)

I'm Beth. I created Red & Honey because I'm obsessed with the wild art of wellness.

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  1. karina says

    Ny daughter took her first steps when she was 9 months , and I guess she started wearing shoes from around the age of 10 months. Now that I read this, I feel so bad. She’s now almost 13 months. You think that she will change and gain a more natural walking style if I let her walk in socks or barefoot from now on? Or is it too late?

  2. Jordan says

    I rarely ever put socks on my baby’s feet, let alone shoes! They’re a complete waste of money when your child is not walking. The few times it’s cold out and I put socks on him, I take them off when we get inside our destination. Any condition, Snow, Rain, you name it. You won’t spot a shoe on my baby.

    I also like to keep as little clothes on him as possible as well, especially during spring & summer months. He’s naked at home basically 24/7. I’ve taken him to the park for a walk with NO diaper or anything one time. I also had to ride home with him naked before because I ran out of diapers and couldn’t get to a store. Most of the time at stores he wears only a diaper, occasionally a shirt. Usually whenever I put him in a bjorn he’s naked. One thing I’ve done is put on specialized sacks on it where he can go potty in, the few times he does.

    During winter months I dress him warm but still he goes barefoot. Some days I’ll put socks on him and I’ve only put shoes on him ONCE during winter.

  3. says

    This is a new product – a barefoot shoe that is made in Germany. It allows the wearer full flexibility and range of motion while providing a strong grip at the bottom to protect the feet from unnatural sharps objects. The “leguanitos” are for children and basically gives them the freedom and comfortable feeling of being barefoot. They encourage the healthy and natural development of a child’s feet – develops strength, balance, and flexibility!!

  4. says

    We lived in New Zealand for 5 years and our kids went barefoot everywhere, even shopping. They were required to do their cross country running for school barefoot – through paddocks where cows resided. It was messy but very memorable. When we moved back to Canada my youngest really didn’t like wearing shoes! Good memories!

    Family RnR is the place to discover meaningful family travel and recreation opportunities. http://www.familyrnr.com

  5. Jacky Estacado says

    Walked and ran around barefoot until about 8 or 9 years old. That’s when I noticed I had no arch from walking wrong (knee’s buckled with each step). Now I have an arch but my femur is already shaped with a curve from all the pressure I put on it. My brother always for shoes and is now two inches taller than me (I’m older than him). I ran hard as a child so this is the price I pay for going barefoot. I’m sure its good to do it once in a while though, but slippers with arch support are phenomenal.

  6. Brittany says

    I always thought I had wide feet, but I guess it’s just that I’ve spent most of my life barefoot!

    My two year old daughter drives me crazy because she loves wearing shoes. I’m alway trying to hide them from her, but somehow she manages to show up in a pair I’d forgotten. I at least try to only has super flexible shoes for my kids so that when they do need them I don’t worry so much.

  7. Louise says

    Love, love going barefoot. My three kids and I spend most of the time barefoot or in leather slippers (robeez style). My six year old daughter prefers bare feet to shoes in the woods, fields or concrete. She complains about carrying her shoes around cause she never wants to wear them. I’ve found an amazing barefoot shoe company out of Oregon. It’s called Soft Star Shoes, I can’t say enough good things about them. They make adult, kids and baby footwear. All very comfortable and as close to barefoot as you can get.

    Keep on trekking barefoot! You’re body is designed for it, skin quickly gets used to the hot temperature of summer pavement or the rough terrain of the mountains. We live in the BC Kootenays and love walking barefoot in our mountains!

  8. Anna says

    I wore shoes almost my entire childhood. I began wearing them less and less after about 10. Now I go barefoot almost all the time, except to go out in public. But all shoes hurt my feet, except wide flats. I have a low arch, (doesnt cause me problems unless I’m working out, or wearing shoes) I blame it on wearing shoes for half my life. My feet say no to shoes.

  9. Sarah D. says

    When growing up, we were only required to wear shoes when we left the house. If we were just going in the yard, shoes were optional, unless it was really cold (we lived in VT). My parents were adamant that we take off our shoes when in the house!
    Now, as an adult, I follow those same “rules”: Shoes are for leaving the house, optional for the yard, and never in the house. =) My children are learning this, too, except that we do try to have them put something on their feet (like flip flops) most of the time even when in the yard so they don’t get stung. We have a ton of bees in our yard! I think it’s because we don’t mow that often so the clover grows really well. =) Anyway, I figure flip flops aren’t as bad for their feet since they aren’t confining.

