By Kathleen Lockyer-Occupational Therapist
One of the simplest ways to facilitate human development, especially during childhood, is to take off one’s shoes. This simple act, instantly creates direct contact between person and environment. This opens up channels for the body to receive direct feedback from the environment in the form of tactile, proprioceptive and vestibular input. These three sensory systems are foundational for every other higher cognitive process one will need for success in life.
Modern science demonstrates that there are approximately 2.5 million nerve endings in the feet. If these nerve endings are covered by shoes, they are essentially dulled. Dull sensory receptors, take a much larger amount of feedback for the developing child to receive and interpret incoming information from the environment through the feet.
Going barefoot is one of the most ancient and natural ways to stimulate healthy development, or, to rehabilitate or wake up the neurological system of a person who has missed out on important development opportunities. Science demonstrates that when it comes to the neurological system it’s never too late to do what you might have done! Human neurological systems have an incredible amount of plasticity (flexible resilience) well into old age.
Foundations IN Nature programing teaches how to meet every child where they are and to work with this innately flexible growth potential, often beginning with feet first! Many children and teens are too uncomfortable to walk barefoot initially and they require skilled mentors or therapists to facilitate a process of “getting back in their body”. Getting back in the body means re-engaging parts of a neurological system that has been put to sleep (or never allowed to wake up). Therapists and Mentors trained in Foundations IN Nature, facilitate a gentle waking up of this system.
Walking barefoot is a direct pathway for waking up the foundational senses and it is like receiving free reflexology! Dr. Daniel Howell PhD states: “Natural biofeedback is the gathering of information from body receptors in order to monitor and fine-tune body functions. The brain relies on sensory receptors to gather that information.”
Many people are concerned that going barefoot is unhealthy or can contribute to catching illnesses. That is simply not true.
Sensory receptors are the eyes and ears of our neurological system. There are three types of receptors in the human body: exteroceptors, interoceptors and proprioceptors. Exteroceptors gather information from the outside world; interoceptors gather information from internal organs and proprioceptors keep track of body position. Neurological development takes practice. Practice means learning by doing. One can’t train for a marathon by just reading about it in a book. Development is a marathon and it takes doing to happen.
The feet are an expressway to take in, process and integrate body awareness which is necessary for all gross and fine motor activity. The feet are essentially a direct pathway for physical and neurological development. When we wear shoes, it is more difficult to feel and interpret the movement of our body. It is like turning down the volume switch on the TV, to a point that one knows it is on by the white noise, but can not decipher the words being said.
Watch this famous barefoot writer, Sabrina Fox (barefoot living) who talks about her experience and scientific understanding about what happened for her by going barefoot for a whole year: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zj2DuostwG4
Famous people who went barefoot:
If you have younger children, watch this entertaining video with your child. Ziggy Marley and Sesame Street’s “Set Your Piggies Free!”:
Going Barefoot is NOT ILLEGAL, nor is there any State in the U.S. that has a law requiring wearing shoes in public places. Check out this link for letter’s direct from the each State :
Find more information here: http://www.thebarefootbook.com/kids.html
Kathleen is an Occupational Therapist and the founder of Foundations INature, Co-founder of the Central Coast Village Center: Outside Now! local non-profit organization. She has worked with Jon Young and the 8 Shields Institute for the last 12 years, studied with Rosemary Gladstar (World renowned herbalist) and raised two beautiful young women. Kathleen has spent the last 25 years collecting the best and most valid scientific evidence to support the development of a meaningful, functional model of practice: Foundations In Nature Programming. This model supports people across the lifespan using ancient techniques for health and well being, because: Nature, it's what's outside!