Sigh. I love that man.
You'll notice that Finn is going barefoot, and he doesn't mind at all. It's actually best for little ones to have an unadulterated sensorial experience of the ground they walk on. It's easy to forget, in this society of shoe-wearers, that the feet are full of nerves, just like the hands. They detect pressure, stretch, and movement, and send that information back to the brain for processing. In fact, it's becoming apparent that it's best for all of us to go barefoot. Check out this quote (for the full article, click here):
“Natural gait is biomechanically impossible for any shoe-wearing person,” wrote Dr. William A. Rossi in a 1999 article in Podiatry Management. “It took 4 million years to develop our unique human foot and our consequent distinctive form of gait, a remarkable feat of bioengineering. Yet, in only a few thousand years, and with one carelessly designed instrument, our shoes, we have warped the pure anatomical form of human gait, obstructing its engineering efficiency, afflicting it with strains and stresses and denying it its natural grace of form and ease of movement head to foot.” In other words: Feet good. Shoes bad.
Of course going barefoot would be good for new walkers, for purposes of developing a healthy gait. It also helps them to develop awareness and grace in movement that a child wearing a hard, rubber sole might miss out on - if a child is barefoot outside, for example, he'll be less likely to trod on plants, will be more likely to notice things his foot touches, and will acquire useful knowledge about how the ground works - when it is wet, it is slippery; when the sun ray hits it, the ground is warm; when I run like crazy without looking where I'm going, I might step on something rough or prickly. Going barefoot provides feedback for movement that we were meant to have - it makes us more aware of the world around us, and how we move through it.
Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen is all about running barefoot. It also happens to be written by a guy we met (and translated for) when we were at the race (which was near where we were living in Mexico.) Let me just say that, while he's a fantastic writer, a whole bunch of the book is hooey - the part where he talks about the native Tarahumara. Yes, in fact, they do get cancer - I taught a little boy who had leukemia. And yes, in fact, they do get diabetes. So be warned - read the book for the information about the shoes (or lack thereof), not for an accurate description of the Tarahumara people. The book is a well-written fiction, based loosely on the reality on the ground. Want the real version of the race? Here's a blast from the past - check out our post about it on our old blog, as well as our annotated Flickr set!
Okay, enough about going barefoot. I will say, though, that I did order Finn a pair of these soft-soled, moccasin-type shoes for times when we're out on the town. They seem to provide a bit of protection while still offering adequate sensorial feedback. ***This site also looks like a great source of soft-soled shoes for the whole family: Soft Star Shoes. Also, thanks to Arwen, who pointed out this pattern that you can use to make soft-soled shoes yourself! Plus, the pattern is multi-sized, and fits babies, toddlers, and children up to size 3!***