I assure you that they have shoes (Trust. me. I spend a fortune on shoes). They just never seem to want to wear them. Shoes are the devil... or at least some sort of medieval torture device. After all, our ancient ancestors didn't wear thick rubber-soled shoes that contort feet and keep them insulated from any contact with the Earth's surface.
I don't mind. I kinda hate shoes, too. In the summer you are more likely to find me barefoot than wearing shoes (although in the winter I enjoy thick fuzzy socks). But the little old ladies that see my children running everywhere without the protection of solid footwear are concerned. Don't they need ankle support? What if they step on a sharp rock or a piece of glass? (If they saw the thick gnarly callouses on the soles of my children's feet, they wouldn't be so concerned. Seriously, nothing is getting through those things.)
I hear your concern, little old ladies. I want to assuage your fears. There are real and solid benefits to my children's aversion to shoes. I hope you are reading so you can stop your head-shaking and your tsk-tsking.
1. Stronger Feet and Ankles. Walking around barefoot strengthens the muscles in our feet and ankles by allowing non-restricted natural movement. Shoes bind feet and can cause the muscles to atrophy. The tiny muscles in our feet, designed to help keep us upright are taken out of the equation with tight shoes and built-in arch support. When we go barefoot, the muscles in our feet and ankles are totally engaged. Walking barefoot on a regular basis helps to develop a strong connection between our brain and our feet, improving balance, strength, body awareness (all of which help prevent injuries). I'm creating a super-human army of small minions over here.
2. Proper Posture. Walking barefoot helps put our body back in proper alignment. Our feet were designed to sit flat on the ground. Most shoes are designed to be fashionable, not functional. Wearing shoes with extra cushion and a raised heel (which most shoes have) distorts our natural posture and gait. Our bodies were designed to move around without shoes.
3. Stimulating Nerve Endings. Have you ever enjoyed a good foot massage? It's one of the most pleasant and relaxing experiences. We have over 7,000 nerve endings in our feet (according to the ancient practice of reflexology, those points correlate with different organs and systems in our bodies). When our feet are bound up all day in fashionable shoe prisons, those nerve endings aren't being stimulated. Instead they are being held captive. Walking barefoot, especially on uneven natural surfaces, puts varying amounts of pressure on the soles of our feet. It's like getting a free massage, no professional or high hourly fee necessary.
4. Being Hip and Trendy (as well as healthy). Going barefoot, or "Earthing", is all the rage in the crunchier, nature-loving crowds. It might sound like some kooky counter-culture hipster trend, but it's actually backed by some surprising science. Studies suggest that we can gain major health benefits from the relationship between our bodies and the electrons of the Earth. There seem to be a number of incredible health benefits, including reduced inflammation and improved immune system function, improved sleep, and increased levels of cancer-fighting antioxidants. I think science is just beginning to understand how much our bodies need to be in contact with nature.
5. Smarter Brains. Being barefoot, exposing those 7,000 nerve connections to the world, allows our brains to receive more information from our surroundings. It paves neural pathways through unique stimulation. Also, being barefoot in nature helps us feel more free which can help reduce stress. Less stress = healthier brains. Again, I'm creating super-humans over here. Not only will they be strong, but they will be geniuses!
On second thought, maybe the little old ladies should be concerned. Because these amazingly healthy, muscled-up, brilliant children will one day take over the world... or at least the neighborhood.