Friday, April 22, 2011


When Benny was born (gosh was it really nearly 3 years ago) he was so scrumpled up that for 3 days he didn't unfold his legs. They were starting to relax down in this picture.

When he went for his 9 month check with the health visitor, she noticed that his feet were quite kidney shaped and referred us to a physio therapist and to the paediatric orthopedic surgeon. Basically dear little Benny was born with what the consultant called a 'packaging defect', in that his left foot in particular turns in. He was prescribed to wear straight last shoes from before he could even walk. I have to say it made me very sad watching him trying to learn to stand and walk in big massive boots. I prefer leaving children barefooted for as long and as much as possible.

The long and short of it is that he has been wearing these boots for 3 years now. Although his foot does seem straighter I have noticed that his little toe had become much much more curled.

Also I noticed that his last pair of prescription boots are getting too small. He didn't have another appointment until May so we needed to do something about his foot wear. To buy a pair of his boots privately would have cost us upwards of 300 euro.

I started looking online and came across this brilliant site. I read that many paediatric orthopedists believe that corrective shoes do very little correcting and that feet will normal right themselves in time. I also read that very restrictive and 'supportive' shoes can actually damage the foot in that the muscles of the foot are not allowed to strengthen themselves and thus remain weak and can lead to further foot problems.

There are many arguments for allowing our children to go barefoot and indeed to be unshod ourselves. In cultures where being barefoot is the norm there are far, far fewer foot related complaints.

However, there is a big pressure on us, as parents, to clad our children's feet well. We are supposed to have them measured and fitted by a trained professional every 6 weeks, and then we are to choose a shoe that fits well and is supportive and is well made. Luckily there is a huge selection of these shoes and the shops that fit these shoes, and not surprisingly, a huge cost. It just smacks of more consumerism to me. Another way to target parents' pockets.

So after much research and discussion with Andy, we have decided to go unshod :-)

All I feel I need to do with Benny's little toe is to tape it to his little next door friend until it remembers to stand straight. By being barefooted Benny's foot muscles will stengthen and we feel self correct in time. Being barefoot is pretty normal for us at home, in the garden and on the beach anyway, but I want to allow ourselves to be shoeless wherever we can.

On our way to the beach.

Of course there are times when shoes are necessary, wee stoney paths and trips to town for example. So I looked and looked online and finally found some great wee 'barefoot' shoes. These are shoes that are as close to being barefoot as possible. Very soft leather uppers and linings with a soft and very flexible rubber sole. They are unfitted, purposely, and are wide and roomy to allow toes a lot of movement. They allow the muscles of the foot to work on their own and they are very comfortable and light.

Benny chose these: They are soft star shoes. I had seen them mentioned before and my favourite blogging family wear them. Benny is thrilled to have 'green-a-go' shoes and is very comfy in them.

Rebe has these Rainbow Steps. Also very soft and light leather and room for lots of movement, and

as you can see they are very flexible.

I feel really good about the decision to go unshod. I know the kids love the freedom and I know we will soon get used to the looks we get from people when they see us out and about without shoes.

It is a conscious decision based on research and with the health of my children's feet in mind. Of course it is also lovely to feel the mud between your toes and experience the connection with the earth afforded by walking on her barefooted :-)


  1. Laura, thank you for this post! I believe in children being "unshod" as well- we choose soft star shoes and moccasins because they are the next best thing. :) I'm so glad you got some for Benny! Asa has the same ones, they match! <3
    I am sure you have made the right decision with Benny, allowing his feet to correct on their own. I also don't believe you made the wrong decision initially though, by having Benny wear his boots- you were doing what all parents do, trying to do what is best for their child! In the end, following your instinct is probably the best way to go!
    Hugs <3

  2. Thank you Melanie, thank you for writing that. Of course I always look back and wish we had made decisions or discoveries earlier, but as you say we are always trying to do our best and must be forgiving of our learning selves. I still find it difficult sometimes to really listen to my instinct when it is against societal norms, or doctor's recommendation but, I am getting better and I think I must trust myself that I really do know my kids better than anyone else possibly could. Hugs x

  3. Laura, I have so many parenting decisions we made in the past that I regret today, but I can't dwell on the regrets, I can only move forward!
    It can be extremely difficult when your instinct goes against societal norms, or what your pediatrician might recommend. I had to switch pediatrician's when Asa was a baby- to one who accepts and supports us and our decisions.
    Yes, you do know your kids better than anyone else! That's what I always say too.
    And there may be others who are influenced by you, who find the courage to stand up for what is best for their children rather than follow what others tell them to do.

  4. Laura, the way that you parent and are so in tune with your children and their needs inspire me daily.

    My son, Jake, who is 13 months and been walking for 2 months wears soft soled shoes and that choice feels so right to me. Not to mention, how darn cute his chubby feet look in them.

  5. This has really struck a chord with me. DD's feet turn in, and have since she was born, but they have always told me that there is nothing to worry about and that because she is in cloth nappies it can throw their legs out a bit, but at 2.5 years nothing seems to have changed and the nappies are proportionally smaller now she is so much bigger, but also her last two toes curl in like Benny's . Have you any advice? She only ever wears shoes to go outside, and does not have corrective shoes.

    Cute shoes btw!

  6. Oh Laura, I forgot to tell you- because it is just a part of me and I always forget: I have one foot that turns in quite a bit. Sometimes when I'm standing there Andy will smile at me, as it points right in! It's just a part of me, and never caused problems. As an older child I went through a time when I was not happy with it, and tried to walk "straight." But later I didn't mind it, and now I never even remember it.

  7. Thanks for all your kind and supportive words, I really appreciate it :-)
    Elizabeth, I know exactly what you mean about your choice 'feeling right', this is exactly how I feel too.
    Claire, I guess go with your instinct. Do you think it's a problem? If you're concerned go to your health visitor. I did find the site I mentioned above, parents for barefoot children, really helpful and insightful.
    Melanie, odd I had an inturning foot too when I was little. For me I used to trip A LOT, I ended up with corrective insoles and my mum reminding me to pick my feet up and 'walk like a soldier' sorted it out (or would it have sorted itself out naturally over time too?).However Benny is pretty good on his feet and trips a lot less that Rebe. Anyway, thanks for sharing that. In the bigger scheme of things you're right, it won't cause him problems and I'd rather he was comfortable and free than aesthetically pleasing ;-)

  8. I also had feet that turned in, I had to wear shoes with long metal braces on them (only inside the house though). I am a bit knocked kneed now, I probably would have been better off going bare-foot! You are so right to follow your instincts Laura.

  9. Very nice post. So happy that you are doing the barefoot thing. P.S. We wear softstar shoes and LOVE them. Even I have a pair.