    • Denise says

      I’ve heard more than once that flips flops are very dangerous, if you’re going to wear shoes. I heard if you wear shoes they need to be more supportive. But I’m no shoe professional.

      • Denise says

        I’ve heard more than once that flips flops are very dangerous, if you’re going to wear shoes. I heard if you wear shoes they need to be supportive. But I’m no shoe professional.
        But I’m thinking if you never wear shoes, it may be impossible to get shoes on for an important occaision like a prom or a wedding, which would be very embarrassing, or shoes rquired on the job. I think feet need to not be allowed to grow too wide for that reason, since we live in a shod society.
        I’ve also read that babies should be barefoot when learning to walk, which makes perfect sense.

        • Ashley says

          It’s funny you mentioned “Prom” as a place where you have to wear shoes. That is because I went to my prom barefoot. When I went shopping with my mom for my dress and shoes, finding a dress was easy, but I am tall, so finding shoes was harder. Finally, I asked my mom, “can’t I go barefoot?” Most of the girls will be by the end of the night anyways. When I went to my first daddy-daughter dance, I wore shoes there, but they came off right after the first half hour (I remember telling daddy my feet hurt). The next daddy-daughter dance, I just went barefoot, not shoes to carry or lose. My long prom dress would easily cover my bare feet.

          My mom thought about it and said “well they are your feet and you go almost everywhere barefoot, I suppose you can”. There was no policy against it and a few other girls went barefoot as well. The only bad part was how dirty they were when I got home :( the dance floor was not as clean as it looked.

          Anyhow when you said prom, I giggled because I didn’t to mine. Now about weddings. One of the duggar girls got married barefoot. I guess I might too. We could have a beach wedding. Sigh, but don’t have a bf right now. It’s hard for tall girls to find nice guys who don’t mind looking up to them!

  10. says

    Wow! It looks like the all the “Anti-Bare Footers” are awfully angry and tightly wound! Maybe that is another backlash of wearing shoes that are too confining your entire life!! Ha ha

  11. Maryam says

    Going barefoot in places where it’s relatively safe is great, and I’d recommend it for kids and adults.

    Wooded areas, however, are not safe for bare feet. Walking in the woods should be done in boots — not bare feet, not most shoes or sneakers, and definitely not flip-flops. Boots. Which are generally cut for a more natural foot shape if they’re proper boots.

    (I’ve spent most of my life in the country, work in a remote undeveloped place, and spend a lot of time outdoors. The boot thing has been drilled into me from an early age, and I’ve had plenty of occasion to be thankful I’ve followed it.)

    • says

      The more time you spend barefoot, the tougher your feet will become. I can run barefoot on gravel because I spend a lot of time, especially when I’m outside in or out of public, barefoot. If I see a kid with shoes off a lot I’ll trust their judgement to be ready to step on glass, even though I don’t support them always. And one key thing, too. Blisters. Those are much worse than a scratch. But bring some ointment for an infection if bare feet bothers you.

      I would wear shoes because they keep your arches higher, and they are less distracting than the unearthly smells coming from bare feet.

  12. Carly says

    Every chance I get I take off my shoes. Have done so since I was a kid. Mom would tell me to put on shoes, but the moment I was outside – off they came! So, I unwittingly saved my feet from being ‘bound’, they are shaped as they were meant to be. I have a very high arch (and naturally slender but long foot) and find it impossible to find shoes that fit okay. I loathe how shoes seem to have the toes raised above the heel, they are impossible to walk in (at least for my barefoot loving self). I don’t like flats, they just don’t feel right, but I’ll see about tracking down some nice moccasins. They sound like what I need. For now, my kitten heel sandals do the trick.

    As far as kids getting into bee stings and nettle, eh, it’ll clear up. And infections? I have more toenail irritations and infections when I wear shoes too long, not from being barefoot. I still go barefoot with cuts, just have one heck of a giant band-aid on the wound.

  13. Leonie says

    I’d say that reason 4 (less wear) isn’t all that important today. Which shoes don’t hold up until children grow out of them?

    It was certainly different 100 or 200 years ago when shoes were costly, hand-made items made to measure and intended to last many years. Not so affluent families had different priorities than to provide their children with shoes for every opportunity, and why would they have to when there’s no social obligation to wear shoes (except to special occasions) and they enjoy going barefoot just as well, most of the year?

