Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Barefoot 3 year old

Lily patiently waiting to run with her blue balloon
 In preparation for the 1st Annual NYC Barefoot Race next weekend, I was interviewed by race founder John Durant and profiled in the "Wild Profiles".  The focus was on encouraging your children to go barefoot.

Lily playing soccer at playground after a romp in the sandbox, barefoot of course.
 Top 10 Reasons why you should let your child go barefoot
10.  Kids are natural born runners. They love to run and move, let them do it the way they want to
9.  Less boo-boos.  They will barely trip barefooting -- but when they are in thick soled shoes -- they seem to trip a lot more.
8.  Builds up their natural foot strength.
7.  It encourages them to listen to their bodies.
6. They pay much closer attention to their environment and where they step.
5.  Think of all the money you will save on fancy footwear!
4.  Barefoot on the playground makes them more coordinated and improves balance. (If you don't believe this -- try doing tree pose in sneakers). 
3.  Helps stave off obesity and all the ills that go along with it. 
2.  You have a live-in running partner.
1.  Joy -- Next time you are in the park, watch a child run around without shoes.  No pain, no HRM, no watch, that is true happiness.

Lily dashing down Park Avenue during NYC Summer Streets on Aug 7th.

Lily's natural curious ways and questioning eventually made me realize how wise it would be to allow her to run barefoot. You see, I was injured almost every competitive season of my life due to simple sloppy running form.  My heavy heel striking led to chronic shin splints and stress fractures. Little did I know that my "supportive" shoes and orthotics were actually my problem.  It wasn't until after I returned to serious running after Aurora's birth that I realized I needed to change something.  I needed to ditch the shoes!
  Lily's scientific questioning made me realize that the best thing I can do for her is to NOT interfere in the process of her developing her natural running form.  Her body is teaching her how to be a runner better than I ever could.

Lily testing her feet on the bridle path. "Mommy, the little rocks don't hurt anymore!"
Since Lily is only 3, we had a lot of discussions about running "with your piggies out".  It is important to be careful.  Don't step on anything that hurts your feet.  Fortunately, most three year olds won't do anything that hurts.  Now, when we go on the cinder bridle path, she says, "the little rocks don't hurt anymore -- I can run on them now".  When she gets tired, I encourage her to go just a little bit further.  We'll repeat a mantra like, "I can do it, I can do it" for just a few more feet. 

The great thing about kids (especially young ones) is that they have no choice but to put all of their energy into everything they do, and when they are spent, they literally cannot make themselves go any further.  So we really don't have to worry about overuse injuries.

The best advice I can give is to listen to your child, no matter their age, and support them in their  quest to learn more about the world around them.


Anonymous said...

Since you are only 33, you grew up in a shoe obsessed society, and probably are not aware that it was not always like this. During the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, it was normal for kids to go barefoot everywhere during the summer in most parts of the country. Putting your shoes away the day school ended and not putting them back on again until school started in the fall was something many kids looked forward to. And though it had some connection to poverty originally, most kids wanted to do this, and the peer pressure was opposite of today's shallow values - those whose feet were not tough enough to go barefoot were made fun of.
And adults going barefoot? Well, that was mainly a kid thing. Once you grew up, you wore shoes. BUT - during the late 1960s and early 1970s 'youth revolution', many young adults began going barefoot everywhere, including cities all over the US, and that became the style for a few years. You could not go anywhere on an nice summer day without seeing a decent number of teenagers and people in their twenties shopping barefoot, and going about their daily errands and such like that. Especially young women. They were so used to it that they could walk on anything without problems. By the time you were around, it had gone out of style, and no one seems to be informing the young generation that going barefoot was once no big deal.

Barefoot Superhero said...

You make a very good point. I can't remember ever seeing people go barefoot unless it was at the beach or the swimming pool. My parents thought it was dangerous. Maybe that is why going barefoot feels so radical to me. Maybe that's why people react the way they do.

Anonymous said...

"I can't remember ever seeing people go barefoot unless it was at the beach or the swimming pool."

Wow, I guess that is how much the world changed. If you are younger than a certain age, you never saw this. My childhood and teenage memories of the 1960s and 1970s are filled with seeing literally thousands of people barefoot in every possible public situation. I thought nothing of it and took it for granted. By the 1980s it had gone out of style and you really had to look and purposely pay attention to see someone doing that.