Barefoot children may gain an advantage in life — at least when it comes to certain movements.
Children who spend most of their time barefoot develop motor skills differently than kids who always wear shoes, according to recent findings by German researchers. The result: Barefoot children are demonstrably better at jumping and balancing.
The researchers studied three primary motor skills — a standing long jump, balance and a 22-yard sprint — among more than 800 children and adolescents in Germany and rural South Africa. Children from the two countries were used because of their disparate shoe habits.
The usually barefoot children performed far better in balancing and jumping than their shoe-wearing counterparts. The effects were noticeable across three age groups ranging from 6 to 18 years old, but the difference was most noticeable among the 6- to 10-year-old children.
Even when the typically barefoot children put on shoes, they still outperformed the kids who wore shoes all the time, the researchers found. That supports their idea that development of basic motor skills in childhood and adolescence at least partly depends on regular barefoot activities.
The results were not completely uniform: The shoe-wearing children, especially those who were 11 to 14 years old, did better at sprinting.
While the severity and frequency of side effects of going barefoot are not known, this study demonstrates some benefit in children.
So, if your youngster tosses aside her shoes, don’t worry about cuts or bruises. Instead, consider the positive effects it could have on her development.