    Then again, shoe-shopping, endlessly trying on shoes to find a pair that fits, looks and feels good, is a very tedious activity for children. I guess I had some of my most boring moments of childhood in shoe shops. Many children wear shoes that don’t fit right, because they are too long, too short, too wide or too narrow. Walking barefoot however is the “shoe that always fits” through all the years of growth.

    One real danger are bee stings, so children should be watched in flowering meadows and taught as early as possible to watch out for bees. Flowering clover seems to be especially attractive to honey bees and is so close to the ground that one could easily step on a bee and get stung.

    One potential difficulty would be social pressure in kindergarten or school if a child is the only one coming barefoot. Then it will be important to have moral support from parents and friends – and it might be worth if parents speak to teachers to ensure no derisive comments will come from them. Not all kids have the robust self-esteem to ignore any hostility they may encounter for not fitting in. (Building up said self-esteem would be a worthy goal of childraising however: Learning to be yourself without wanting to be the same as all the others.)

  14. MamaV says

    Hooray! My two year old is always the one with slacks, a button down, and bare feet in Sunday School :-)
    The big issue where we live is that in the summer, the ground is just too hot to walk on (like, you could fry an egg on the sidewalk). I stick a pair of sandals on the boy if I need him to walk any distance, but otherwise he just goes barefoot and stays off the concrete. The moccasin idea would fix that problem… I like five-fingers for myself.

    • unci says

      That’s certainly cute and would be worth a picture!

      The ground being too hot is usually a problem with paved grounds. Natural trails, grass, mud don’t get terribly hot. So it depends on the area … in most cities there’s a chance to flee to the shadow of buildings.

  15. unci says

    Great article! You could make a PDF flyer of it, to distribute to all parents worrying their children will get hurt or sick when they go barefoot. This should be distributed to birth clinics and kindergartens worldwide!
    Of course there are many more good reasons. It is simply so practical not to have to sit down and tie your shoes when you go out, and so quick and easy to wash feet as you come back home.
    And it teaches children to use their natural sense of temperature. They get used to the warm and cold and learn by own experience how cold is still ok, how cold is too cold. Too many overprotective parents worry that it may be too cold for their child when the child is actually fine and will say if it gets too cold.

    • says

      Absolutely! I only wear Birkenstocks. ( No, I’m not a Hippie left over from the 60’s.) Haha I have a few pair of beautiful dress heels that I will wear on special occasions, or to appropriate events. But my everyday wear are a pair of Birkenstocks. They are made to form the foot to it’s natural shape. The toes are never squished together, and the heel is allowed full freedom to take it’s natural shape. These shoes have a cushy arch where the natural arch of your foot is. I am in my 60’s and have never had any type of leg or foot problems. When I am forced to wear a pair of Dress Shoes, my feet always ache for hours afterward. I spent time in Germany when my children were very small. Almost all the shoes for Children in Germany are very different looking then what you get in the States. At first I didn’t want to dress my little girls in such chunky looking shoes. The toes of these shoes are very wide and the over all look of the shoes are anything but petite looking. I got use to the girls wearing these wider more sturdy shoes, and know I look back a pictures and find them very endearing. If you get a chance, Google Children’s German Shoes. You will see what I mean. I didn’t know it at the time, but I honestly believe that these shoes helped my girls feet to grow more naturally.

    • Kriss says

      Amie, the article in the link you quoted was very good, but it addressed hookworm infection in animals, specifically dogs, not human hookworm.

      Hookworms from any animal feces are not the same type of hookworms that we generally hear about that have been known to infect humans. Human hookworm infections – those that affect the digestive system – can only come from frequent and direct contact with infected human feces – that is, feces left on the ground by a human being who himself/herself was infected by hookworm before leaving the feces. A highly unlikely scenario in modern-day America or any other developed country with modern sewage systems.

      However, as the article mentions in the last paragraph, there is one type of hookworm sometimes found in dogs (and cats) that does have the potential to infect humans, but only causing a minor skin irritation. This is actually rare, as best as I can determine, but in any case it seems nothing to worry about, for as the article states (which is also backed up by the CDC), “An itchy disease in humans called cutaneous larvae migrans (creeping eruption) is caused by the hookworm A. brasiliense. Larvae present in the soil penetrate the skin, causing lumps and streaks beneath the skin. The condition usually clears up on its own.”

