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
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 :-)