      So hookworm – in any form – is not something we need to worry about with our children running around and happily playing barefoot.

  16. says

    I really enjoyed this article. At my son’s 2 year check-up recently, the doctor commented, “Oh. He goes barefoot a lot, doesn’t he?” I couldn’t tell if she was approving or disapproving, but he definitely does! He had a high arch as an infant that made finding shoes that fit nearly impossible. We opted for Robeez during the pre-walking winter months and beginning stages of walking, and they seemed to work really well.

    I hadn’t really considered the heightened sense of surroundings when walking barefoot, but it’s so true! I have extremely tender feet, so any invaders — tiny or large — are avoided whenever possible. Thanks for sharing these thoughts!

  17. Eva says

    A comment from a co-worker when talking about not wearing shoes was that “It’s so unsanitary!”. Really? Unsanitary? How?? I understand that if you had an open wound/cut on the bottom of your foot how this could then be “unsanitary” per say (chance of infection etc.), but if your feet bottoms are intact this makes no sense. If you think about it our hands touch far more unsanitary surfaces (door handles, any surface in a public place really) and we don’t go around wearing gloves to protect them.

  18. Amanda says

    I went barefoot often as a child and pretty much constantly since I became a stay at home mom. It’s convenient, and I agree it’s important for babies and toddlers learning to walk/balance to be able to feel the ground with their bare little feet. I also agree about enclosed sneakers/shoes trapping moisture. However, there are negatives to going barefoot that you didn’t mention. Going barefoot causes you to lose your arch and can cause foot pain while working on hard surfaces, like tiled floor in a kitchen. My mother has gone barefoot almost her entire life (stay at home mom as well), and has had many problems with her feet as a direct result. Her doctor now has her wear new balance sneakers for “house shoes,” which have alleviated some of her foot pain. Also, going barefoot has (as you mentioned) caused her feet to spread, and she has a lot of difficulty finding shoes that will fit her wide feet.

    • c says

      After working many many years in a factory on cement floors, I can assure you that hard surfaces hurt your feet with shoes just as much as without.

      For me, losing the arch support of shoes has been nothing but a blessing. Since I started walking barefoot and lost the artificial support from running shoes like New Balances (which is what I wore up until my arch pain got so bad I couldn’t walk more than a mile without being crippled for days) the muscles and tendons in my feet have strengthened and gained flexibility, and arch support is redundant because now my foot supports itself. And now I have NO foot pain when walking.

      • Jeanne says

        Thank you! If I’m on my feet too much whether I’m barefoot, wearing sneakers, flats, or heels, they hurt. Being a former dancer, I know to stretch my feet just like any other body part and my feet are neither flat or have too much of an arch and I still have full range of motion in my ankle since someone recently made a comment to me about wearing high heels too much.

    • Kriss says

      Amanda, I’m sorry to hear of all the foot problems your mother has had, but going barefoot does not cause “you to lose your arch.” It’s the opposite, in fact. Wearing shoes, especially those with arch supports, actually causes the muscles and tendons of the arch to weaken and atrophy. Going without shoes over time strengthens all the parts of the foot. If your mother went barefoot all her life, and then had foot problems, I’m afraid it is simply faulty logic to assume one caused the other. Thousands – actually millions – of people around the world, especially in earlier and ancient times, went barefoot all their lives – many remote tribes still do – and had strong, healthy feet. Going barefoot is the natural function of the human foot. It was not designed to need support or covering for it to function normally. Whatever foot problems your mother has, had to have been caused by some other physical or medical malady, certainly not by going barefoot.

    • Alan says

      Amanda, you said: “Also, going barefoot has ….. caused her feet to spread”

      Actually, going barefoot has allowed her feet to assume their natural morphology, unlike so many Westerners whose feet have been bound in shoes and are now deformed and unable to function as designed.

    • Sarah D. says

      I’m not sure going barefoot would cause arch problems or widened feet. My feet have always been narrow, especially my heels, and I don’t have arch issues. My husband, however, has flat, long, skinny feet. It may be hereditary or maybe putting his feet in shoes as a baby is the culprit. My mother-in-law has said before that I should put shoes on my babies, but I disagreed. =) Our 5 1/2 yo has long, skinny feet; 4yo has very wide feet; 2yo has “normal” feet; we’re waiting to see what kind of feet new baby has. Everyone’s feet are different, just like every other part of them. =)

  19. Chris says

    I went barefoot all around town growing up, only put shoes on to go to school for the most part unless it was really cold. Now at 30 years old it is very difficult to find shoes that fit me. I can fit into a 9 if it has no sides but more often then not I’m in a 10 or 11 wide just so the sides fit. As for the safety part, it’s a mix, we have a wood deck and my kids are forever getting splinters and the park has those infernal bark chips under the play structure, we’ve never noticed the tripping issue with or without shoes. I like the moccasin idea though.

  20. says

    Wonderful! We need more positive posts about going barefoot. I love watching my kids run (super fast), hike, and walk barefoot. Other than some chestnut spikes in the heel, we haven’t had any issues.

    We also go barefoot into the market and restaurants. Usually without hassle.

  21. Theresa says

    I grew up running around the neighborhood barefoot, so I’m huge supporter of this life style.
    However, since becoming a veterinarian, I’m more aware of the potential dangers of going barefoot; namely, parasites such as hookworms which can cause cutaneous larva migrans. Hookworm larva enter the body through the skin, and migrate through out the body causing organ damage and a rash. Young children are most susceptible to worm migration because their immune system isn’t fully developed.

    Here’s a few tips to protect your children while they explore the great outdoors barefoot!

    1. Keep all family pets (especially those utilizing the backyard as a toilet!) on heartworm prevention, which also prevents against many intestinal parasites, like hookworms

    2. Have your veterinarian run a fecal test from your pets at the beginning of the summer, so that any current infection can be treated before the kids are running around the yard

    3. clean animal feces up from the yard daily. This removes eggs from the area, before they hatch into infective larva

    4. avoid going barefoot in animal pens or kennels where parasitic loads are higher

    I’ll be barefoot this summer along with all of you so lets make it a safe one!

    • Kriss says

      Theresa, it is true that animals are certainly susceptible to various types of worms and other parasites. However I think your warnings regarding animals and parasites are a little overblown. I’m sure you know, with a few exceptions, animal diseases and infections are species-specific. For example, the type of hookworms commonly found in dogs and cats, that have invaded their gastrointestinal system, are about the only animal hookworms that will even infect humans, but they do not infect humans the same way as they do the animals. At worst, it becomes only a mild skin rash (cutaneous larva migrans), easily treated, and usually goes away on its own even if not treated.

      Even if a pet that’s infected with hookworm is allowed to go untreated, and a child walks barefoot in the pet’s infected feces, the chances of the larvae actually boring into the child’s skin and therefore causing the skin rash is not likely unless the child is allowed to remain in the feces barefoot for a long period of time. Hardly likely for any responsible person who normally takes good care of his/her pets, as well as, of course, his/her children.

      Walking barefoot in the feces of other animals, such as farm animals – chickens, cows, horses, etc. – has never been found to cause any infections, parasites, or any other medical problems.

      I certainly don’t disagree that yards and other places children may play – barefoot or not – should be kept cleaned up from animal feces. But the main reason is aesthetic, not medical.

      • Cindy says

        So you’re a Dr or Veterinarian are you Kriss?

        You say…. “I’m sure you know, with a few exceptions, animal diseases and infections are species-specific”… well in fact this is inaccurate

        There are MANY Zoonotic diseases. We have a couple in the clinic where I work at present which require us to glove, gown and mask up before entering the isolation area they are in.

        Visceral larva migrans for instance – which are acquired from roundworm who are the most common parasite of the digestive system in cats and dogs. Roundworm can spread to humans via ingestion of roundworm eggs. This can happen when a child comes in contact with contaminated soil or sand and then inadvertently transfers the eggs to their own mouth via contaminated fingers (from scratching their foot after walking through an egg laden area, or sitting on/playing in the grass etc) or by putting contaminated objects in their mouths.

        Visceral larva migrans also known as Toxocariasis is a potentially serious disease that can affect the eyes and other organs. After the eggs are ingested they hatch in the human intestine. The larvae from these eggs are then released into the bloodstream and find their way to all parts of the body, including the liver, lungs, heart, brain and eyes.

        And as for your remark about farm animals… Salmonellosis and E coli can be contracted by contact with the contaminated faeces of farm animals, as can Campylobacter and Cryptosporidium. And these aren’t the worst zoonotic diseases you can find on a farm!! Also these illnesses are not only found on farms – we have a cat with Cryptosporidium in isolation in our clinic at the moment. And don’t forget that cats (and dogs) often roam in childrens parks, and will often pee and poop in sand boxes etc.

        I completely agree with Theresa :)

        • Kriss says

          Cindy, thanks for the information, but nothing you said really contradicts anything I said. Since the article, as well a Theresa’s comments, were about “…the potential dangers of going barefoot,” my comment also specifically addressed that topic. You, on the other hand, have taken my reference to “a few exceptions” out of the context of animal diseases that can spread to humans through contact with bare feet, and have expounded the topic into many other types of zoonotic diseases that have nothing to do with children being barefoot. Each and every disease you listed (Campylobacter, Toxocariasis, Salmonellosis, E. coli, and Cryptosporidium) can only be spread to humans by ingestion, not by merely coming in contact with someone’s skin.

          Certainly there are “many” zoonotic diseases, as you stated, including such things as anthrax, rabies, plague – the list goes on. But we’re not talking about those diseases here. We’re talking about “potential dangers,” if any, of children going barefoot. All the diseases you listed could indeed potentially infect a child – or anyone. But a child being barefoot or not has no relation to the spread of such infections.

        • says


          Of all the zoonoses you have enumerated, which are barefoot-related or those which pose a special risk to a barefoot person? I suppose about 0% if I have read your comment correctly.

  22. says

    My three kids and I are always barefoot at home (outside and in) and only put on shoes when we go somewhere. When my kids are babies I never put shoes on them, until they are walking well. I just prefer being barefoot (or socks in the winter), but when our oldest was just starting to walk well I noticed that the first solid soled pair of sneakers she had (vs the soft soled moccasins she had worn places before) caused her to stomp, because she couldn’t feel the floor! That reinforced my barefoot cause, and my second and third children haven’t even worn those little moccasins. It’s nice to see there is actually scientific basis behind my neurosis, lol.

    • Amanda says

      There are no links to “scientific proof” to back her info up so the most we can take this as is her own opinion.

      • Tracy says

        Actually, in section 3, paragraph 4, she cited a “1991 paper entitled “Athletic Footwear: Unsafe Due to Perceptual Illusions,” published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, noted that athletes who wore fancy, expensive athletic shoes are actually more prone to injury”
        I’ve spent all of my 48+ years going barefoot all of the time; only putting shoes on for school, work, or going into stores and then only wearing sandals. I wear paddock boots when I ride and slip on clogs to care for my horse & chickens. I’ve had 2 foot injuries; both happened with footwear on; and have never had any issues with infection of any kind. I was born with a slightly high arch and 48 years later I still have it. Barefoot, sandals and paddock boots are the only footwear for me.

      • Alan says

        You can find all kinds of scientific proof. Just Google Dr. Daniel Lieberman (Harvard), or Dr.Daniel Howell , or Dr. Irene Davis, or Dr. Shakoor/journal of rheumatology. The science is there.

    • Sarah D. says

      Lisa, I’ve noticed the same response with my children when they put on hard shoes. If my babies need to have something on their feet before they’re walking well, I put soft shoes on them or socks that look like shoes. =) Those first hard shoes, though, always trip them up.

  23. says

    Very interesting! We wore shoes when we went out, but my mom let us run barefoot for long hours outside. My sister, cousin, and I used to revel in “toughening up” our feet for summer. We did things we probably shouldn’t have, like run across stones and thorny ground on purpose, but the goal was to get our feet rough and ready for any ground we might cover, all summer long.

  24. says

    This makes sense. I have lived in Panama now for over 9 months and have worn sandals or barefeet almost all the time. Only when I go back to the states for a visit do I get my Skechers out. My toes now seem more spread out than they used to be.


  25. says

    Our three girls go mostly barefoot from about April to November and prefer not to wear shoes. Living on a farm it equals filthy feet but I love seeing them running all over with barefeet. I try to remember to keep a pair of shoes for each in the vehicle during the summer months for going into stores but we have ended up with them wearing ridiculously mismatched shoes more than ones. Think really ridiculous like a cowboy boot and and a too small dress shoe!

    • says

      Ha! That’s such a funny picture in my mind! Were they happy about this mis-matched scenario? I have a feeling my kids would think that was fun – Isaac likes to wear two different colours of shoes on purpose :)

      • says

        It is a little hilarious and would be embarassing only I don’t have enough time to be embarrassed these days!;). The girls on the other hand (usually Cecily) could care less, matters not how it looks as long as it gets them from point a to point b. :)


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